Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Drinking Kool-Aid (Part I)

"Kool-Aid" comes in many forms in the fitness world of late. CrossFit, Westside (and its many variants), Heavy Duty Training (aka "High Intensity Training"), and 5x5 programs are pretty common in strength and conditioning circles. In the kettlebell world, there are different flavors of Kool-Aid as well.

A couple of questions for the Kool-Aid drinkers out there:

Is it necessary to “drink the Kool-Aid” if you want to see how far a specific program can take you?

If you “drink the Kool-Aid” does that render you completely incapable of seeing a program’s possible limitations? be continued.


Shawn said...

No to the first, though it may be easier to muster commitment to a program if you buy into it completely. Yes to the second only b/c “drinking the Kool-Aid” _just_means_ that you can’t see the flaws in something.

The problem of drinking the Kool-Aid is legion in strength training/kettlebells b/c (1) people think a “perfect program” exists and once you find perfection you don’t mess w/it and (2) many programs exhort trainees _not_to_alter_ the program at all (Rippetoe’s programs have an element of this as does Pavel’s “Enter the Kettlebell”). Telling people not to mess w/programs makes some sense b/c changing a program introduces variables that make it hard to evaluate. But, of course, tweaking a program is a completely reasonable thing to do if you’ve been on it for a while and know what you’re doing.

The real problem is when you go from solid exercise principles -- e.g., below parallel squats are good, isolation exercises on machines are problematic and not as good as, say, kettlebell snatches -- and turn them into dogma -- e.g., all programs _must_ have squats in them no matter what or no program should use any machines ever.

Nagging weight lifting injuries introduce a refreshing pragmatism into the search for the perfect program. Developing biceps tendinitis often removes bench pressing from a workout program. So if your perfect program had bench pressing in it, you’re out of luck. But, of course, you learn to work around the injury by doing neutral grip dumbbell presses or floor presses or whatever.

The nature of strength training is adaptation in the broadest possible sense. And adaptation cannot be removed from the context in which it takes place. That is, it cannot be idealized and made perfect or one-size-fits-all. It is, by its very nature, an ad-hoc, practical matter.

Basically -- to borrow from “The Matrix” -- there is no Kool-Aid.

Peter said...

I think anyone who legitimately drank the Kool-Aid will say "Yes" and "Of course not!"

Anyone who hasn't will say "No" and "Yes, by definition."

I'm looking forward to seeing what's in part two.

Boris said...

Well said Shawn and that is basically my point.

Thank you Peter and they were meant to be, more or less, rhetorical questions for non-Kool-Aid-drinkers.

Aaron Friday said...

Those who did not drink the Koolaid in Guyana were shot to death. That's a fact. If you turned your back on the system at the critical moment, even though you were a loyal follower before, you were not allowed to quit. They made sure you followed through by assimilating you to death against your will.

Boris said...

Yes - it was a horrible, horrible situation. I hope that my use of the word Kool-Aid here doesn't offend anyone and I'll happily change the terminology to zealot, fanatic, etc.

Cults are a scary thing.

Aaron Friday said...

Hi Boris, I was just pointing out the almost total control exercised in this tragedy. There's Koolaid all around us, and it's hard to trust the people who mix it up and serve it.