Sunday, July 13, 2008

Consumerism in the Strength & Conditioning World

Spend any amount of time at message boards and you're bound to see someone handing out training advice who, 3 months ago, was a complete newb asking "Exactly how much does a barbell weigh?". With the knowlege gained from their insular forum existence, they have revamped their online persona from the 99lb weakling in the old Charles Atlas ads into a warrior of the iron. Do they mention Zatsiorsky as they type out answers tackling the issue of motor unit recruitment? Of course not - how could they? They have not read his work - it is second, third, or fourth-hand information.

In the strength and conditioning community, very rarely do you hear people credit sources. Read most articles and almost never is there a bibliography of any sort listed at the end of it. How often do you get done with an article and say to yourself "Wow, I really am going to have to check out that article/abstract the author mentioned."...? Yeah, same here.

Soon after I started putting the "Squat Rx" videos on YouTube, I noticed a lot more articles online with an emphasis on squat form. Apparently, other authors decided to take a break from their supplement reviews and the latest and greatest hypertrophy inducing workout of the week and get back to the fundamental basics. Things got worse when I started a blog. Plagiarism? Maybe not. Influence? Probably. Deserving of a mention? I think so.

But outright plagiarism IS rampant. Lyle McDonald, author of training and diet books, in his Body Recomposition Blog, posted allegations against very well-known and respected authors in the strength and conditioning field and, from what he writes, the evidence is pretty damning.

You might be saying to yourself "Who cares? As long as I get the information I need, I'm happy." and if so, then you are part of the problem. The problem is, as I see it, that we have become, largely, a nation of consumers - buying, selling, renting, eating, drinking, enjoying, partying, watching, listening, and reading. Yes, there is a volunteerism and green movement - people want to make a difference, but most of us wish there was less on our plates. We wish we could do less, when we could so much more, think more, produce more, engage more, reach out more, create more.

Perhaps part of the problem is the proliferation of self-publishing, blogs, message boards and a growing assumed level of background knowlege... Perhaps part of it is the ease of copying and paste that the internet age has afforded us... No, I don't think so. The problem comes back to greed - people who care more about fame and $$$ than actually producing anything new and unique.

Dave Tate once said in a Westside Barbell seminar (and I'm paraphrasing here), "One thing I hate to see is a new kid go up to some powerlifter and ask for advice on how to improve his lifts and the guy says 'Yeah, I'll help you... for $50 an hour.' How did that guy get started? I'd bet any amount of money that somewhere along the way, someone helped him out and showed him how to lift properly just because it was the right thing to do. You have to stop looking to get something and ask YOURSELF 'What can I give back to powerlifting, to the sport, to the community as a whole?" Great words from a great man. When I was working towards my Master's degree, a college professor said something similar "At some point, you have to stop being consumers of knowledge and research, and become producers and contributors in the field."

It doesn't take much to make that step. It really doesn't. Let's do better.


Franz Snideman said...

Agreed! We do need to cite and source where are info comes from.

Although when does information that is so general belong to any one person! For example, you recommend various squatting techniques...many of which I have learned from 5 to 6 different coaches throughout the years? I think if you learn a specific technique from a specific person, yes, you should quote him. But some info like, Stick your chest out, keep your spine long, look forward is just to general.

I think what we are talking about is the Details (which always make exercise or diet more effective). And of course research studies need to be cited. As long as people quote authors and coaches, I see no problem with people wanting to put out their own products.

From reading Lyle's post....yikes....he doesn't sound too happy.

Boris said...

I agree completely w. you Franz. General knowledge is just that. Coaching cues usually fall into that category. Yes, it's in the details - presenting someone else's ideas as your own. It happens ALL THE TIME in high school and college and it drives the teachers and professors NUTS! I know a lot of teachers who spend hours on the importance and how tos of proper citation, but somehow the message gets lost...

Most of the stuff that's in the Squat Rx videos is stuff I picked up somewhere along the way from someone that I'm repackaging or applying to squats. I try to at least give a nod where I can.

Funky President said...

Hi Boris,

Thank you for posting to my blog, which just started. It is a honer to me to get a comment from a fitness expert like you.

Since I have a long friend in my lower back, occasional pains, the information on your blog or video is real eye-opener. I will be back and learn.

Funky President

Boris said...

Thanks Funky President. I hope you find some useful information here. I hope that I'll be able to meet you next summer in Japan.

Gubernatrix said...

Interesting post, Boris. I haven't heard anyone come out and say that but it sounds all too familiar. There is definitely a breed of 'keyboard coach' that simply regurgitates what they saw someone else say but the problem is that it is not always relevant to the person concerned.

One current example: the number of people pontificating about 5x5 routines, who really have no idea what they are for or whom they benefit!

I agree with you that it's too easy at the moment to set yourself up as some kind of authority just by having a blog. I'm aware that people could accuse me of just that! I like to think my posts are appropriately balanced and caveated, but who am I to judge? Anyway, a timely reminder to me and other bloggers/keyboard koaches to make sure we give credit where it is due.