Saturday, April 26, 2014

Quit being Dumb...

The idea for this article has swam around in my brain for a while now.  Unfortunately, you haven't seen it sooner, or any other stuff from me in a while, because I've been too busy largely enjoying the mindlessness of internet entertainment.  While I do enjoy writing, sharing a meme on Facebook that sort of echoes what I think is so much easier to do.  I don't have to be bothered with trying to be articulate or original.  Click, click, done... half-ass thought transmission completed. 
A recent example of the extent of my thoughtfulness on FB lately...

The lifting world at large has been far, far ahead of the written world in brain-free activity.
Strength training has been in a nearly 60 year spiral towards getting dumber.  That was the take-away that I got after I read This article by Peary Radar which was written when I was chewing on Legos and struggling to not shit my pants.  Apparently, powerlifting as an organized lifting competition became reality because not everyone was really interested in Olympic Weightlifting. 

The O-lifts are well-known to be technical lifts.  The require more coordination and timing than powerlifts.  Radar himself admitted as much.  By contrast, the squat, deadlift and bench press can be learned in a much shorter period of time.

The differences between these two styles of lifting go back farther than the formation of the competitions themselves.  There has always seemed to be two ways to lift stuff:  either you can do it with coordination, timing and speed (Athleticism).  Or you can do it with pure muscular strength.   Crack open some of Alan Calvert's 110 year old ranting and you can see how he considered bent pressing trickery since it required considerable skill and overhead pressing a better lift because it built, and tested, brute strength. The  patron saint of junkyard weight training, Ed Zercher, was likely a victim of lack of a place to show off his strength because while very strong, he was a mediocre O-lifter.   So, while power lifters lacked a sport to participate in, they were around and simply waiting for their venue to form. 
God bless this skinny bastard for coming up with such a fun way to lift...

Just like the invention of the internet, power lifting obviously didn't intend to start a dumb-assing effect in the barely-formative years of the larger subculture but I submit to the reader that it most certainly did.  Nobody likes to admit it but American powerlifting sponged off a lot of lifters away from Olympic Lifting, exactly as Bob Hoffman thought it would.  It's certainly a much simpler form of lifting.  So, the mold was set that people would lift weights in droves as long as it didn't require too much skill. 

I don't think it's coincidental that a mere 10-15 years later, weight machines became a big business, dragging gyms along with them.  The only thing that could be easier than powerlifting with a barbell was to lift without a barbell.  After all, there is as much IQ required to use a machine as there is to have a reality TV show on the E! Network.

...and we wonder why we make no progress here!

I'm fond of saying that things can only be made so simple.  After a certain level of simplification with all things in life, including strength training, you get to the point where things get harder because you're trying too hard to make them too easy. 

Strength training isn't really as technical and IQ-dependent as seminar pimps would have you believe.  Sure, there are some pretty technical lifts out there but as a whole, most strength training movements are pretty easy to learn as long as you don't have an ADHD-riddled mind that was recently lobotomized.

What happens when we try to remove too much of the skill requirements out of lifting in order to make lifting simple to do is we don't get strong.  Sure there are strong humans that have used machinery and low-IQ movements to build up somewhat-impressive bodies here and there but that shit only can take anyone so far. 
Crossfit may have taken this whole dumbing down effect a step farther:  they seem to enjoy taking movements that require skill and removing those key pointers from execution.  There isn't much to learn about doing a pull-up and even doing those key points is just to cumbersome for them...

 Since I threw the picture up, let's beat up on people who can't be inconvenienced to become proficient with pull-ups.  Pull-ups don't require too much instruction.  I love to tell people, "think of bending the bar on your chest on the way up and pushing the bar away from you on the way down."   Simple, not easy.  Things don't get easier by kipping every, single rep.  It just shred your labrums.   Saying screw it and telling yourself that pulling the entire stack on the Lat Machine is just as good just makes you weaker. 
Just bite the bullet and do the fucking pull-ups...Correctly!
Squats have been accurately described by people smarter than me as, "easy to learn, hard to master."   Mastery takes time but learning, once again, is simple:  chest proud, hips back, knees out.  That's three cues that covers most squatting.  That's not so, damn difficult that you have to go running to the leg press.   Quit being an idiot or pretending to be stronger than you are and just SQUAT.  
So, yes, you need a little bit of skill to get strong.  This isn't trigonometry but it isn't mindless either.  If you're going to build power, you need to use your head in your respective gym for something other than a hat-holder.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A Tranny goes to the CF Games...

The hilarity that ensued over this woman all over my Facebook feed couldn't be avoided.  If you have any sort of strength training-oriented pages that you've like you couldn't have missed it.  In case you did, here's the deal.  This is Cloie Johnson, and she wants to compete in the Crossfit Games.  There's just one problem:  she was born a man.  Or, at least Crossfit's high command thinks that's an issue and stated that if she wanted to compete, she had to do so in the men's division.  So, like any good California-based T-Girl would do, she sued Crossfit for a lot of money.  After all, money makes discrimination feel all better, right? 

