Make no mistake about it – I’m all over social media. You can find me on Twitter, on YouTube, on Instagram, and twice on Facebook. Though I’m not as active as I’d like to be, I try to interact consistently on social media. And even on extremely busy days, I make sure to spend at least 20 minutes scrolling through the various social media posts. As a popular blogger, I consider this to be part of my job – it allows me to keep my finger on the pulse of the industry. However, to be honest, I’m growing increasingly apathetic with this aspect of my job.

I’ve come to realize that an alarming number of posts on social media pertaining to fitness are egotistically driven. I’m not singling out the experts here, I’m implicating everyone involved in disseminating fitness information. Most comments seem to be based not so much on logic, science, or a genuine desire to help others, but on a burning need to validate biases, commiserate, or stroke the ego.

im-so-strong

3 Annoying Motivations in Fitness

In mid-2013, an article appeared on the internet titled, “7 Ways to Be Insufferable on Facebook.” When I first read it, I had mixed emotions. On one hand, I agreed with most of the article and found it to be quite humorous. On the other hand, I felt that some of the example status updates were acceptable, and that the author was a bit harsh. Since then, I’ve paid close attention to social media interaction, and my views have merged more close to the author’s. In the article, the author states that:

“Annoying statuses typically reek of one or more of these five motivations:

1) Image Crafting. The author wants to affect the way people think of her.

2) Narcissism. The author’s thoughts, opinions, and life philosophies matter. The author and the author’s life are interesting in and of themselves.

3) Attention Craving. The author wants attention.

4) Jealousy Inducing. The author wants to make people jealous of him or his life.

5) Loneliness. The author is feeling lonely and wants Facebook to make it better.”

In the fitness field, I’ve found the following 3 annoying motivations to be highly common:

1) Attention Craving Surrounding Strength. The author is stronger than others and finds subtle ways to assert his perceived dominance.

2) Insecurity Surrounding Science. The author makes bold comments in an attempt to mask his ignorance pertaining to science. 

3) Jealousy. The author is jealous over the attention that someone or something is receiving so he chimes in in an attempt to cast doubt despite having no expertise on the matter.

Cases in Point 

First, I’ll give some generic examples, and then I’ll follow it up with some specific scenarios. Here are some common annoying status updates:

“Pubmed didn’t help me get these 20″ guns bro!”

“Science is always five years behind what the top dogs in the field are doing bro!”

“You don’t need evidence when you squat 12 wheels brother.” 

“I keep seeing all these fools hip thrusting. What a worthless exercise. Just squat bro.” 

“That bodybuilder is all show and no go. I can out squat him despite being half his size bro.”

“Crossfit is for pansies. I can do 20 rep deadlifts with their 1RM’s bro!” 

“The Jefferson deadlift has to be the most idiotic exercise in existence bro.” 

“Swings are for sissies. Real men deadlift bro.” 

“Last time I checked, there wasn’t a leg press competition. Real men squat bro.” 

“The bench press is completely non-functional. When are we ever laying on our backs? Real men military press bro.” 

“You’re doing lunges? What are you, a chick? Grow a pair and squat bro.” 

I’m sure you get the point. However, below are some more specific examples of what I’m talking about.

Article

Just the other day, an article titled, “Top-ranked NHL prospect Sam Bennett fails to do single pull-up at NHL combine” surfaced on the internet. Since then, I can’t tell you how many posts I saw in response to the article. In general, the responses revolved around the following themes:

  • How pathetic! This hockey player can’t do a single pull-up.
  • This is unacceptable! You know athletic preparation is broken when upcoming players can’t perform bodyweight pull-ups.
  • I can do 15 pull-ups and this joke of an athlete can’t even do one!

What in the hell is wrong with people? This guy is a rising star in hockey, and fitness-people are poking fun of his pull-up strength? Obviously it’s not negatively impacting his game to much of a degree, and hockey prowess is clearly not as highly correlated with chin up performance as some people think. Moreover, certain body types will always struggle with chin ups. Unfortunately, not all athletes can be like Shaquille O’Neal and bust out no-arm chin ups:

Kidding aside, not all pro athletes are weightroom warriors. We’ve seen NBA forward Kevin Durant get pinned by a 185-lb bench press (see HERE), NFL cornerback Fred Smoot manage just one-rep with the 225 lb bench press (see HERE), and NBA center Manute Bol bench press 45 lbs for 10 reps and squat 55 lbs for 10 reps (see HERE). If these feats were to have occurred today, the Facebook warriors would have been all over them.

If maximum strength was the end-all, be-all in sports performance, powerlifters around the world would be dominating the competition in various sports. But they’re not, and the best athletes in the world tend to fall in the middle of the spectrum in the strength department. Strength is just one aspect of athleticism; the ability to rapidly accelerate and decelerate in the horizontal, vertical, lateral, and rotational directions are also paramount, as are skill and technique. But I digress.

