lunedì 21 novembre 2011

Fitness Book Review: FIT by Lon Kilgore, Michael Hartman, and Justin Lascek



You know that guy in the gym who has been showing up everyday for the last 5 years, works hard, and yet never seems to get anywhere?  There’s a reason for that.  The poor guy THINKS he’s doing everything right.  He thinks this because he read it in a book or  magazine at some seminal moment in his life, and he’s stuck to it ever sense regardless of the fact that he ain’t made progress in years!

The exercise world if full of junk and old wives tales masquerading as fact. Calling the information you’d find in the standard fitness magazine/book Helpful makes about as much sense as a porcupine in a balloon factory.

If you do what you are supposed to do, according to the info in the rags, you will spend YEARS spinning your wheels and have NO idea why.

(OK, there are more and more good books and magazines on fitness, strength, and exercise every year.  But, the sad reality is that we are still living in an age where women are told that they need to stick to high reps or else they’ll look like men, and we’re all told that the key to health is more cardio … and more cardio … and more cardio …)

All this misinformation leads to a population of folks who are rabidly hungry for solid information that will actually help them sort through the crappolla (<—spelling?) that surrounds them.

And therein lies the problem.  You are out there doing your best to eat up the right info, but what you’re eating is totally devoid of nutrients.  The more you eat, the hungrier you get!

You become a Fitness Zombie!

We don’t want that.  Neither did Kilgore, Hartman, or Lascek.  So, they wrote a book to satiate your Zombie brain.


Warning! So many people are looking for some kind of spooky “Fitness Black Book” full of magical secrets and formulas, explosions, and fire crackers.  If that is you, sorry, this book ain’t it.  (Though the cover is pretty cool looking!)  This book takes a totally different tack and lays it all out in a simple, relaxed, and not-in-your-face manner.

It’s the facts.

And while the authors DO claim that stronger people don’t die as easily as weaker ones (see below), that’s about as far as the hyperbole goes!

“FIT” is the new book Dr. Lon Kilgore, Dr. Michael Hartman and Justin Lascek of 70’s Big. It’s a bit over 300 pages.  And it covers just about everything a beginner could want to know about fitness, health, strength, endurance, and mobility.  It’s got descriptions of many of the more popular strength programs, endurance routines, and mobility protocols.

The references are nicely placed at the end of each chapter (rather than at the end in a giant heap) which makes further research easy.

There are many pictures included that help to explain the more complex exercises that they recommend (everything from Squats and Snatches to Kettle Bell Swings).

I take it as being written with the inquisitive beginner in mind; Those who want to know why something is true, and not just how to do it. And, in that vein, the flow of the writing is conversational without being pedantic.  This point is important since the relevance of the material in a book on fitness (a book that is NOT a textbook designed exclusively for academic use) is irrelevant if it isn’t considered readable by a “lay” audience (us!).

Case in point are little things like the following.  It includes this random quote referencing Star Trek TNG, “Resistance is Not Futile.”  That was on Page 11 as a subheading to a section on adaptation.  Maybe it’s just me, but a little Star Trek reference goes a long way!  I was sold.


Defining what in the hell fitness is in the first place turns out to be a bigger problem than one would expect.  If someone looks good in a bathing suit does that make them fit?  If someone can run a marathon, or deadlift double-bodyweight, does that make them fit?  Does increasing your Fran Time make you fit?  (See my article about Combining Olympic Weightlifting with CrossFit to get a feel for the answer for that one – well, my answer.)

The mathematician in me is grateful that the authors go into detail right off the bat to define terms.

According to FIT, fitness is fairly simply defined as having some combination of Strength, Endurance, and Mobility that is inline with your goals.

Here’s their version:

Possession of adequate levels of strength, endurance, and mobility to provide for successful participation in occupational effort, recreational pursuits, familial obligation, and that is consistent with a functional phenotypic expression of the human genotype.

I’ll take it.

