Thought this might be a fun discussion topic to get some chat going on this forum - What are some of your unpopular fitness or diet related opinions?
I believe adults have a moral obligation to train as hard as is practical for them. The unpopular bit is that I do think it's a personal failure if someone opts out.
By moral obligation I accept that sounds over the top, but if you look back on the history of western thought, it's far from being a radical view.
Socrates said "No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable". When Socrates said "it is a shame", he meant it's literally a shame as in, don't show your face in town, if you aren't in physically good enough condition to discharge your duties as a man and a citizen. Socrates campaigned, as a much older man, in Athens' heavy infantry. The Greek tradition of the hoplite citizen soldier is one of the foundational elements of western society, and it relies upon, in part, each person taking personal responsibility for their own physical readiness.
You see this idea down through the centuries, in one form or another. Even in the nineteenth century the philosophy of muscular Christianity tied ideas of physical fitness and readiness to achieving the best outcomes in peoples' spiritual and even political lives. You have the likes of Teddy Rooseevelt and others shaped by this idea.
The current era is a curious mix. On the one hand amateur and elite athletes are performing better than they ever have in human history (There are few sports where progress can genuinely be said to have stalled or regressed). And if you take the general public in Ireland I do think there has been a shift towards a more active lifestyle than recent decades, at least for middle and upper classes. But there's a reluctance to call a spade a spade and say that it's a matter of personal failure if you neglect your training. I guess it's tied up with ideas of boosting self esteem, avoiding shame and so on, but the truth is that ... a little bit of shame never did anyone any harm when it was the right stimulus to change behaviour at the right time...
I kind of agree with this but I see a bit more nuance to it now than I had. I'd say I reserve a specific respect for people who push themselves physically, but I also realise that there's a lot more to a person than that.
I know so many people who I love and respect who have no interest in pushing themselves physically whatsoever, unless it's something they absolutely have to (work, chores, etc.). They usually will graft pretty hard if the work is necessary, but they just have no interest in recreational exercise.
And similarly, I have known people who are absolute workhorses in the gym, but assholes outside of it. In some cases actually quite lazy when it comes to anything not training related.
My unpopular opinion would be that the vast majority of the details in training don't matter at all. Kind of an ironic conclusion to come to given I got a masters degree in this area. But I think this is glaringly obvious when you look at how much variance there is in what successful people do. At best you could say that some people might respond better to certain methods, but that could also just be a placebo, where they push harder on methods they enjoy more.
When you isolate the things that people who get big and strong have in common, all that really seems to matter is that you:
Train hard consistently
Do a great job with sleep and nutrition
Focus on mainly multijoint movements
Utilise specificity and progressive overload
Develop at least decent technique
Don't get hurt doing stupid stuff
I think Wendler puts it very well in this clip from years ago:
Happened to be reading an article on Stoicism and sport recently and thought some of the quotes were great. They sound like they could have been written last week -
Suppose, for example, that in talking to an athlete, I said, “Show me your shoulders,” and then he answered, “Look at my jumping weights.” Go to, you and your jumping weights! What I want to see is the effect of the jumping weights. – Epictetus, Discourses, I, 4 
Now there are short and simple exercises which tire the body rapidly, and so save our time; and time is something of which we ought to keep strict account. These exercises are running, brandishing weights, and jumping…But whatever you do, come back quickly from body to mind. – Seneca, Epistle 15 
And if you form the habit of taking such exercises, you will see what mighty shoulders you develop, what sinews, what vigour…. – Epictetus, Discourses, II, 19 
I actually don't disagree with any of that.
Someone can have a failing in a certain respect, and it's ok to say "that's a failing", that's not the same as condemning them. Dare I say this is the whole thing about Winston Churchill... He's not a monster because he let a famine happen in India, and he's not a saint because he propped up Britain against the Nazis.... People are nuanced.
I have plenty of family members and friends who don't train, and yeah I might regret that equally I have plenty of my own failings in other areas I'm well aware of... Haven't been to mass in years. ;)
I also didn't mean to convey a belief on my part that, for example, giving your all to training is on a par with discharging your duties as a good parent, good husband/wife etc.
