The fitness industry has certainly had its fair share of mouths to feed in recent years. The unfortunate diversity in fitness crusaders has caused it to become exponential, as new varieties of Fitness Knock Offs are born almost weekly. This myriad of choices certainly has not improved the situation. In the past 30 years a renaissance of fitness has emerged in such a way that the old and new became one and the same. Such Fitness delicacies such as Pilates, Flexibility Training, Stability Ball Training, Bosu, Functional Training, Regurgitations of Aerobics, TRX, Spinning, several persuasions of Yoga, and many more travesties are now share the rule of the roost. All of these glamorous fitness pursuits are simply pathetic atrocities at best and come conveniently served with many readymade “certified specialists.” Regardless of their proven ineptitude, they will continue to command their accompanying and unearned “compensations.”
On the other end of the spectrum, there are personal training fitness programs that are now accepted culturally and traditionally. But upon casual observation, most of these involve suspect “practitioners,” that are merely there to serve as adult babysitters. Nonetheless, their “service” is considered some sort of luxury. But it becomes trick over treat as their worth is less than a dime a dozen. Lacking in sound foundations, they take this whole situation a bit further in the wrong direction, by acquiescing to those latest generic applications of the aforementioned. After all, aren’t these latest up to date fitness programs ground in cutting edge science? No, sorry, it is still an industry that is by and large based on popular hype and fashion. So, nonetheless these programs are ingrained in the public’s eye and are blindly accepted at face value. A common example of this; recently someone told me after observing a typical habitual consumer of exercise that seemed like a perpetual slave to his “personal trainer,” “that trainer must be on an annuity plan.” There are plenty of the like making their money like this, with their hands always in the till. Unfortunately with the Fitness Boom, comes an era of vulnerability to the consumer.
The Fitness Sales Pitch is always present and the hunger is ever evident as the fitness crusaders come at you from all of the angles. It seems like every time you turn around, they dream up some sort of obnoxious way to get your attention. Talk about wanting to shove Bull Shit down the public’s throat; they are like a bad bill of goods waiting to be passed. Unfortunately as is always the case with these fitness radicals, it is the crap and not the cream is what rises to the top.
Paradoxically, 30 years ago, there was by far and away the most sensible/intelligent approach to systematic and progressive physical training; it was the Nautilus System. Throughout the 1970s through the 1980s this methodology was a beacon of rational exercise procedure. Regardless of the wanton opinions, Nautilus Training was the true way to Physical Fitness. It was a miracle compared to anything in exercise before or since. There were logical guidelines to go by; exact record keeping, proper etiquette, safe/effective applications and a reliably strict protocol that prevented one from injury and over training. The results obtained were off the charts and the machines used were a welcome advancement for a field that needed it badly as such. As a consequence, the Nautilus System caught on like wildfire and was popular beyond belief. Its use literally proliferated throughout the world. The exposure was so strong at one point, that the name Nautilus was synonymous with the word Exercise itself. But, its success and exposure got the attention of many that wanted to go in for what they figured to be the easy buck. The skies started to open up with what we really didn’t need, the onslaught of the snake oil salesmen of fitness. Some were sincere in their pursuits, but most were merely peddlers of fitness dogma and preachers of nonsense. But like someone once said, “Fitness is something barbarous, for it produces innovation without reason and imitation without benefit.”
But beyond this wasteland of fitness comes an undesirable form of fraud, it is the Pyramid Scheme. A pyramid scheme is a fraudulent system of making money which requires an endless stream of recruits for success. Recruits (a) give money to recruiters and (b) enlist fresh recruits to give them money.