Hugh

I shouldn’t be surprised by these antics. We saw the same response in August of last year when Hugh Jackman was busting out some heavy deadlifts (see my article on Hugh HERE). This incident provided thousands of meatheads around the globe a chance to feel superior to Hugh because they can out pull him (not to mention they didn’t know how many reps he performed, they underestimated the load, and oh yeah – they somehow lost site of the fact that Hugh is a ripped actor who makes millions of dollars and can also sing and dance and do most of his own stunts).

Conclusion 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favor of debate, scrutiny, discussion, and criticism. However, there’s a constructive way of wording comments, and an annoying way of wording comments. Since reading the “insufferable” article I linked above, I now make sure to consider my intentions before hitting the “post” button and commenting. This has definitely helped make me a better professional.

29 Comments

  • derek says:

    Great article Bret, and for the record I hip thrust, do crossfit and wear gloves when I lift.

  • Rich says:

    Nice to reel things back in. I believe Wayne Gretzky said something along the lines of ” When a weight scores a goal, I’ll start lifting.” The story on Sam Bennett shows that genetics is the entree and strength training is no more than an appetizer, maybe even just a condiment for some.

    • Greg says:

      I agree completely!

      “During his time with the Oilers, the team conducted individual strength and stamina tests twice per year. According to Gretzky himself, he always finished dead last in peripheral vision, flexibility and strength, and could only bench press 140 pounds (64 kg).” – wikipedia

      Gretzky was only a 9 time MVP and 10 time leader in points, and the all-time NHL leader in goals, assists, and points in both the regular season and playoffs.

      There are a lot of skills that go into hockey, and upper body strength isn’t the most important. The people mocking this teenager don’t know much about hockey.

  • Antonio says:

    Bret Great article!!
    From my opinion I think that this evil is produced by the marketing without going into science and see the causes of things.
    Everything has a reason.

  • Jason says:

    Seems that Durant MIGHT have been the better choice over Oden, eh?

    Thanks for the perspective, Bret.

    Cheers, buddy, Jason

  • gideon bronte says:

    Good post….thanks for sharing your perspective; interesting stuff

  • Jeffrey says:

    Nice read Bret. I’m your fan only for your content, but because I like the kind of person that you are.

  • Jodee says:

    I love love love this. I have worked with two amazing Jiu Jitsu black belts, one of which is UFC veteran Din Thomas, and neither of these men can squat or deadlift a huge amount but both could dominate pretty much anyone on the mats! Train for your sport.

  • Dunkman says:

    Great post, bro.

    Unfortunately I think the internet just reveals people for who they are inside, the character they don’t dare show when interacting in person. I don’t read many comments sections anywhere else because it’s basically just a flame fest. Your site is a welcome exception, and I appreciate the common-sense, science-based, no-arrogance approach you and most of your readers take. Thanks for what you contribute to real fitness knowledge.

  • Sandy says:

    I’ve never seen Sam Bennett play, but he probably has quickness going for him just like Patrick Kane… looks like they have similar physiques. Who cares if he can’t pull himself up? Unless he’s trapped in the pit like Bruce Wayne, it just isn’t important for his needs.

    On another note, I strongly avoid facebook and twitter because I think it’s mostly narcissism. It’s all based on “look at me! look at me!”

  • John Obrien says:

    Couldn’t agree more on the NHL pull up prospect.

  • gregw says:

    Great post Bret. Personally I don’t bother with social media for some of the reasons listed. Peoples lives ain’t that interesting. They cant even be interesting to those posting if they feel compelled to update the world every 16 minutes.
    Im after some advice if possible on exercise selection. I’ve to drop squats, deadlifts and farmers walks until I get rid of plantar faciitis in my right foot. I’m looking at exercises that mean I don’t have my soles planted on the floor but I still get posterior chain worked. I’m thinking of Natural GHR, pull throughs, single leg hip extensions, weighted /or single leg back raise. Anyone have any further recommendations? Thanks

  • Teresa Merrick says:

    Great post Bret! In the debate about single vs multiple sets, the outcome measure is usually maximal strength. But not everyone’s goal is maximal strength; certainly not every athlete’s goal is maximal strength. We’ve also seen research that shows the tests of the NFL combine are not very well correlated with playing performance. As you’ve pointed out, strength (or lack of) in a lift irrelevant to a particular sports demands doesn’t really matter.

  • Rob Panariello says:

    I think we’re speaking of two very different things here, athleticism vs. skill. The development of the physical qualities of the individual can and will enhance an individual’s athletic performance. The question is does the athlete have the skill to perform at a high level? Wayne Gretzky was a great hockey player, period. Certainly by “picking his parents well” he had the genetics and skills for greatness. Are we to believe if he enhanced his physical qualities (athleticism) this would have lead to a detrimental effect on his abilities on the ice?

    The same may be said of Sam Bennett as surely his hockey skills outweigh his ability to play hockey vs. to perform pull-ups, but will increasing his physical qualities be a detriment to him? Will enhancing his physical qualities likely lengthen or shorten his hockey career?