The book then takes a good long time explaining each, and outlining numerous training programs. There are a lot of strength programs and weight lifting routines in here, as well as endurance programs, and mobility “programs”.  These aren’t super detailed outlines, but they do explain the basics of many of the most well respected methods of gaining in the 3 primary areas of fitness.

Keep in mind: This is NOT (at least not primarily) a “proscriptive” book.  That is, the aim is not to simply tell you what to do in excruciating detail so that you don’t ever have to think about it.  (I’m not putting that down.  I’m a coach for heavens sake.  People pay me so that I can do exactly that for them.)

FIT is a descriptive book.  It answers the “Why” questions as well as the “How”.  And it does a heck of a nice job of it.

FIT (1)

For some oddball reason, the standard practice of people who are just starting out is to increase their cardio (Endurance), and if they are really gung ho, join a Yoga class (Mobility – broadly defined).  They may do either of these in isolation, but, the idea of doing ONLY strength training is anathema to them.

This is sad, since if you HAD to only pick one of the activities, choosing strength training in isolation actually works better at getting you toward your fitness goals.

This is true even when (maybe especially when!) your goals are simply fatloss.  My own rapid-fatloss experiment is an example.

Thankfully we live in the real world and you are not forced to pick between the 3 elements of fitness.  You can do them all.

FIT makes a pretty solid case for why strength training will actually help make you better at endurance training specifically.  This point might seem obvious to you if you are a regular reader of this blog (aka, someone into weight lifting and strength training).  But, that point is NOT obvious to most people.

If you don’t believe me, try explaining it to your out-of-shape friend who is convinced that if they can run a marathon they’ll finally be “in shape” (read: fit).

FIT (2)

OK fine, they’ll die eventually …

However, the book does point out the statistical relevance of a persons overall strength levels and their longevity.  Strong people will, on average, live longer than their weaker counterparts.  While this is still correlation and not causation, the evidence is continually mounting that if you have more muscle and are stronger then (all other things being equal) you will never die.  Ever.

FIT (3)

I wouldn’t call it normal for a general fitness book to include exercises like the Snatch.  But, as you might imagine, I was happy to see it included here.  Knowing of the background of the authors, seeing the inclusion of variants of the Olympic lifts in the book wasn’t exactly surprising.

But, that’s the point, really.  The authors of general fitness books usually don’t have a clue about serious strength training.  These guys do.

The word CrossFit doesn’t show up much in this book (I think I saw it twice).  In certain communities – the CrossFit community – that omission might seem odd.  After all, CrossFit is likely the fastest growing “fitness craze” in America next to Zoomba.  ESPN2 is airing the CrossFit Games.  And, the word Fit is right in the title!

But, I don’t think that’s an issue.  This book isn’t designed to discuss trends in the fitness industry.

Some things in the book also contradict the CrossFit “ideologies” a little.  In CrossFit, the vast majority of your “strength training” is done in a circuit, and as such you are severely limiting your gains in that arena.  As such, by this books definitions (and by mine) CrossFit would be heavily placed in the Endurance camp and it isn’t the panacea for all things fitness that Head Quarters claims it is.

This fact about CrossFit is no big deal for the vast majority of humans, of course.  You just ain’t gotta be very strong to live a normal life.  CrossFit athletes are WAY stronger than normal people.  They just aren’t as strong as people who focus on strength.  (Keep in mind that the best performers at the CrossFit Games know this, and train strength accordingly.)

FIT does a couple of things very well.  First, it actually defines the term “fitness” in a way that is intuitive and testable.

Second, it takes a comprehensive look at the underlying reasons for why certain things work and other things don’t regarding strength, endurance, and mobility training.

And, third, it is an easy read.

On the downside (if you see it that way), it doesn’t put it all out for you on a silver platter.  That is, you can’t open to page one and see,  “Step 1: Do this on Monday. Step 2: do that on Tuesday …” There are a lot of good books out there for that.

FIT goes deeper and attempts to explain why you’d want to do that on Monday during step 1 in the first place.

OH … and yes, those pictures above are from my own copy of the book.  You can pick up your own copy of FIT here and get your learnin’ on. Share

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