My Dogma Can Kick Your Dogma’s A$$

Dogma= is the established belief or doctrine held by a religion, ideology or any kind of organization: it is authoritative and not to be disputed, doubted or from which diverged. (Wikipedia)

Fitness educators are a disillusioned bunch. We (yes me included) often profess the absolutes to our clients, prospects, workshop/conference attendees, staff, etc. And I for one can laugh at myself.

We stand at the sacred alter at educational events and profess what is now the irrefutable truth:

• Cardiovascular exercise bad-metabolic training good
• Static stretching bad-dynamic warm-up good
• Machines bad-functional movements good
• Crunches bad-vertical ab training good
• Balance training bad-ground based training good-balance training good again

The dogma at times is pure entertainment. I’ve seen educators whom I respect greatly, teaching subject matter this year that is completely different from what they taught 5-7 years ago. This of course is a good thing in many ways because they/we have learned more from new research, borrowing from other sciences and disciplines and our own experience. Their current teachings however, often discredit their former teachings.

So this year they are presenting and writing with total conviction (read dogma) regarding new concepts and/or interpretations of the literature. And so they should be because if they did not passionately believe in what they are teaching, then they should not be teaching it.

Here’s the caveat: If I bought into their passion 5 years ago because they said it was THE best way, why the hell should I believe them now?! You would think the way some people are teaching and writing that God gave them a private viewing into all the answers of the human body.
I personally feel the better approach these days is to preface certain statements with, “what we now know …..”. Quite frankly, I don’t believe much of anything that we’ve done in the recent past was wrong. It just wasn’t the most effective or at times the safest.

You aren’t seeing any trainers blood letting with leaches these days. That would be wrong. And I’m not going to stick my clients on a leg extension machine nor will I recommend it while teaching. But if another trainer puts 55 year old Mrs. Jones on the leg extension machine because that is the only way she’s showing up on Monday, then I should mind my own business.

We all have our convictions about what works best. That shouldn’t differ if you are speaking to an audience of 500 or 5. Where do these convictions come from? I can only speak for myself. My convictions come from results. I do what I do because it works. And I teach what I do because I understand the mechanisms behind what I do. Therefore, I know the strength’s and at times the limitations of what I do.

You might notice that those that are actually doing the research and teaching at events usually don’t come with the same dogma. That’s because they understand the inherent limitations of extrapolating the findings of research to parameters that don’t replicate the study. Look what the fitness industry did with abdominal hollowing. Trainers were telling people to pull their belly button in while sprinting at maximal speed. That application of the research couldn’t have been farther from the parameters of the studies related to abdominal hollowing.

Of course the researchers rarely work with real people with real problems. So they are not emotionally invested in the results the way we are.

I really believe that much of the dogma comes from the fact that we want to hold on to and defend the “known”. This is what we understand. And if someone else is teaching something that doesn’t fit our model, then we better protect our perspective. Because if we don’t, we might just have to open up our minds to someone else’s ideas and let go of our own.

I think a lot of people have to ask themselves if their dogma is really their own dogma or someone else’s. And if it is someone else’s dogma, will your dogma change when their dogma changes in a couple of years?

Please share this with someone you know because I am convinced what I have written here is authoritative and not to be disputed, doubted or from which diverged. Yes, my dogma can kick your dogma’s a$$.

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7 Responses to “My Dogma Can Kick Your Dogma’s A$$”

  1. Shawn says:

    Hello. Could you please provide a rational as to why you don’t use or teach the knee extension machine?

  2. Nice. I’ve said for many years any safe, sound program will work. For a while : )

  3. Hi Shawn and thanks for your question. The leg extension is a very large, expensive machine with a very small purpose. I’m not saying it doesn’t serve any purpose-just a small purpose. It doesn’t require any real instruction to operate and its benefits are not very transferable to real world activities.

    But if means the difference between Mrs. Jones sitting at home eating Bon Bons or actually exercising, I’ll take the leg extension any day.

  4. Very funny article Anthony, and I agree wholeheartedly. I always preface my opinions regarding training and science with “For me” or “I believe”, therefore personalizing my opinions and not pretending they are facts like the names of muscles or kinesiological laws.
    With regards to the leg extension machine, I have to disagree that it doesn’t require any real instruction. Many people set it up with the seat back too far and the ROM to great. I also like to do it slowly rather than fast so enhance the stabilization quality of the work. Lastly, I have found that some older people don’t have the basic strength to even stand and do partial lunges correctly, which I agree are more functional. The leg extension is a good option for them. In physical therapy, it is used to rehabilitate the knee and stabilize the joint. So, it definitely has uses and is no more bulky than a Leg Curl machine, at least in my opinion.

  5. Aloha Anthony-
    I always enjoy you newsletters so thanks. After 25 years in this business, I can say there are no absolutes either. As long as people are moving, then I am happy, it isn’t about perfection it is about progress. When I started teaching we jumped around barefoot and taught aerobics, did firehydrants and full sit-ups…then we didn’t, and then oh my god 25 years later, trainers are running barefoot, doing firehydrants, and full sit ups…what are you gonna do?
    What happened to that research? Fitness is like the fashion industry and everything comes around again, whether is is dogma or not. It is no big deal to me anymore, as long as people are doing something I am going to be happy. No one ever died from doing a leg extension-Right? 🙂 Mahalo Claudia

  6. Stace says:

    Very timely article. I have been thinking about the training dogmas I have been exposed to and have honestly become somewhat frustrated with it all.

    Most recently I have been pondering the use of the bosu. I was at a conference a couple years ago with a “top” fitness professional doing a circuit. The trainer had us do a balance drill on the bosu then jump off. I landed, rolled my foot, and injured my ankle. I started to research the bosu and came across persons who held very anti-bosu dogma. So I stopped using it.

    I go to the gym and I see trainers using the bosu all the time. Stand on two bosu and do a squat to press, stand on an upside down bosu and do an arm curl routine, or stand on an upside down bosu while having your foot hooked into a trx and do a lunge routine. I don’t know the clients history so I try not to judge the training, but from their looks I bet they are after weight loss and strengthening. I always wonder if they are getting the most effective training or just “fancy” training. I now occasionally use the bosu but only as a tool increase difficulty while doing core work on the mat. I don’t stand on it or have others stand on it.

    With that said, I wonder what your thoughts on the bosu are? What are it’s best uses in your opinion?

  7. Hi Stace. Thanks for your comments. I know how you feel regarding the often opposing “camps” on topics like the BOSU. It’s never black or white. Here’s a link to an older post I did specifically on the BOSU:

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