“The more injurious the treatment, the larger the difference between the surviving rats and the rest, and the more fooled you will be about the strengthening effect.”
Nassim Taleb, as quoted in this BodybyScience.net post.
Correlation does not necessarily imply causation; Dr. McGuff tackles this subject early-on in Body by Science. Maybe he anticipated the “hey, you don’t look like you know what the hell you’re talking about”, negative reaction to the underlying premise of his exercise theory. Now, I’m certainly not advocating the total disregard of visual cues when assessing the probable merits of an exercise system and/or modality; I’m simply advocating for good, balanced judgment, objective reasoning — in essence, the totality of informed thought.
In a discussion that ensued following Part 1 of this series, I stated that the trainee absolutely must “know thyself”. I can’t emphasis this point enough. In BBS, Dr. McGuff uses the analogy of attending an AAU swim meet and taking note of the ever-increasing number of “swimmer-like” physiques on display in the later rounds of competition. This, in effect, is a display of accelerated evolution geared toward a particular prowess. Someone attending only the later rounds of the meet might conclude — falsely as it turns out — that all swimmers are endowed with this particular, and rather pleasing, body type. This individual might further conclude — again, falsely — that the key to attaining such a physique is to rack-up hours of pool time. What this spectator does not see, however, are the vast majority of competitors — all with an equal amount of “pool time” under their trunks as the finalists — who don’t display anything close to the swimmer’s lithe, supple and streamlined look, however well “in shape” they may be as a result of their training.
The point is, that working out like a swimmer will not necessarily give one a swimmer’s physique; on the other hand, if a trainee were born with a genetic make-up that pre-disposes that trainee toward that type of physique, then and only then will said trainee be able to, with a swimmer’s workout, hone a swimmer-like appearance. And to take this a step further, a person genetically inclined toward this appearance will display a “trained” version of a swimmer’s physique irregardless of training regimen. Now, can I take a “genetic swimmer’s physique”, train it like a bodybuilder, and tweak that physique toward a more hypertrophied, bodybuiler-like look? Yes, absolutely — but, however, only subtlety. The bottom line is that certain physique expressions are genetically predetermined, as is athletic ability. Through proper training, though, both can be honed substantially. The take home message here, is that you’ve got to honor your genetic predispositions, and train accordingly.
This, then will segue us into the other aspect of the correlation/causation duality I’d like to cover in this part of the BBS review; the appearance of the trainer/coach vis-a-vis the value of that trainer/coach’s knowledge. I’m sure you can guess by now where I’m going with this, but be a good sport and play along anyway. Now, based on nothing but appearance, which of these guys would you take training advice from?
Seriously, would you take training advice from either Mark or Greg? Based on their appearance, my guess is probably not. Now, wanna take a wild guess as to which pair of “fitness experts” I’ve tapped for the vast majority of my own training knowledge over the past 5 years or so?
OK, so what about this Poliquin guy? Yeah, he knows his stuff as well. And he practices what he preaches. Will his techniques work for you? Well, maybe — it depends on your genetic make up.
And knowing what you now know about the effectiveness of the Paleo lifestyle, would you take diet advice from this Lance guy? The point is this: you absolutely must be a savvy consumer of knowledge, especially so in the diet and fitness realms. Unscrupulous people have made (and will continue to make) tremendous fortunes by capitalizing on the general public’s lack of willingness to become informed.
So what’s the antidote? Avoid snap judgments made solely on appearance; let appearance, though, play a part in your overall judgment. It’s as simple — and difficult — as that. Know yourself, your genetic limitations (in as much as they can be known), and set realistic goals. Marry the right exercise protocol to your particular phenotype and give it hell. Adjust and recalibrate as necessary; strive for continual improvement. Repeat. In essence, this is what the journey is all about.
Late edit: one thing I failed to mention here that I’d wanted to point out was Jimmy Moore’s (of the Livin’ La Vida Low Carb show) interview of Dr. McGuff. Enlightening stuff.