Dear readers, it is with troublesome news I break my three months of silence. The statistics all point towards the same conclusion: we have a global outbreak of fuckarounditis. The true question is, what can we do to cure this epidemic disease? Martin Berkhan has identified the common traits.
Fuckarounditis is a behavioral disorder characterized by a mediocre physique and complete lack of progress, despite significant amounts of time spent in the gym.
Fuckarounditis most commonly manifests itself as an intense preoccupation with crunches, curls, cable movements, belts, gloves, balance boards, Swiss Balls and Tyler Durden. Fear of squats and deadlifts is another distinguishing trait. Physical exertion is either completely lacking or misapplied (towards questionable or unproductive training practices).
Despite an alarming increase of fuckarounditis in recent years, prevalance may vary greatly depending on location. However, in most commercial gyms, it has been estimated that 90-100% of individuals are afflicted to varying degrees.
Environment and social networks are crucial factors for triggering the disease. It has been proposed that the roots of the disease stems from misinformation and counterproductive training advice found in popular media (“fitness magazines”) and information hubs on the Internet.
Human nature and the so-called “laziness”, “magic bullet” and “complacency” genes plays a permissive role for allowing the disease to take hold.
The disease spreads rapidly, as carriers of the disease communicate with other individuals in locker rooms, Internet discussion forums and other arenas of interaction and information exchange in real life or otherwise.
The onset of symptoms typically occurs in young adulthood and may go undiagnosed for a lifetime. Diagnosis is set by a professional and based on observed behaviors and physique progress.
Symptoms, preventative measures and intervention strategies are reviewed and discussed.
- Berkhan, M. (2011) “Targeting The Fuckarounditis Epidemic: Preventative Measures and Intervention Strategies.”
Fuckarounditis: A Serious Threat
I have been trying to cure people of fuckarounditis since the late 90′s, starting from the day I was first cleansed from it myself. Ever since I recognized the disease, I have acknowledged it as a serious threat to physique development and mental well-being. It is therefore with shock and horror I have watched an increasing number of people fall victim to the disease and the dubious training practices it inspires.
In educating myself of good strength training practices, I was very lucky. Yes, I wasted some time with the usual bench’n'curl/bodybuilding magazine-inspired crapola all my friends were doing, spending my time in the gym joking around more than doing any actual training. I was 16 or so when I first set my foot at the gym. (See “My Transformation” for pictures from this time period.)
However, I did not spend more than a few months fooling around with my friends. I found that I enjoyed strength training, so I started to take an increasing interest in the topic. I started to explore and I eventually came across an excellent resource that set the tone for my entire approach and attitude. The resource was the book Beyond Brawn by Stuart McRobert, and it taught me the value of working hard at the right things.
However, I may have never been lucky enough to find this tome of wisdom if I had first lost myself in the malicious maze that resides behind…the illusion of complexity.
The Illusion of Complexity
The Internet provides a rich soil for fuckarounditis to grow and take hold of the unsuspecting observer. Too much information, shit, clutter, woo-woo, noise, bullshit, loony toon theories, too many quacks, morons and people with good intentions giving you bad advice and uninformed answers. Ah yes, the information age.
Some of it is bullshit wrapped up in a fancy paper with scientific terms, elaborate detail, promising cutting edge strategies based on the latest research. This makes it easier to swallow for intellectuals and those seeking a quick fix; two different groups, both equally susceptible to bullshittery and easy prey for scam artists.
Yes, if anything has surprised me so far in my work, it’s the complete disassociation between IQ and “exercise intelligence” (essentially common sense and knowledge in regards to training fundamentals). I have many clients from academic circles, many clients that are very successful financially and in their each respective field, but some were complete idiots with regards to their training before they came to me.
The problem at the core of the fuckarounditis epidemic is the overabundance of information we have available to us. If there are so many theories, articles and opinions on a topic, we perceive it as something complex, something hard to understand. An illusion of complexity is created.
