By Pavel Tsatsouline, Chairman
Once in a while I drive by a gym with a sign in the window: “The most unproven programming in town!”
OK, it really says, “the most innovative programming,” but I fail to see the difference.
In Antifragile, a book full of powerful training lessons, Nassim Nicholas Taleb rips apart neomania, the love of the modern for its own sake.
[It is a mistake] to believe that one would be acting “young” by adopting a “young” technology, revealing both a logical error and a mental bias. It leads to the inversion of the power of generational contributions, producing the illusion of the contribution of the new generations over the old—statistically, the “young” do almost nothing. This mistake has been made by many people, but most recently I saw an angry “futuristic” consultant who accuses people who do not jump into technology of “thinking old” (he… looks sickly and pear-shaped and has an undefined transition between his jaw and his neck).
The author argues that the longer a technology or an idea has been around, the more it has proven itself and the better are its odds of sticking around longer:
…If a book has been in print for forty years, I can expect it to be in print for another forty years… This, simply, as a rule, tells you why things that have been around for a long time are not “aging” like persons, but “aging” in reverse. Every year that passes without extinction doubles the additional life expectancy. This is an indicator of robustness.
[Physicist Richard Gott] made a list of Broadway shows on a given day… and predicted that the longest running would run the longest, and vice versa. He was proven right with 95 percent accuracy. He has, as a child, visited both the Great Pyramid (5,700 years old), and the Berlin Wall (12 years old), and correctly guessed that the former would outlive the latter.
It is easy to see how this applies to strength training. There is a reason StrongFirst teaches only three training modalities: kettlebell, bodyweight, and barbell. They have earned their stripes over centuries. Why would anyone in his right mind select a new, unproven training modality? The probability that someone creates a piece of exercise equipment that could rival the kettlebell or the barbell is as good as winning millions in lottery.
Ditto for training methodologies. At StrongFirst we do not reinvent the wheel; we refine what our predecessors have done. The skills we teach (gripping, pressurizing, etc.) are not invented but reverse-engineered from what the strongest have always done naturally. As for the StrongFirst programming, it is a 2.0 version of the methodology Soviet weightlifters used for training the overhead press in the late 1960s, when the press was still contested. (The same can be said of the Powerlifting Team Russia methodology by Boris Sheyko.)
I found it very comical when I saw a supplement ad with a photo of old time strongman Sig Klein, gladiator sandals and all. The ad took a shot at his physique, something along the lines of, “You don’t want to be this old-fashioned; take our hot new supplements!”
Klein could lie on his stomach with a 75-pound dumbbell strapped to his back—and press to a handstand. He military pressed 229.5 pounds in the strictest possible fashion—weighing a hair over buck fifty. If this is old-fashioned, it beats new every day of the week.
Chasing “hot” and “new” amounts to chasing your tail. Be fashionable—or be strong.