Yeah, I never understood that either.  The conversations about this were positively alive and often times on fire.  Leave it up to me to have friends that would happily throw gasoline on this issue.  Unfortunaely, I was sidelined since I wasn't friends with the original posters.  That's about the time that it hit me:  I have a blog and I can say what I want on it.  So, what I was aching to tell everyone that I couldn't post to was that this issue is a triple-stacked bullshit sandwich.  Here are the layers of uncomfortable facts that everyone loved to ignore:

Crossfit's reasoning behind telling Johnson that she has to compete in the men's CF games because  being born a man gives her too-significant advantages over the rest of the natural-born women to assure a fair contest.  The counter-argument is that since California legally recognizes her as a woman after going through the obligatory chopAdickFromy procedure, getting some fake boobs, and taking the right hormones to feminize her body.  After all, the Olympics has long-recognized transvestite athletes and allowed them to compete in their newly adopted sex.  So, what leg does Crossfit have to stand on? 

Frankly, probably the right one... even if few want to acknowledge it.

What people fail to take into consideration is that Gender Reassignment Surgery (GRS) is a biologically incomplete process.  Yes, it takes a man/woman and makes them look and feel like the opposite sex but that doesn't address the other differences between men and women.  A characteristic of every, single mammal is that the males are typically built bigger and stronger.  Relevant to our discussion here, they have bigger, thicker bones (why archeologist can identify millennia-old skeletons as male or female, in part), more muscle mass (why male fighters can cut more weight than women:  they can have more meat to dry out), thicker tendons and ligaments (why women are more likely than men to tear ACL's), and those tendons insert and attach in differing positions that make a male capable of producing more power than a female. 

Does GRS go through the effort of re-positioning tendons, thinning those tendons down, removing extra muscle mass, and changing bone structure? 

So, if Crossfit is interested in an equal playing field for the female competitors in their games, then there is a basis for not allowing Johnson to compete with the women.  She was likely born with some distinct, masculine advantages that her GRS didn't address, regardless of what the State of California and the IOC say.  To CF, it's unfair, whatever that means because...

To the best of my knowledge, sports have existed for 4,000 years.  Formal notions of sportsmanship and fair play seem to be, at best, 140 years old.  The only notations about anything related to these two beacons of playing nice in sports seemed to crop up with the Marquis of Queensbury rules in boxing, the establishment of sports with a more game-like element to them (baseball, basketball, etc) and the re-establishment of the Olympic games in the late 1890's. 

Prior to these happenings, the most common sports, dating back to antiquity, were throwing sports (javelin, rocks, shot puts, etc), various forms of wrestling, boxing and striking-based martial arts, archery, and often horseback-based sports.  Surely there are more but has anyone yet noticed the strong, warfare element that all of these share?  That's not an accident.  Where I to draw a conclusion about why sports even exist, it would be for warfare training.  Since when did we have any notions of fair play and doing not to win but for the sake of doing like Baron de Fredy envisioned when he got the 1896 Olympics off the ground?  Where do we get off using war metaphors in sports so often?

It was a fanciful thought but ever since those formative years in the mid-late 1800's as when we started getting more rules, sportsmanship and fair play we seemed to get the much stronger notions of cheating as well as the curious concept of gamesmanship...playing not particularly fair but not really breaking the rules either.  Ever since sports got so damn popular, the lines about what is universally fair and what isn't has been consistently hard to define. 

  • Is it fair to train in high altitude but not to Take EPO, despite the fact they both increase red blood cell count?
  • Is it fair that fighters in combat sports can cut 1-2 gallons of water out of their bodies (8-16 lbs weight) to make a weight class? 
  • Are steroids fair if most of the participants are using them even though the rules prohibit them? 
 Is a feminized male going to have a significant advantage over a naturally-born female? 

The reason why these cute ideas fail to work out most of the time is that they fail to take into consideration the combat origin of sports to begin with.  People may be convinced ostensibly to play by the rules initially but we all know that there is an overwhelming urge to win at costs beyond what a sport tells us we can do.  Does Cloie Johnson only want to play with the girls just because she considers herself a girl?   Or, does she think she'll get her halfway-female ass kicked if she decides to re-cross the gender line in sports? 

I'm sure that CF sees this as an issue of fairness in sport but let's face another fact here...

If you wanted to look up the definition of a sport and prove me wrong that the Crossfit games are indeed a sport, you might be able to convince a few people that I'm a dick for saying such a thing.  Here's your definition:


: a contest or game in which people do certain physical activities according to a specific set of rules and compete against each other
: sports in general
: a physical activity (such as hunting, fishing, running, swimming, etc.) that is done for enjoyment

So, getting together and doing competitive exercise is now a sport.  So, by that definition, we could make a sport out of hockey drills couldn't we?  Maybe we could call sparring in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu a sport while we're at it.   It seems that, by Crossfit standards and a dictionary's wording, we could just throw some rules and competition into a physical activity we therefore make a sport out of it.  Is that going overboard calling physical preparation for sports sports themselves?  We've already established that sport is watered-down warfare preparation.  I'm curious about how farther diluted things can go. I ponder how much longer before we call tying shoelaces a sport since we have to tie up laces to do exercises.   Hey, it's physical activity and all we need to add is a competitive element...

This whole ordeal is bullshit because each issue I brought up seeks to change reality for the sake of human benefit.  Life doesn't work like that.  I have no overwhelming interest in GRS's legitimacy, notions of sportsmanship, or in sport in general.  Chloie Johnson can play in anything she/he wants and Crossfit can tell her where to play it for all I care.