    One may ask why there are so many Strength and Conditioning Professional employed at the Professional, Collegiate, and High School levels across the globe? Why does this website not only exist, but why is it so popular? Why is there Strength and Conditioning monthly? A Strength and Conditioning Store on Bret’s website?

    I agree 100% that genetics and skill are above all else, but let’s not ignore the effect of the enhancement of the physical qualities upon the body and the relationship to athleticism and as long as the skills are present, the length of a career.

    Just my opinion

  • Good stuff Bret and fitness, much like the rest of the world, can be quite ego driven for sure. I think social media just makes it easier. Everyone it a fitness expert online 🙂

    As for weight room performance, rarely are the best people in the weight room the top on the field (as you pointed out). I love asking strength and conditioning coaches who their top weight room performer is and then how does he/she perform on the field. I have yet to find one where the top person for lifts is top on the field.

    This does not mean they are unrelated, just that the relationship is not a pure linear one. Getting a players squat from 135 to 275 with good speed will help a ton. Getting them to 315 for reps at speed probably helps even more. Going to a slow 405, probably not as much. At some point there are diminishing returns.

    Mike T Nelson

  • Mustafa says:

    Preach! As a new blogger myself I think I can sometimes get caught in a lot of what you’re describing, it’s something to think about. Good reminder for myself to talk positively, rather than to bash others or other training systems

  • Joe says:

    Nice posting Bret!

    Your website and published materials are evidence-based and lack all of the ego-laden flavor that one finds in the bulk of fitness industry sites and publications. It’s so refreshing to read your site and books and just get to the bottom of how to improve our training!!

    Rock on!!

  • Heather says:

    I like your SPIRIT OF INTENTION and your commitment to spreading positive energy. Your article made me feel good.

  • Dee says:

    Thanks for the insightful article. I think this is one of the unfortunate negatives of the internet. People feel free to re-construct themselves in the image they would like to be and they tend to say things that they wouldn’t or shouldn’t say to someone’s face out of a false sense of bravado.
    I really enjoy your posts and I am loving the results I am getting from your Strong Curves program. I have a butt for the first time in my life. My upper body has also gotten stronger. I had stalled for a long time on my squats and I have actually been able to add weight and have improved my form quite a bit. Just wanted to say thanks for a great program.

  • Kendra says:

    Really enjoyed this article. Especially the wonderful overuse of “bro.”

    And this made my day: “they somehow lost site of the fact that Hugh is a ripped actor who makes millions of dollars and can also sing and dance and do most of his own stunts.” In-deed. 😀

  • Shauna says:

    Good post!
    I used to follow many fitness professionals on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I started deleting them if they couldn’t handle themselves as professionals when online. In my humble opinion a great fitness professional acknowledges that there are multiple ways to achieve health and fitness, they have science to back up their methods (not just one study, but multiple studies and research articles that actually collaborate with one another) and they stand stronger for health and fitness rather than against anything that isn’t them and their method. I’m glad that you actually allow and encourage people to think for themselves and to debate with you (within reason). I typically don’t debate online but I did one time with a “fitness professional” about hunger cues. I was very respectful but also not apprehensive about sharing my opinion (with links to all my research articles). Her rebuttal was that I was full of pseudoscience, had no real background and was an idiot. Lol! I think she may have just wanted “sheeple” to follow whatever she says. Anyway, it’s great to follow someone that is smart and knowledgable but can also recognize other’s theories and methodology.

  • Karl Kelman says:

    What’s best depends on who you are and what you like and need to do. Emmanuel Kipchirchir Mutai, the great Kenyan marathon runner, weighs 115 lbs, and probably can bench press around 50 lbs. Is he a great athlete? Hop on a treadmill and try to match his marathon pace for 1 minute after the machine gets up to speed (12.7 mph – maybe add a 1-2% incline to account for the lack of air resistance). Then realize he does that 123 times back to back with no rest. Serious lifters feats of strength are every bit as impressive, but they aren’t “better.” Mutai could probably be a better weightlifter, and look more muscular if he retired from running and hit the gym hard, but he’d never be really good at weightlifting (pure slow twitch, economical muscle genetics, and a ethnic heritage from really skinny people), and he’d probably never look like a bodybuilder. I’ll guarantee he could never, ever bench 225, regardless of how he trained, what trainer he had, what supplements he took. He’s still a better athlete than 99.99% of us. Like the “weak” Wayne Gretzky, Mutai is really, really good at something, which most of us aren’t.

    Not everyone lifts to maximize their 1RM for a competition. Lifting is good for appearance, health, rehabilitation, and athletic ability. Hugh Jackman is an actor. He looks good – his muscular appearance is suited to the roles he’s asked to play on screen, and I’m sure his overall fitness is better than 99% of Americans in their mid-40s. His weight lifting program appears to have accomplished it’s mission.

Leave a Reply

SIGN UP FOR THE FREE NEWSLETTER

and receive my FREE Lower Body Progressions eBook!

You have Successfully Subscribed!