Fitness Fraud is commonplace, but this becomes an all time low. The Fitness Pyramid Scheme is Multi-Level Marketing, as it depends on the recruiting of non-descript distributors (anyone off the street). The very first thing you’ll likely hear is “do you want to make money or don’t you like money?” It is a very enticing start. This Pyramid Scheme allows for that specious opportunity, but of course you have to go to the back of the line and start low on the totem pole. All you have to do is just keep signing up people like they are indispensible numbers. But the bottom line is that this is a numbers game and always has been one. The fearless leaders that are in charge that promote such fraud, have the fake smiles and feigned concern that might have you thinking that you are in the presence of a humanitarian. But as someone once said, “anyone who claims to be a Humanitarian is either a fool or fraud and probably both.” So what is this Fitness in the form of a Pyramid Scheme?
Well, this new fitness crusade is called P90X. It’s an acronym that means and has claims that one could achieve the perfect body in just 90 days. This is a game which uses the buzz words “cross training,” “periodization,” and “muscle confusion.” But such dogma merely leads the consumer to confusion, as the end user doesn’t know the difference between a muscle and a cucumber. So beware when the recruits are everyday housewives, former athletes, and the good old “I used to be.” They are suddenly anointed as coaches in this fitness folly. But remember these coaches are only as good as the number of guinea pigs they sign up. All this coach comes down to is just another link in the chain of distributors.
But of course distribution of this product would be nothing without a cleverly done infomercial. Before and after shots are displayed and likely posed by professional models who make a living as such. Behind the scenes, do we really know whether they are before and after or after and then before. Is it likely that the gifted in shape model takes the after shots first and then fatten themselves up after for the “before” shots? But of course these can also be “real people,” those that are handpicked, with the exclusion of the thousands of failures. All you need to know is that this is done in the privacy of your own home! This is truly scientific; sure? This updated pseudoscience is all done with exercises that have been suggested generically for decades. The difference again is all of it is done with the assistance of your TV. This is no more or less another suggested cult driven fitness lifestyle at best.
The program costs One to Two Hundred Dollars depending upon whether you want to add some of the many available generic implements. But remember, getting results from something that has its foundations in an infomercial as mentioned before, is usually worse than worthless regardless of the testimonials. However, two hundred of your hard earned dollars for another marketing heist is Nothing New Under the Sun. It is the same old 3 payments of X Y Z. Sorry I’ll pass. But for the suckers, that money will be invested into those beach body glamour muscles you have never had before. They have all your programs conveniently basked in such extravagant names such as Yoga X, Kempo X, X Stretch, Core Synergistics, Cardio X, and Ab Ripper X. These “X Factors” again promise you the beach body you’ve always dreamed of having. But of course your nutrition would not be complete without something they call Shakeology; another typical and likely cheaply made meal replacement. This is simply another scientific sounding named supplement being pitched in order to prostitute its use on a daily basis. It doesn’t stop here, as there are a number of other fitness program spin-offs that include the Brazil Butt Lift, Body Gospel, and Hip Hop Abs. These are the same old mythical “fat burning” programs that are cleverly hidden in incognito and disguised in vogue catchword titles.
But the reports have it that in most cases, it is next to impossible to stay on such a routine after a period of three weeks. This is a case of too much, too soon; as such programs are overdone and what lurks is the potential injury bug. This seems to be a Crossfit starter kit at best. So that’s how they get you. It is just like the person who buys some type of fitness contraption and ends up being a clothes hanger after a while. This is the supreme example of, “It is television’s primary damage that it provides people with the same fantasy, readymade, and on one platter.” But ironically before the advent of the television, there was a fun and frolicking era called the roaring twenties and it allowed for a plethora of early muscle marauders to set the trap. Let’s take a look back!
