Monday, April 18, 2011

Skip the Pictures, Read the Research

In this day in age of quick tips, skimming texts, and looking at the coolest exercise photos...we have really gotten away from absorbing useful information via reading and understanding. Today, the only validation one needs is a YouTube video with your best effort...err...your best effort at making us laugh. 

Listen, the coolest exercises are nice and dandy. The hip photos and testimonials are helpful. But at the end of the day, research has to be done. It is the only way this field moves forward. And not many people want to conduct research and not many people want to read research. Reading it is the easiest part; but most people find research confusing, overwhelming, and foreign. Again, it has to be done.

If you are a fitness professional, strength coach or nutritionist, reading research is important to help you affirm the rationale behind your programs. Some people use research to discover, while others use research to confirm. In any case, you need to learn how to choose, read, and dissect research to help you in your quest for a better program, blog post, or article. 

My friend, Mark Young, is helping the cause. Mark is an exercise and nutrition consultant based out of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.  His work has been featured on,,,, as well as print magazines like Experience Life and Muscle and Fitness. Mark took the extra step and authored a product that teaches fitness professionals and exercise enthusiasts how to read to fitness research. It's called How to Read Fitness Research and I had a chance to look it over and interview the creator, Mark Young.

I don't endorse many  products, because frankly..there's alot of crap that comes across my desk. Most of it is re-hashed bullshit that is 5 years old with intricately placed newer crap to hide the fact that its an old product. Then, its bloated with bonuses because the creator feels bad that you may know he is selling you a recycled product, so he adds 10 bonuses that you never actually read. Mark Young developed a unique product actually helps you become better at developing programs without the need to add photos of cool exercises or hyped tag-lines. I had the opportunity to interview Mark about his product:
ME: How and why did you decide to develop a product based on fitness research?
MARK: Frankly John, you and I both know that there is a lot of hype in this industry and much of what is popular is basically BS.  The problem for most people though, is that they can't distinguish between what is fact and what is fiction based on the sheer amount of "information" that is out there.  I decided to develop this product as a way to give people back the power to determine for themselves which programs are worth following and which aren't.
ME: With so much fitness research and information available everywhere, what are some things that a reader can do to filter out what is useful and what is not? --Meaning, what are some dead giveaways that some information may not be admissible or downright crap?
MARK: I would personally separate the words information and research as I don't think they are interchangeable.  There is most certainly a lot of information about fitness out there.  Much of this is not based on research or is based on faulty interpretations of the research that does exist.  Research is the form of information that you use to find out if the other information you've read is actually valid.

That said, before even consulting the research a dead giveaway that something is false is if it sounds too good to be true.  If there were a plan that really allowed you to lose 40 pounds of fat in 18 seconds we'd all be on it and we wouldn't be in the midst of an obesity epidemic.

However, it is in looking at the the other stuff that seems plausible where research is more useful.  On the internet there people often suggest complex physiological mechanisms to describe what SHOULD happen in a specific instance.  In this case, going to the original research will help you determine if what SHOULD work actually does.
ME: How to Read Fitness Research is a very unique product. How does this help the average exerciser and how does it help the fitness professional/strength coach?
MARK: For the average exerciser, I think the main benefits of this product is that it will give them the power to critically investigate information they hear from the media or read on the internet and make intelligent decisions about their exercise and nutrition programs.  More specifically, they will be able to determine up front which fitness related products, sites, and blogs are worth their time and money.

For fitness professionals, I think main thing is to be able to discern which programs are the best for getting results for your clients.  Despite being very involved in the fitness world, I find that many fitness professionals make the same mistakes and follow the same trends as the general public when it comes to  training, nutrition, and supplements because they are all reading the same stuff.  This product will enable fitness professionals to think on a different level than the masses and allow them to create effective programs based on science instead of whatever it trendy at the time.
ME: At what point does applicable experience trump research (if it does)? And how can the two co-exist to add to the knowledge base of a professional?
MARK: Great question!  I think that research and experience go hand in hand and that you shouldn't focus exclusively on one or the other.

Personally, I like to think of research as a first level filter.  In other words, if you heard about a new program that was reported from a study of some kind to result in fat loss that was two times greater than what you were already doing you'd obviously like to know more about it.  In this case, you could go straight to the research.

Many times, the research is misinterpreted to mean more than it does (for example, the Tabata studies did NOT measure fat loss) and the resulting programs don't have any support.  In this case, you might not want to bother trying it least until it has further evidence to back it.  There isn't much point in trying out something that has no support in the first place.

On the other hand, the research might actually support the use of a specific program and this would be a good sign that you could go ahead and implement it.  In this case, actual experience will serve as the second level filter to see if what you've read actually plays out in the real world.  At this point, experience trumps research.  No matter what the studies say, if your clients aren't getting results with a program that has research support, you need to ditch it.

Of course, there are some programs are created in advance of the research and it make take time for the academic community to catch up, but at least you'll know (from your understanding of the research that does exist) whether that program is plausible or if someone is just selling snake oil.

Interesting, isn't it? Check it out HERE:


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