Slightly tongue in cheek but using wrist straps to dead lift is dumb , train your grip strength and respect natural limitations ,or the other definite monstrosity (and probably not unpopular) of those mad arm sleeve yokes you see in some on line videos to do stupid heavy bench presses
A belief in gender identity involves a level of faith as there is nothing tangible to prove its existence which, as something divorced from the physical body, is similar to the idea of a soul. - Colette Colfer
Stretching is a complete waste of time
Great stuff. The resurgence of interest in the Stoics says a lot about the continuing value of their ideas and also I think the very fact that we can "get it" actually shows you there is a thread running from their thinking to ours.
My only quibble is that I wish people would actually read the primary texts rather than going to the contemporary re-packagers out there, the people writing self-help books based on the Stoics, or making a living selling Stoic calendars and workbooks on Instagram. You can read Epictetus' "Enchiridion" in an hour probably, it's practically bullet points and very accessible. No need for a middle man!
On the bench sleeves - I think you might be talking about a slingshot. If you're not a powerlifter then there's no need to use them, and not every powerlifter sees value in them. But they're not really stupid in any sense, just a very niche way of overloading the bench.
I'll throw in a few more for the craic.
Long term endurance athletes often look unhealthier than people who don't exercise at all
I think he is actually talking about a bench shirt but I could be wrong. And yeah, slingshots definitely have their uses if done correctly
If you are overweight you can put on muscle and be on a calorie deficit at the same time. The general consensus on this is that you can't unless your a noob to weight lifting and it will only last a short time. Because I've maid gains and lost lots of weight over the last 6 months and I'm not even particularity young or a noob.
Is this going too far for the thread?
Definitely suits the thread and maybe this is my controversial opinion (as someone who deadlifts with a mixed grip) but deadlift isn't a grip exercise. There's lots of other things you can do to train that aspect. If we all respected our natural limitations we'd pull double overhand and get very little benefit to our posterior chain.
Another one which depending where you say it seems to be controversial: if you are comparing your strength to other people you shouldn't include the non-lifting population or the casual lifter who has no clue what they're doing.
On the deadlift thing, I think straps can be useful but far too many people use them as a crutch.
If you can't deadlift at least 60-70% of your max without straps then I think that's a bad sign for grip strength.
I think we discussed straps before… I agree that deadlifts should be without them up until quite a high % of 1RM, as Cilian says. But for work sets, if you can get them done without straps then they’re, well, not very taxing.
The comments by Baby Bull Elephant about deadlifts not being a grip exercise… Yep, that’s it. If you want to train your grip, train your grip!
Deadlifts with straps allow you to tax the posterior chain to a far greater extent, that’s where the training effect of deadlifts are. I’d go so far as to say that if you never use straps ask yourself how much of what you’re doing is junk volume.
Also… If you don’t use straps near max because they’re not “natural” then by that rationale… What about the barbell, collars, plates and rack, they are not organic naturally occurring structures either.
Yeah I don't see an issue with using straps for really taxing sets. Only people who need worry about that having a negative effect are powerlifters.
Depends on the context really. I use straps in the exact opposite manner to that described, in that I only use them on relatively lower percentages where the reps are high to protect my hands, but for lower rep work I'd never use them. As an example, this block on my first Deadlift day I have a single which is without straps, and then back off 8s with them, and then the second day is triples where again I won't go near them (and I promise my work sets can be very taxing without them 😉).
But I'm specifically training for powerlifting where if I can't hold onto it without straps it's useless to me, and the only grip work I've found carries over is heavy strapless work and then at times incorporating long holds at the end of sets.
So yeah, context is important and the training effect being aimed for.
Similar to the strap conversation. Unless you’re lifting serious weight you don’t need a belt.
Note to self on this one - Need to get the following tattooed as a reminder...
Many get fitness and nutrition advice they need and say:
“I already know that.”
If you aren’t acting on it, you don’t “know it" in any meaningful sense.
Good point about straps and deadlifting in a meet, and prepping for same, agree actually.
I also use straps for higher rep sets of things like barbell rows and RDLs if reps are high.
As for belts. I think if someone can brace effectively they might be able to do without one in their training. Some people get belts and never use them properly but generally I do think they are an aid to getting people to brace hard, and that means better performance and a super stiffness that I think probably does protect the low back. I put my belt on when for squat sets of about 80% 1RM and up. Today I will do 70% 10x3 for my dynamic day and will leave it off. In terms of the weight itself I think probably someone does need to be squatting at least bodyweight and a half before this is relevant to them but I actually don’t know for sure.
being able to lift weights =/= fitness
(runs out of thread)
Being able to cycle to the cafe doesn't either 😁
Simplicity is really scary for people. I think it's because it removes the barrier to start doing the work.
