Ideological Gym Ethos

Ideological Gym Ethos

Ideological Gym Ethos

I offer CrossFit, as Spartans and BodyTribe, as Athenians opposed to each other but united in their opposition of professional bodybuilding, Persians, perhaps.

  1. Bodybuilding

  2. Bodybuilding exploded into the mainstream in the 1970’s, in part, because of Joe Weider’s empire and because of charismatic and iconic stars like Arnold Swarzenegger, and Lou Ferrigno. The movie, Pumping Iron, was the start, the vehicle for their move to mainstream success.
  3. Pumping Iron – Trailer
  4. However, that moment represents the tipping point. It is preceded by years of physical culture sub-culture. Synthetic testosterone was developed in the 1940s, so 30 years (though other versions of the story extend into the 19th century). Venice beach, in Los Angeles perhaps the sacred city, the navel of the universe.
  5. Muscle Beach (Joseph Strick, 1951)
  6. We see an aesthetic for the shape and form of the male physique writ increasing large by the “good genes” that came in bottles from pharmaceutical companies and available to everyone willing to use them. In the 1970’s Arnold reigned as embodied exemplar of the aesthetic.
  7. TOP 5 Freakiest Bodybuilders Ever In Bodybuilding History
  8. Yet in the spirit of American consumerism and the excess ofthe 1980’s the aesthetic shifted increasingly celebrating, simply more. This era of bodybuilding shows participants of both genders, raising their testosterone to extraordinary levels, and supporting muscle growth by consuming 10,000 calories per day, perhaps more…. Food blended and drunk because sitting to a meals of these proportions takes too much time. Then as the competition approached reversing the training radically dieting to near starvation levels, and weight training to maintain gains but now training to burn calories in order to eliminate even the thinnest layers of subcutaneous fat, this to show veins, and striation in the muscles for fans and judges, and increasingly large purses.
  9. Bodybuilding Judging Criteria / Rules
  10. Yet, muscle and strength developed to what purpose?
  11. If we circle back to Venice beach, we recall the importance of gymnastics at the roots of this physical culture and displays of amazing feats. Perhaps, carnivalesqe, campy, but still functional showing balance, coordination, skill, strength, and risk. This is altogether unlike, bodybuilding competitions where men and women display their muscular development by posing, extraordinary, and unclothed models parading on the catwalk rather than performing feats of strength.
  12. Original Muscle Beach 1950s Santa Monica Vintage Photography

  13. A moment ripe for an iconoclast, an irreverent, voice, and enters, Greg Glassman as much an entrepreneur as Joe Weider, but brash, embracing of controversy and hungry for success. CrossFit, a trademarked brand, combines, elements from gymnastics, Olympic lifting, power lifting, and calisthenics into high-intensity short duration workouts, given women’s names, or honoring deceased soldiers, police, firefighters remembering them by name.
  14. Greg Glassman: The Rest is Just Details
  15. Glassman franchised the concept and gyms swept the country, the world even. The exercise formula appealed to military and first responders this combined with Glassman’s rhetoric has created an aura around a Spartan functional fitness.
  16. Derek Hutchison: Maximum Warrior

  17. By contrast, Chip Conrad founder of BodyTribe fitness loves both his exercise and his philosophy.
  18. Bodytribe: Creating the Holistic Athlete (workshops and training)
  19. The BodyTribe gym in a Sacramento suburb offers its walls to artists to exhibit their paintings and drawings. The gym has doubled as a concert venue. Cats and dogs are welcome and people exercising yield to the animal’s right of way. Conrad like Glassman draws from Olympic lifting, power lifting, and calisthenics, he as well draws upon gymnastics and yoga. Conrad is deeply committed to functional fitness but he also aims to develop a whole person. He thoughtfully, examines playfulness, sociability, the pleasure, and wonder at beauty. He is concerned with social justice and is willing to speak out. Accordingly, we may liken him to the Athenian values.
  20. Making America Look Like Idiots. A wall shows fear, not strength. What the hell is @realDonaldTrump so damn scared of?
  21. Yet his principles seem to hamper his potential impact Conrad is deeply suspicious of fitness credentialing, he tours and speaks nationally, but does not seem interested in branding and franchising accordingly his impact on American exercise culture is limited in comparison with CrossFit and professional bodybuilding. One may join the tribe as a participant but not as a franchise owner/operator.
  22. Conrad searches for an alternative genealogy for his fitness/philosophy. He is an artistic video maker and one of his loves is capturing moments in the lineage of physical culture sub-culture.
  23. History of Fitness YouTube Series: Pedestrianism
  24. Strength Rituals, episode 2: Play