The Big Muscle Boys
Morris Fishbein was a No Nonsense type of guy. This Legendary Physician was the Editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association from 1924 – 1950. His hobby was exposing Quacks. Amongst the many forms of quackery he attacked were Homeopathy, Chiropractic, Food Fads, Osteopathy, Albert Abrams; Fads in Health Legislation (germ phobia), Rejuvenation, Naturopathy, and the Big Muscle Boys. Amongst his favorites were the Big Muscle Boys. These Muscle Spinners were powerful folklore in early exploits of commercial muscledom. The touts and claims were even more outlandish than today, and were made to order in a time of manly “weakness.” It was the age of the Roaring Twenties; this was an era that was made to order for the mail order profits that pleaded for muscular exceptionalism. Waiting in the wings were the self proclaimed Professors of Physical Culture. These included such characters as Professor L.W. Albizu, Siegmund Breitbart, Earle Liederman, Charles MacMahon, Michael McFadden, Lionel Strongfort, George Jowett, Professor Titus, and the man that has stood the test of time; Charles Atlas. The early advertising media that existed was in the form of many Health and Fitness Journals. These magazines exhibited many of the ad promotions for the promises of manly prowess. There was Bernarr MacFadden’s Physical Culture, Muscle Builder Magazines, Strength Magazine, Health Culture, Sandow’s Magazine, and many others. It was the platform to launch a cheaper form of bodily strengthening. Due to the extreme reaching popularity of the father of exercise Bernarr MacFadden and his brilliant exposure of super health, the floodgates opened for these pseudo experts to go to work. So, it became a free for all, as ex – athletes, muscular entrepreneurs, and anyone off the street were now the ordained authorities on Muscular Health and Vitality. As you can see, all that was needed to advance the allure was a fancy title such as Professor, or even a name that held the notion of strength. These Physical Culturalists boasted that they all had the secret to big muscles and ultimate health. Boundless Energy, Great Power, Wonderful Strength, and Radiant, Vibrant Health were promised only if one emptied out their piggy banks. Anyone could achieve “Super Man” muscles, as all they had to do was clip out the coupon and send it out for the introduction to the world of physical wellness and superiority. These muscular entrepreneurs were indeed men of better than average physiques. They played on the fact that one’s cultural identity could be enhanced by their muscle systems. It was a dog eat, dog world in physical vigor as not only was each expert boasting that they had the secret, but they knew the other’s classified information. But as Fishbein noted, these touters were just another bunch of grapes in the Nuts Among the Berries. With their canned methodology, the only concern was if the “consumed” paid their fees promptly. Stories have it that the King of Muscle Mail Order Charles Atlas went as far as to send letters to the effect that if you did not pay, “Mr Atlas will be in your town in the near future, and he would not like to be forced to come by and personally collect your overdue payments.”
Furthermore, Charles Atlas; “The World’s Most Perfectly Developed Man further claimed that his system of Dynamic Tension actually developed his physique alone. He denied ever lifting weights, until he was taken to court by the father of modern day weightlifting Bob Hoffman. Hoffman insisted that Atlas could never have developed his “award winning physique,” without the use of weights. When asked by the judge in court Charles admitted that he did indeed use weights to “test his strength.” When asked how often, Atlas explained; “three to four times a week.” How long; “two to three hours each time.” Atlas through his clever testimony therefore avoided any jail time.
As time churned on, the Wall Street crash of October, 1929 caused the Great Depression that burst the economic bubble of the Roaring Twenties. Very few of the Muscle Spinners survived; but the one and only Atlas stood the test of time as his courses are sold to this very day. To be honest, his courses today are actually much more valuable than is what is offered through the pseudo P90X.
As previously seen, the stage was set early on for those that devised the most convenient and watered down form of obtaining the ever elusive healthy and sexy body. With a multitude of advertising outlets and fancy modern backdrop portrayals, these despicable displays capture the imagination of the unknowing public. The culture always seems to slant towards the phony advertising, because of its simple convenience and hype. In today’s market it simply invades the privacy of your own home through the good old infomercials, or it also sneaks up on you through the internet. This feigned science unfortunately rakes them in faster than you can ever warn them of it. But nothing has changed since the early days, other than a more technologically advanced media hype that captures the imagination of the uninformed consumer. There are far better ways and a legitimate history that backs it up. But as someone once said, “you must turn your back on the crowd, in order to conduct the orchestra.” So if it seems too good to be true, put one vice grip on your wallet and gun, and run for the hills!
© 2010 David Landau