This one depends on the context. It doesn't seem to do much to prevent injury, and it's certainly not something everyone has to do.
But if someone doesn't have the flexibility to do an exercise, then stretching is a useful tool. For example I get a lot of people who don't have the shoulder flexibility to press overhead. They're going to need do some kind of stretching to reach that position.
my idea of a warm up is walking to the gym and maybe sitting in an Asian squat for a min. I'd see stretching as part of mobility work but ideally combining ROM and strength, Jefferson curls, good mornings and the like.
Here is one, the fitness industry over promotes eating protein to sell you supplements.
Ah, now warm-up is a totally separate issue. If you have no flexibility problems, then your warm-up need not be anything other than the exercise you're training with. (And that is a very unpopular opinion 😁)
And yes I'd agree with that. The supplement industry generally overstates the importance of everything it sells.
I feel like warm-ups really depend on the trainee and what they're doing.
If someone is going to be doing a higher impact workout, perhaps involving a movement like running / sprinting at 80%+, or box jumps, then for safety a warm-up is definitely required. If the trainee is 35-40+ then that's non negotiable. I learned this the hard way, doing sprints with an acquaintance, and his achilles went with a sound like a gunshot. I drove him to hospital and he was getting it stiched back together the next morning.
If someone is doing some kind of metabolic conditioning or CrossFit style workout, same thing. Personally I'd be looking at a few rounds of a mixture of dynamic warm-up / mobility movements and body weight exercises. It should be bordering on challenging without being taxing. I don't think the classic CrossFit approach to warming up (http://journal.crossfit.com/2003/04/a-better-warmup-by-greg-glassm.tpl) is off the mark, for people going on to do a high intensity workout. Although in that article he straw dummies what a 'traditional' warm-up is... a 20 minute bike ride is OTT.
If the workout is something like a conventional upper or lower body lifting session then yes I'm more inclined to agree that your warm-up can be a couple of sets with the bar on the first movement, then several ascending sets.
BUT... I think quite often people phone this in. Several sets, but they're just ticking boxes, and then they're into their work sets and they're not really physically and mentally ready to do their best. I include myself in this. You don't want to overdo the warm ups, but I think you do need to put enough into them that your body temperature is slightly elevated and your tissues and your joints are ready to actually do your work sets well.
A lot of us are against the clock, and it suits us to warm up in an abbreviated way, but in the past when I've had the time I've done a more active warm up where I might row 500m, or similar, and then onto the bar. If it's cold in the gym then that row is a kick start to get the body temperature rising, and it's not enough to interfere with anything. Conversely if it's extremely hot and you're already in a light sweat before your workout, you can shorten things down more than you usually would.
Another thing I have done, but generally have not persisted with, is the Jim Wendler approach of a few sets of box jumps to 'wake up' the CNS before lifting. When I do it, it feels great, but there's a lot of things I "know" are good ideas and don't do.
Age is one crucial factor for sure, and its certainly caught up to me with any kind of jogging/ running in the last 2 years. That Achilles problem you mentioned, i guess the question is, what is important warming just before you start, or building proper mobility into your week?. I take it that important now that I aim to do 2 sessions of just mobility type stuff a week plus adding in where I can during the week. So lots of Tibialis raises, reverse steps up, anything that would come under "bullet proofing X", on the day now thankfully all the running related niggles I was getting I dont get anymore.
I definitely am in favour of warm-ups, I just don't think there's often a need to do anything besides the exercise, starting from very light and building to a higher intensity. If you're going to sprint, you could start with a walk, then a jog, run, fast run, etc. All the target muscles are 'activated', you work on technique, and you body temp increases.
If you need to do a couple things to work on mobility issues on top of that, that makes sense too. I do see a lot of time being wasted with stuff that has nothing to do with the demands of the exercise though. If I'm going to squat, I'd rather spend a few minutes with the empty bar, than roll around on the floor doing glute bridges, planks, etc.
The amount of time that can be saved from cutting the fat off a warm-up is amazing.