A revisit to Plato’s Cave…

Originally posted in February 2010…

Let’s talk about Plato. In his “Republic” he wrote a story about a group of people living in a cave. Ok, Living is a bit of an exageration. They were actually chained to the ground in a sitting position with their heads forced to look only forward at the back wall of the cave. Behind and above them there was what could best be described as a projector booth like in a movie theater. There was a fire in the booth and a group of other people who made shadows on the wall in the back of the cave. And the people who were chained down had created an entire culture based on naming the shadows as they appeared. They gave each other rewards and encouragement on guessing the right one quickest, or guessing the right progression, and they were happy there.

Until one of them was freed.

It is not known by whom, but the man who was chained is literally dragged up and out of the cave and into the real world.  When he is above ground, after his eyes adjust to the light, he realizes that what he was looking at in the cave, what he and his companions based their life around, was nothing more than shadows of caricatures of reality.  He also finds that the real things are just that, REAL.  They are much more enjoyable than the shadows were, and he is extatic. For a while. Soon, though, he starts to wonder about those he left behind, and starts to wish that they could share in his newfound joy. So he forces himself to go back down into the cave to let them know that what they are doing isn’t real at all. He wants to tell them that it is all a joke and they are the punchline. Let’s just say that his reception is less than warm.

This is the position that the fitness industry is in now. Look at any gym and you will see countless people almost literally chained to their machines, and trying in vain to make themslevs look like the shadows and caricatures of fitness that they see on the walls, or in Mens Health or Bodybuilding. Here’s the thing… bodybuilders aren’t healthy. They may have huge muscles, but they don’t work together like they should. All the isolation movements that they do, and that have been passed onto the fitness world as the ideal exercise, short change what the body is truly capable of.

I am firmly of the opinion that movements should be funcional: Raising your center of mass, picking things up off the floor, putting things above you, and doing all these without hurting yourself. Why? Because that is what you do every day, and the stronger you are at doing those things, the better you will be able to handle whatever your day throws at you. I mean seriously, when was the last time you ever lifted anything by first laying your triceps against a table at a 45 degree angle and squeezing. NEVER. No one ever does that outside of one place, the gym. So why would you ever do it in the gym? But, have you ever had to lift something really heavy once. yeah, that’s what I thought.


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