We must read everything. Think long and hard about our choices. Only then can we hope to make an informed choice, we reason. And there are so many choices. Finally, that which we perceive as a good and informed choice is often the complete opposite, usually the result of whatever fad routine is trendy at the moment. Sometimes we do a little bit of everything – “can’t be bad trying to be ‘well-rounded’ now, can it?” we foolishly argue.
When it comes to strength training, the right choices are limited and uncomplicated. There are right and wrong ways to do things, not “it depends”, not alternative theories based on new science that we need to investigate or try. Basic do’s and don’t's that never change. Unfortunately, these fundamental training principles are lost to many, and stumbling over them is like finding a needle in a haystack.
Isn’t it the same with nutrition? Do we have diet-related fuckarounditis? Sure enough, there’s diet-related fuckarounditis; people who live in the fear of insulin faeries, avoid carbs like the plague for a few days and then binge the hell out of a few boxes of cereal, and never manage to get lean, for example.
However, in contrast to training-related fuckarounditis, rates of diet-related fuckarounditis have remained fairly stable. The lipophobes have merely been replaced by carbophobes. On the whole, I might even venture to say that people have been getting a bit smarter with regards to nutrition. Not so with training practices, unfortunately.
Yes, the global prevalence of fuckarounditis is increasing at an alarming rate. The plethora of bad choices increases at a much higher rate than the good choices. Soon the bad choices will all but drown out the good ones, I fear.
“I See Weak People”
In my dreams? No. In gyms? Yes. Walking around like regular people. They don’t see each other. They only see what they want to see. They don’t know they’re weak.
The afflicted are everywhere; the Shape Magazine-reading receptionist who greets you at the gym, the 135-lb skinny-fat PT who tells you that deadlifts are off limits, the bandana wearing bro in the cable-cross machine and the guy with entire day devoted to “abs”. All of them suffer to varying degrees of the debilitating disorder known as fuckarounditis. Yes, even you might be among the afflicted. Today you shall find out if there is cause for alarm.
Keep in mind that this is a disease that sneaks up on you and then progresses gradually. Some people walk around with a mild case of fuckarounditis that do not completely impair their results in its initial stages. In others, the disease has reached a severe state, which dramatically interferes with their progress and usually stalls it completely.
Finally, there are those who are all but lost and for whom there is little hope of a cure. Unfortunately, these people will probably never read this. They are too busy emulating the latest bodybuilding pro, doing the Biceps Blaster routine, or rolling around on a Swiss Ball somewhere.
How can you tell if you are suffering from the fuckarounditis? Ultimately, it boils down to your results and whether your progress is reasonable relative to the time you put in.
Let’s be concrete and talk numbers. After all, there needs to be some overarching and objective way of judging whether you are afflicted or not.
Progress and Goals
For someone interested in aesthetics, which I assume most my readers are, relative strength is the single best measure of progress and the quality of your physique. Before seeing a picture of a client, I can easily get a very good idea of his or hers body composition by simply knowing three stats: weight, height and strength. Relative strength is therefore the parameter that will be used to determine reasonable rates of progress, which will then tell you whether you might be suffering of fuckarounditis or not.
Within two years of consistent training on a decent routine, the average male should be able to progress to the following levels of strength (1RM):
Strength Goals: Intermediate
Bench press: body weight x 1.2
Chin-ups or pull-ups: body weight x 1.2 or 8 reps with body weight.
Squat: body weight x 1.6
Deadlift: body weight x 2
These numbers are for a raw (no straps, belt or knee wraps) single repetition.
The progress towards the intermediate strength goals should be fairly linear, meaning that there should be no plateaus that cannot be solved in an uncomplicated manner. By “consistent” training I do not mean never missing a training day, nor do I consider taking 2-3 months off from training consistent.
By “decent training routine”, I mean “not doing blatantly stupid shit” (training 5-6 days/week, 20-25 sets for chest and arms, etc.). I do not mean optimal and flawless.
