Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Absolutism vs. Freedom...

(Yes I was a Rocky and Bullwinkle fan as a kid - hence the two titles)

Rules - We all have them to "guide" us in our lives. And, there are many times where a guideline is established as a "rule" and takes on the status of Law.
Some follow the rules and other break them - who is right and who is wrong?

In the fitness world (and in life) there are two extremes - Absolutism and Freedom.
Absolutism - as defined by Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1) - is any theory holding that values, principles, etc., are absolute and not relative, dependent, or changeable.
Freedom - as defined by Dictionary.com Unabridged (v1.1) - the power to exercise choice and make decisions without constraint from within or without; autonomy; self-determination.

So Rules would seem to take us in the direction of absolutism - but do they?
And Freedom would seem to take us in the direction of breaking the rules - but does it?

I don't want this to become too esoteric but I think it is necessary to understand that we as humans are always fighting the internal battle between these "polar" opposites.
We love freedom and do not want someone imposing their views/rules on us but we all seek our own absolute answers and want to be "right".
And few things fuel our freedom vs. absolute battle like "experts", studies and "proof".

"Never train to failure" vs. "You have to train to failure" is a common exercise philosophical battle - who is correct?
Both can actually be correct - before you start feeling like the robot from Lost in Space (does not compute, does not compute...)- I will try to explain.

As Pavel has stated many times - strength is a skill and training to failure can be detrimental to the goal so you should avoid failure.
Pavel will also tell you that if you are going to train for something like the Navy Seals - you had better find where "failure" is for you and learn to go beyond it.
Power to the People advocates low reps and low volume but ETK and the original RKC book advocate high reps and volume!!??

Not at all, if you understand the goal and exercise your freedom to apply the correct absolute for the situation.

Training to failure is simply a tool - how you apply it and WHY you apply it are the key variables to whether it is "correct" or not.

There are many things out there that I do not "agree" with because I don't feel it is the proper application of the tool in order to reach a desired outcome - However - I may find myself in a situation where the "thing" I disagree with is the exact right thing to do.
Absolutes turn out to only be absolute within a certain context and Freedom is only free within the constraints of the specific situation.

Hope I haven't muddied the water too much but "exact" answers are difficult to come by and the concept of situational correctness needs to be learned by many.

When you are following a program there are the priniciples of the program that guide the design and application - these are usually adaptable to the goals and individual needs. Find principles to guide you - not rules to dictate.

Jack Reape had this to say on the Dragondoor.com forum...
Using "rules" gives you a way to experience an approach or philosophy and learn how it works for you. Once you have that knowledge, you can try different things and build a "bag of tricks" for your training. i mix things up a bit now but i figured out how to do that by trying thinjgs long term. Yes, you can have a cheat day or freestyle day once a week, but you can't just keep moving forrward without a backoff no matter how good you are..

Great advice - the Rehband Bard strikes again.


Kenneth Jay said...


Mark Reifkind said...

agreed, well done. to me the only thing that really matters is results;especially consistent results.you usually try ot figure out AFTER something works why it did. which of course is NO guarantee it will work again,lol!
but like in any craft, you must have the basics down before you can 'jazz'it up.you have to have the basic foundation down first.

Franz Snideman said...

Very good post Brett!

I wanted to tell you that I finished watching your Secrets of the Hip DVD. Well done! I am going to incorporate some these movement screens into my current evaluation. Especially love the part about why isolation exercises in specific angles don't work that well because of our neurology and that our body thinks in terms of movements and patterns, not isolated muscles. Every trainer should get this DVD!

I will post a review on the DD product page!

Joe Sarti said...

Find principles to guide you - not rules to dictate.

Great! and as Rif says below and I am sure we all 'agree' to some extent it is about results and what works.

Thanks for the sh*ts and giggles too, I like your prose

Brett Jones said...

Thanks Kenneth - great training Olympic training video!

Thanks Rif - as I have said many times - "I am after results - not a workout!"
Basics, basics, basics

Thanks Franz - really appreciate the feedback on the DVD and the review on DD.
Great seeing you and Yoana and your beautiful baby in San Jose!

Thanks Joe - I like the principles vs. rules quote. I do try to write in a "light" manner - thank you.

Mike T Nelson said...

Great stuff Brett!!

I think when you completely understand the principals the "rules" are based on, you can break them then (based on your needs/goals)

Rock on
Mike N

Courtney said...

Awesome stuff here Brett! Money!

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