Could Barbells Save the world

Out with my lovely wife on the town yesterday. We mostly just walked through Walmart looking for dog toys, but call it a date. As is usually the case in American cities, very many people were obese or otherwise physically unable. I say this not to make fun, but to lament what need not be. Most people are sick. They are obese and generally weak. Maybe not everyone, but a high percentage.

We are body-soul creatures. I have a friend who works in neurology, a materialist, who insists that everything eventually comes down to biological processes. I who am not a materialist nevertheless agree with him. Everything does come down to biological processes. Gabriel Marcel says “I am my body!” The relationship between the spiritual and the material is not necessarily antagonistic. Leave that question to St. Paul and the philosophers, who speak of the flesh at war with the spirit. But follow me on this point: Your body is fundamentally a part of you. It might just be a another word for “you.”

If I kick your shin, I’m kicking you.

Mind and body may not be identical (I follow Aristotle and Aquinas on this), but even so, a hangover affects your ability to think.

Imagine being a habitual drunk. Every day, you are either hungover or intoxicated. How well would you function? Wouldn’t the alcohol hurt every part of your life? Would you make good decisions? Would you thrive? Could you be trusted in matters of importance? Assigned the management of others? Should you be able to vote? It would be madness.

Now consider that instead of an alcoholic you are merely unhealthy. You are carrying 40 or 50 or 100 extra pounds. You don’t move very well. Every day you are struggling to manage the physical world. How well would you function? Wouldn’t it hurt every part of your life? How would you make good decisions? Would you thrive? Could you be trusted in matters of importance? After all, your own body, that most intimate part of you, is unhealthy because of self-inflicted behavior. Unfaithful in the small things (your body and your self), would you be faithful in larger thing?

Consider that 75% of the population is sick. And yet we are a democracy.

How Barbells Save the World

Here’s where my plan helps. Take a moment and reflect. Get to the gym. Start moving. Start by sitting down and standing up from a chair. Get moving, and then move some more. Progressive resistance (weight training) is a wonderful way to do this, because it is cheap and effective, and you could even set up a place in your own garage for not too much money. Have someone teach you good form, then add weight. Keep doing it. Mind your eating! The food is designed to break your satiety signals. Don’t let it. Conquer!

Imagine the tax rate based on your powerlifting total.

Now, instead of 75% of the population being sick, 75% of the population is strong and vigorous. Perhaps now, democracy makes sense. They’ve conquered themselves, put themselves in order, are friends to themselves, as Socrates says. Now, and only now, is the electorate (jacked-ectorate? Swole-archy?) trustworthy in greater matters.

Barbells could save the world.

(If you would like coaching, you can find me at Barbell Logic

My Strength Hobby: an Update

Have you ever taken up a new hobby? All of a sudden it’s all you care about. Homesteading, motorcycles, learning sign language? You watch a few episodes of the British Baking Show and now you want to bake all day?

I remember a time when I thought Scorpions were a really good rock band. I still like them, but I don’t think they are the band for our times. Enthusiasms fade. Churches know this: the new convert is very eager to do everything perfectly; the old members nod and smile.

About 12 years ago I became very enthusiastic about barbell training. I started lifting to try to cure back spasms. It worked wonderfully! In fact I don’t recall having back spasms at all since my first day of deadlifting. Your mileage may vary. I learned about the squat, bench press, press, and deadlift and pursued them with nearly religious zeal. I bought books, attended seminars, got a certification, went to conferences, started coaching, and made it a career.

This was no ordinary enthusiasm.

How is it going, after twelve years? I can tell you that my zeal has not faded very much. Unlike Scorpions, the value, the concrete goodness of strength training is still there, and it’s still good for you. If you give me a moment, I’ll tell you that you should deadlift. I’ll explain how it makes your life better. I’ll ask you to imagine being twice as strong as you are today. "How would that change your life?" If I’m in an apocalyptic mood I’ll go on about how physical strength will be much more useful to you if SHTF than a high VO2 max. Nothing has changed.

For me personally, it has changed a bit, but just because I have gotten older. We’ve had a stressful year with many changes here at Schudt Manor, and it’s hurt my training. My strength levels are down. But I still train, and I still try to get PRs. I just don’t get them very often. I’m 51 years old and very strong for my age, but unlikely really to get much stronger. I’m ok with that. I’m still almost certainly stronger than you, dear reader, and I know that you need to add strength training to your life.

I am a barbell coach, and I still love my job. You can find me at Barbell Logic if you want to get coaching. We give you 24 hour feedback on all of your lifting, intelligent programming, and nutrition coaching if you want it. It’s a very good service and I’m proud to be associated with it. You’ll get stronger!

Justice and Strength


"Justice is the will of the stronger." So said Thrasymachus in Republic. It’s a shocking claim that most readers reject, but is it false? Look around the world and see that everywhere the powerful do what they want, and the weak suffer what they must. In class I used to bring up the example of voting districts, which in Illinois wiggle like maggots into the heart of Cook county, with their tails in the collar counties. Why? So that the dominant party can win all elections, now and forever. It’s the will of the stronger!

Socrates makes an argument against Thrasymachus that takes nine books, but could be summarized thus: the nature of the soul is such that injustice makes the unjust man suffer, and that justice makes the just man happy. You can read it yourself, but it’s a pretty compelling argument. What other argument could you make? Perhaps that the unjust will be damned and the just will have eternal reward? Maybe.

Note what the argument against injustice requires: either 1) a soul that has a defined nature or 2) a God who will punish the wicked. Now consider that in our day we believe neither. There is no such thing as a human nature, we are told. Existence precedes essence, says Sartre. If you identify as a unicorn, by golly you are a unicorn. As for God and judgment, well, nobody believes that old stuff anymore.

What defense do we have against the will of the stronger? So when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, just know that it’s the way of the world. Thrasymachus triumphant!