Strength Goals: Advanced
Under the exact same conditions as the previous example, 3 out of 4 of the following goals should be reached within five years, along with all of the strength goals listed under “intermediate”:
Bench press: body weight x 1.5
Chin-ups or pull-ups: body weight x 1.5 or 15 reps with body weight.
Squat: body weight x 2
Deadlift: body weight x 2.5
Strength Goals: Highly Advanced
Under the exact same conditions, all of the following goals should be reached within ten years. Alternatively, 3 out of 4 should be reached, and one should be “Elite”:
Bench press: body weight x 1.5, or x 1.8 (elite)
Chin-ups or pull-ups: body weight x 1.5 or 15 reps with body weight, or x 1.8 / 20 reps (elite)
Squat: body weight x 2, or x 2.4 (elite)
Deadlift: body weight x 2.5, or x 3 (elite)
“Elite” denotes one lift that is often ahead of the others. For example, people who are natural pullers (long arms) may very well hit a 3 x body weight deadlift before a 1.5 x body weight bench, and vice versa for the presser (short arms, stocky and barrel-chested) benching 1.8 x body weight but not being able to pull 2.5 x body weight in the deadlift.
The highly advanced strength goals falls in line with what could be considered the pinnacle of physique and strength development for most average and natural trainers. At this point, progress is very slow.
A 185-lb male that has been training consistently for 5-10 years should therefore be expected to:
Bench press 275-280 lbs.
Do a chin-up with 90-95 lbs hanging from his waist.
Squat 370 lbs.
Deadlift 460-465 lbs.
Respective goals for women:
For women in the 115-155-lb range, the corresponding advanced strength goals are 0.9 x body weight bench, 1.1 x body weight chin-up, 1.5 x body weight squat and 1.8 x body weight deadlift. Relative to men, women have much less muscle mass around the chest area and shoulder girdle (men have much higher androgen-receptor density in this particular area), but the lower body is comparativly strong to the upper body.
A 135-lb woman that has been training consistently for 5-10 years should then be expected to:
Bench press 120-125 lbs.
Do 4-5 chin-ups with body weight or do one with an extra 10-15 lbs hanging from her waist.
Squat 200-205 lbs.
Deadlift 225-230 lbs.
So where do you fall in regards to these goals? If you’ve met them, you’ve received a reasonable return on the time you’ve invested in your training and it’s safe to say that you do not suffer from fuckarounditis – even if you have some of the symptoms, remember that it’s not fucking around if what you’re doing is working for you.
If you have not met them, then something is amiss. And if you can’t do 8 good chin-ups or struggle with being able to bench press your body weight after a decade of working out….something is horribly amiss.
This is no laughing matter. I’ve had clients that spent 10-15 years working out with little or nothing to show for it and some made very basic mistakes that could have been fixed at an early stage. But as fuckarounditis took root, they seemed to only have succumbed deeper, eventually losing that last shred of training sense.
Taking early preventative measures is key. Where this is not possible, rapid intervention can save the situation. Enter The Fuckarounditis Test.
The Fuckarounditis Test
Please review these 25 common symptoms and behaviors associated with fuckarounditis. If you recognize yourself in any of these, and have not met the strength standards recently discussed, you must immediately cease the behavior and implement the necessary changes. There is no time to waste.
1. You don’t keep track.
How much can you bench, squat and deadlift? How many chin-ups? You need to be able to answer those questions right now. Don’t let me hear “I THINK I can” or “I’m not sure but…”. You need to know how much weight you can maximally lift in one set when you’re fresh.
Whether it’s a set of 1, 4 ,6 or 8 reps doesn’t matter. You need to have concrete reference points in order to evaluate your progress. Keep track of them in a training log. Not “in your head”, write it down. The single act of writing it down is more important than you think, whether you keep those data points in a notebook, on your computer or on Post-It notes like me.
With tracking comes the motivation to train, the results and everything else. I can’t even imagine where people get their motivation from if they don’t keep track and just choose weights at random based on whatever feels good that day.
You should at all times be aware of the best performance in a few key lifts, your body weight and the conditions under which those sets were performed.
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