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Information Overload: How to Sift Through Bad Fitness Fads

Information Overload How to Sift Through The Fitness Industry

We are inundated with so much information on how to be healthy, the best system to use for training, the best way to lose weight, the best way to get stronger, faster, or quicker – the list goes on and on. How exactly are you supposed to know what will actually work and what is just bad fitness fads?

The internet allows anyone to develop a website for posting workouts, nutritional programs, exercise videos, etc., i.e. “paralysis by analysis!!!” There is so much information available the average person cannot decipher what is the truth and what is not.

Some of this information presented may have some relevant science behind the usefulness of a particular exercise or training method, but can this information be utilized by everyone reading this information to obtain the results they seek?  What works for one person may not work for another.

The point here is every physical training program that is developed must be designed for the individual in mind.

A large percentage of those exercising use various types of training programs or plans copied from a magazine, from an online website promising this will be the key to one’s success, from someone in the gym or from a high-level athlete, body-builder, extreme conditioning program enthusiast, the most popular “guru”, or perhaps a combination of all the above.  

No real thought has gone into what the program entails except for that particular program might address certain issues or areas needing attention, address massive caloric expenditure (and maybe low-calorie intake), the system used is promoted by a professional athlete, someone thin and pretty, a celebrity – the list is endless.

We see numerous training programs and systems advertised constantly on television, in the newspaper and magazines. And supporting these pseudo-scientific programs are endless testimonials touting the miracle transformation behind the utilization of these life-changing programs.  We fully acknowledge that those who use these various programs may make tremendous changes.

That being said, one must ask what was the program previously used by this person with questions such as: Was there enough work being done at a high enough intensity in the old/previous program? Did the person now using the program go from doing nothing to performing a substantial amount of work? Has the person using the program ever performed physical training before or of this magnitude? What is different pertaining to the trainee’s nutritional program?

Again, we acknowledge there may be substantial changes with using any program; however, is it the right and best program supported by science and utilized in a safe, efficient, and effective manner?

The big question is:  where is the scientific data to support such claims? Is there any real basic science behind such information?

A quote from two of the world’s leading exercise scientists, Dr. Vladimir Zatsiorsky and Dr. William Kraemer (authors of the textbook The Science and Practice of Strength Training):

There is no one program that works for any one person at all times or for all conditions. 

Every person involved in developing training programs must have and use the right tool for the right job! The key word here is from the title of their book – “science”; however, the science must also be used in the correct manner.

Every program must be individualized to effectively produce the results desired by that particular individual.

When developing programs to help a person reach a specific physical training goal, the program must follow another simple rule: use the correct “applied” science or “The art and practice of scientific application and design.“

In conjunction with Zatsiorsky’s and Kraemer’s work, Dr. Michael Yessis, a well-known professor, biomechanist, and translator for much of Dr. Verkhoshansky’s work into English, coined the phrase “people copy programs but don’t create them.”  

Again, this reinforces the concept that every program must be individualized accordingly based on physical characteristics of the individual, acquisition of physical qualities desired (specific category of strength, weight loss, hypertrophy, etc.), the sport or sports position involved in, or any other goal desired.

So how much information is out there?  Here is an experiment to enlighten readers as to the amount of information available to us on the internet.  We performed a “Google” search for the following terms and were not startled by the number of “hits’ generated:

  • Health (443,000,000)
  • Fitness (177,000,000)
  • Fitness Training (591,000,000)
  • Strength Training (33,000,000)
  • Strength (189,000,000)
  • Wellness (64,200,000

As you can see, the amount of information for just a few of the terms used in the training industry is staggering.  

In addition to the internet overload, many publishing companies sell magazines, journals, textbooks, DVD’s, CD’s, charts, diagrams, etc., informing us of the type and depth of training information sought for purchase by those seeking such information.  

Alongside this printed information are the various certification companies stating their certification is the best- selling, most comprehensive, most utilized certification in the industry today. On-line schools, trade schools (colleges) have risen offering specialized curriculums specific to the field of personal training and performance training independent of the major universities offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in various fields related to health and fitness or performance enhancement (exercise science, kinesiology, biomechanics, physical therapy, occupational therapy, physical education, etc.).

Late night television is filled with “infomercials” offering the latest trend in fitness training that can be done in the privacy of your home, offered at a low cost as well as guaranteeing results or your money back. Pair all this training information with the various “toys” offered to complement and support our efforts to become physically fit and we realize those involved in this industry are on product and program overload!!!

What tools can we use most effectively?  What program is best suited for our needs and goals, and who can help us get started?

Let’s face it – all involved in some form of physical training and personal training have prejudices.  Some things we believe work, others we believe are just fads. Nevertheless, as the late Dr. Mel Siff stated, “The fitness public generally feels far more comfortable with cerebrally undemanding mantras and ‘fast food’ solutions than with far more accurate, more complex and often more successful methods.”  

When contemplating our desire to start a physical activity or exercise regimen, we must realistically ask a number of questions before starting including:

  • What is it you are attempting to do?
  • What are your goals?
  • Why do you believe a certain program or training regimen is best for you?
  • Have you ever been involved in a serious training regimen? (Training experience)
  • Do you truly know what a training program means or consists of?
  • What type of educational background do you possess to understand and utilize the basic applied science/information?