When your identity is tied to dogma

A little background on this post: This is primarily about a conversation that didn’t happen around a strength training concept. Even if you are not interested in strength training specifically, there is a general component to this post that should interest any thinker who seeks to pursue meaningful discussions.

It is just one example of the type of things I see in conversations about strength and fitness, gunfighting, combatives, politics, medical issues, and everything else every asshole in the world gets to share their opinion about on social media.

The thing that sparked this particular post came from attempting to have a conversation with another barbell trainer and “author”. In a social media post, he made an absolute statement about “always” doing barbell slowly as a mandate for success.

I politely responded that I agreed with him about having strict form and barbell discipline, but also that velocity based training has been producing great results as well. I linked in an article about VBT velocity based training, from Travis Mash, one of the top strength coaches out there who was not only 3 time world powerlifting champion but also coach to countless D1 athletes, world team weightlifters and professional level athletes.

The response I got was so one-minded that I simply replied, “Ok” and proceeded to completely block the person on social. Here’s why:

VBT is very data driven and has been studied at the high academic level many, many times. Google has an entire search of scholarly articles from major universities and sports performance facilities to look through. The consensus is that it is very useful for measuring performance, periodization can be much more accurate by bypassing 1RM protocols and working within the athlete’s current fatigue level for optimization by basing prescriptions on actual performance vs percentages or unmeasurable RPE, it allows for similar measures of force and power output with less time under tension which lowers training stress overall, the time to perform a workout can be significantly reduced (saving time and costs for coaching) but VBT produces reliably similar enough results to slow eccentric training to qualify based on cost benefit analysis alone. It also works well for peaking an athlete due to lower intensity loads producing less fatigue and quicker recoveries while still improving performance, and it helps to offset exclusively training the body to move slowly when the athlete’s sport or fight will require speed, and there are many more reasons it is practical and applicable.

This “trainer” had a simple response, “No. They are all wrong.” Here, read my articles about me saying that slow lifts recruit as many muscle fibers as fast lifts, and probably more, with no data to back it up.

Sure. All these studies, universities, and more importantly real coaches who are themselves world champions and have been producing D1 and championship level athletes from scratch, are all wrong. Meanwhile, you in your garage gym, you have all the secrets…

Is VBT the absolute truth to performance? No. But I would never make a statement like that. It’s a tool in the toolbox of a competent coach who knows shit. Periodization is a thing, and the more tools you have the more optimization capabilities you have for any of your athletes or clients. Can you achieve fast twitch fiber fatigue with slow bar speeds, probably, but that doesn’t mean you throw out everything else that may work. Sometimes, one method will be better, other times another method would be more optimal. And let’s not forget that there are other benefits and goals outside of just looking for fast twitch recruitment.

Even crazy ass Louie Simmons was incorporating VBT as a component at Westside back in the early 90’s within his conjugate system, and subsequently he produced over 150 world records out of that gym, so this shit isn’t new. It’s just that now we have the technology to accurately measure it and gain data from individual lifters under various conditions.

To ignore ANY of the data driven and tried & true methods and say many of the top performing coaches, teams and athletes are wrong? No, you’re wrong. Too wrong to correct. Incorrigible. Sure, I could destroy you in front of all of your followers, but it would only devolve immediately into an argument in which you will never concede anything and I don’t have time, nor am I getting paid, to correct you or the countless other assholes out there full of their own bullshit.

Choosing a hill like that to die on is the mark of an amateur, primarily because it’s a sidebar. It’s a tool that has limited uses, as with ANY method out there. To stand on one method to the point of completely disregarding any other evidence based methods is just unacceptable. It’s sad that influencers like this are sapping money from people while not pursuing a high standard of knowledge for themselves as an obligation to those who follow and pay them.

If he came back with, “Well, I don’t agree with it because…” or “They may not be totally wrong, but I believe slow bar speed creates the same effect based on…” then maybe there’s a conversation. But “No. They are all wrong, go read my articles about why I am right” is not a response that will engage me. Your opinion suddenly becomes about as meaningful as any homeless person I may encounter on the street.

It brings to mind the central problem here, that the belief in your method becomes so strong that you see other methods as either threats or competition, so you must shut them out or call them names. Much like the attitudes I encountered during my foray into Crossfit coaching for a year and their prevalent views that “globo gym” workouts are stupid and Crossfit is the ULTIMATE method for strength and fitness (an attitude that completely disrespects and ignores about 80 years of developed barbell wisdom, and it shows).

And as I stated in the beginning, this isn’t just limited to the fitness world. You see it everyday in the vicious arguments on social media and now in our streets about politics, race, religion and medical issues. People’s beliefs are so tied to their identity now that they can’t step back and learn anything anymore.

The “gurus” and “experts” have latched onto a dogmatism so tightly that they can’t relinquish it without sacrificing their credibility (although in reality they already have). And average people then become the parrots of these influencers, even adopting their dedication to beliefs or methods and the willingness to fight other ideas for them.

Unlike many of my associates with high tolerances, my own cost benefit analysis of my time expenditure leads me to immediately drop people online, opting to better spend my time doing work that is doing one of the following: helping someone directly or reaching larger audiences. It’s a bonus when I am also getting paid to do it.

I also truly believe that one of the solutions to this problem is to not give them an audience. Giving them attention and an audience is what they need. Starve them of it. They don’t deserve it. Block and forget, that is what they are worth.

Half a day of going back and forth with a knuckledragger online is half a day of real programming I could do for my real clients. It’s half a day of writing I could get done, writing that I get paid for and/or that goes out and guides others on a larger scale (like this post). Forget wasting energy on one lost cause, when there are plenty of opportunities to help the receptive people in our lives.

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