  25. The First Peloponnesian War

  26. Glassman took a next turn, one similar to what Joe Weider did in promoting professional bodybuilding, and that was to create a consumable spectacle. Glassman promoted the “sport of fitness” and introduced the“CrossFit Games.” Contestants compete in several workouts per day over the course of several days a grueling endurance event. Workouts are scored in several ways, most repetitions, and speed to completion, for examples.
  27. We could look at the movements the practitioners engage in and start to sense something about the values and the ethics of the approaches. For example, bodybuilding prefers isolating muscles and joints, the number of sets and repetitions optimized on hypertrophy. Both Crossfit and BodyTribe celebrate and elevate compound movements seeking to engage many muscles around multiple joints. So the movements themselves convey information about priorities. But we do not have to constrain our inquiry to this alone. The adherents themselves tell us about what they consider a beautiful body. They tell us about their values and priorities.
  28. Fittest On Earth: A Decade of Fitness–Official Trailer
  29. However, necessarily standardization in movements and routines is required in order to compare performances, and so, for example, there is one “right” way to do a burpee. It is at this moment that CrossFit and Body Tribe absolutely and irreparably divide. Their differing values certainly anticipated this divide, but this is the moment of non-negotiability.

  30. Conrad's rejoinder… And it is not all about any particular movement, rather about the mentality that surrounds the movement. Conrad, himself competes in Olympic lifting and so it isn't only about competition, rather about the mentality that surrounds the competition. Conrad does not name by brand who he is speaking to nevertheless we know, the breadcrumbs are sufficient.
  31. Burpees: Un-Stupid Them
  32. Circling back to CrossFit it is interesting to note that the web page of 2017 feels very different from that of 2010. This website today is more polished, more inclusive gone are the images of Pukie the Clown and Uncle Rhabdo.
  33. Pukie the Clown references exercise induced vomiting, unpleasant, at least. Uncle Rhabdo is a reference to the condition rhabdomyolysis a very serious and life-threatening breakdown of muscle with a consequential flooding of the circulatory system with proteins which in turn overwhelm the kidneys. Not unusual in the early days of CrossFit workouts. Yet, weirdly made light of in the old days.
  34. Circling back to bodybuilding we see equally disturbing aspects of that activity these include cycles of binge and purge eating, extreme drug use, and other high-risk behaviors and consequences.
  35. How ironic that the most visible and successful training types in America come bound together with extreme health risks if taken to their most competitive levels?
  36. Circling back to BodyTribe we see that Conrad's rant about "un-stupid" is important and significant. Alas, the very weakness of the most principled is the principled quality itself. For Conrad to achieve the level of impact necessary to challenge bodybuilding or CrossFit would probably require a spectacle rivaling these and a compromise equally monumental. In the end, I think I will give Conrad the last word in this strange tale.
  37. References

  38. 1shimashima [1shimashima] (2013, Aug 27) Original Muscle Beach 1950s Santa Monica Vintage Photography,
  39. allan97 [allan97] (2016, Oct 22)TOP 5 Freakiest Bodybuilders Ever In Bodybuilding History,
  40. Anabolic Steroids. Wikipedia. Retrieved February 20, 2017, 
  41. Arnold Swarzenegger.Wikipedia. Retrieved February 20, 2017, 
  42. Bodytribe [Bodytribe] (2009, Dec 31) History of Fitness Youtube Series: Pedestrianism,
  43. Bodytribe [Bodytribe] (2013, Mar 12) Bodytribe: Creating the Holistic Athlete Workshop & Training,
  44. Bodytribe [Bodytribe] (2014, Feb 18) Strength Rituals, episode 2: Play,
  45. Bodytribe [Bodytribe] (2016, Feb 10) Strength Rituals, episode 2: Play,
  46. Brian Cannone [Brian Cannone] (2010, Nov 16) Burpees: Un-Stupid Them,
  47. Bruno, ( 2010, August 27th). Classic Physique Building and Natural Bodybuilding, Retrieved February 23, 2017,,, 
  48. Crossfit [Crossfit] (2014, Apr 10) Derek Hutchison: Maximum Warrior,
  49. Crossfit [Crossfit] (2015, May 3) The Burpee,
  50. Crossfit [Crossfit] (2016, Oct 13) Greg Glassman: The Rest is Just Details,
  51. Crossfit [Crossfit] (2017, Feb 1) Fittest On Earth: A Decade of Fitness — Official Trailers,
  52. Joe Weider. Wikipedia. Retrieved February 20, 2017, 
  53. LionsgateVOD [LionsgateVOD] (2014, Nov 10). Pumping Iron – Trailer
  54. Lou Ferrigno. Wikipedia. Retrieved February 20, 2017, 
  55. Oscars [Oscars] (2015, July 1) Muscle Beach (Joseph Strick, 1951)
  56. Rhabdomyolysis. Wikipedia. Retrieved February 23, 2017, 
  57. Robinson, R. (Producer), Butler, G. and, Fiore, R. (Directors). (1977). Pumping Iron [Motion picture]. USA: White Mountain Pictures.