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by: Mel C. Siff, Ph.D.

These F&Fs very often are accepted as Laws in Fitness Training and merit much deeper analysis by anyone who applies them in training or rehabilitation.

These F&Fs have been assembled from an often gullible world of fitness as a forum for discussion to enable fitness instructors to clear up many misunderstanding and miseducation. . The objective of this column is to offer an interactive educational resource to help training practitioners become more competent and better informed professionals.


Popular magazine articles often act as a fruitful source of Facts & Fallacies in the marvellous world of fitness. Over the years they have faithfully served as an excellent teaching tool for my students who are given the task of locating and analysing any misleading or outdated fitness or health information from the popular or scientific media.

The following extracts from a 'Get Fit' article in the August 1996 South African issue of LONGEVITY magazine (pp43-45) are currently serving as a tutorial project for my students. Readers may be interested in applying their own analytical skills to the same project. Unfortunately the illustrations cannot be appended, but the printed matter provides us with enough material for some useful dissections.
  • EXTRACT 1: "Danie ..., master trainer for Reebok ...belongs to Reebok Instructors Alliance, South Africa's leading fitness training organisation". "Director Jannie ....has scientifically compiled the ideal exercise programme for absolute beginners like Shelagh". These types of preamble, intended to establish credibility, appear widely in most fitness publications and are referred to by Robert Thouless ('Straight and Crooked Thinking' Pan Books 1974) as dishonest tricks. Identify all the 'tricks' or 'non-facts' in this extract by referring to Thouless or by using your own analytical approach.

  • EXTRACT 2: The article included a series of 11 successive stages of a single exercise, which was essentially a modified form of standing, toe-touching with the knees flexed followed by kneeling and a kneeling stretch with arms extended beyond the head, concluded by a return to standing. No added resistance was used. Interestingly, this sequence was referred to as "special strength and flexibility exercises". The overall caption stated: "Get Flexible: Lengthen and Strengthen your muscles with this total-body conditioning programme", followed immediately by the advice: "Concentrate on perfect form when performing these moves, to derive the maximum physical benefit and to achieve harmony of mind, body and soul. Hold each move as you inhale and exhale (or vice versa) twice". Critically analyse what you consider to be the main problems in this extract, giving reasons for your comments.

  • EXTRACT 3: Beside a picture of Shelagh leaning forwards with her hands resting on her flexed knees appear the following words: "As the lower back muscles contract, feel your buttock and calf muscles extend". Draw on your knowledge of muscle action to identify the problem/s here.

  • EXTRACT 4: Beside a picture of Shelagh kneeling on the floor with arms stretched forwards and reaching out along the floor beyond her head, we find the advice: "Make sure your shoulder blades stay together". Attempt to follow this advice and comment upon its validity by drawing on your knowledge of functional anatomy.

  • EXTRACT 5: In the last photograph we find Shelagh standing erect, feet together, at the end of the entire 'lengthen and strengthen' sequence and being told to: "Make sure your hip bones and pubic bones are in the same vertical plane; and that the arches of your inner feet are lifted, and your toes touch". Several problems are evident here. Identify and analyse them.

If anyone else comes across similar magazine articles filled with other F&Fs, please share them with us - they can often serve as a valuable teaching tool for fitness professionals.

NOTICE: The views and opinions expressed by participants in this discussion group are those of their own and do not necessarily reflect that of the management and staff that oversee this website. Scientific information, and conclusions derived therefrom, submitted by contributors are to be taken on their own merit. Publication of such material on this website does not necessarily constitute endorsement or recommendation from the Editorial Staff of this magazine.


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