Fitness Renaissance News Letters

Bodybuilding & Fitness Secrets (BFS) Newsletter #29: Sept 2003

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BFS Issue #29, September2003
In This Issue:


  • Editorial: Values, Selling Out, and the Prostitution of The Fitness Industry
  • Question of the month: Should I squat below parallel or is this bad for the knees?
  • Article of the month: Is bodybuilding the worst thing that ever happened to strength training?
  • Quote of the month: On Doing the impossible
  • Monthly Motivator: Optimists Creed



Dear Friend and Subscriber,

Yesterday, I just finished reading a business book called “Customer Culture” by Mike Basch, who was one of the co-founders of Fed-ex. In his book, Basch tells a great story about Colonel Harlan Sanders and Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and I’d like to share it with you. (Believe it or not, this does have something to do with health and fitness).

Unless you’ve seen the A & E Biography, you may not know that Colonel Sanders sold KFC when it started to get “too big for his britches.” KFC was later sold again to the Heublein Corporation in 1971. Although the Colonel no longer had control over the company, he stayed onboard as a figurehead for marketing and public relations. During this period, there was quite a bit of friction between Sanders and Heublein, to say the least.

One afternoon, Colonel Sanders barged in on a large meeting of Heublein and KFC executives. The Colonel took a seat next to his friend Frank and asked him to bring him up to speed on what was going on.

“Well Colonel, they’re going to change your gravy formula and make the new gravy out of water instead of milk.” Before Frank could say another word, Colonel Sanders stood up and blurted out, “DON’T MESS WITH MY GRAVY!”

Defending the new plan, Frank turned to the Colonel and whispered,“Wait a minute, Colonel, they’ve done 300 taste tests and nobody can tell the difference, not to mention it’s only 3 cents per serving and that means $100,000 to the bottom line.”

The Colonel, now getting loud and capturing the attention of everyone in the room, repeated himself, “I don’t care… DON’T MESS WITH MY GRAVY!”

So the president of Heublein, who had been butting heads with Colonel Sanders ever since the acquisition said, “I’m sorry, but our decision has already been made and we’re going to make the gravy out of water whether you like it or not. We’ve done hundreds of taste tests and nobody can tell the difference. This change doesn’t compromise our quality that I can see and it means $100,000 to the bottom line. I know you and I have had disagreements in the past, but we’re going to go ahead and do this.”

So the Colonel abruptly stands up, turns around and starts heading for the door – without saying a word. Now concerned and apprehensive, the president of Heublein shouts, “Colonel, where are you going?”

Colonel Sanders turns around and says quite matter of factly, “I’m going on the Johnny Carson show and I’m telling the whole world this shit ain’t fit to eat.”

They did not change the gravy while the Colonel was still alive.

Why did I tell you this story? Because it’s the best example of clear VALUES I’ve ever heard and it’s a good metaphor for a huge problem going on in the health and fitness industry.

Values are like the sidelines in a football game. Values are your boundaries that guide your steps and provide the rules of conduct in whatever game you play. Values are like a personal compass that lets you know if you’re on purpose and heading in the right direction, or if you’re in foul territory.

If you don’t have clearly defined values in your personal or business life, you have no way of knowing when you’ve crossed the line. You make errors in judgment and don’t even realize the gravity of your mistakes and their long-term consequences. If you do know your values and you violate them, whether consciously or unconsciously, something won’t feel right in the pit of your stomach. You can only feel certain, happy, successful and fulfilled to the degree to which your behaviors are in alignment with your highest values.

Some people cut corners, sacrifice quality and look for short cuts, believing that it will earn them more profit or get them ahead faster in life. Not the Colonel. In Colonel Sanders mind, there was never a second of doubt about whether the gravy could be changed. Maintaining the quality of his original recipe was a value that was simply uncompromisable.QUALITY was his highest value.

I have a good friend who frequently tells me that everyone has a price. However, there are people who will never sell out – as the Colonel Sanders story illustrates. He sold the company when it became too big to handle on his own, but he never “sold out” on his principles.

People who are crystal clear about their values simply don’t compromise. All decisions they make and all the actions they take are guided by their values, which they cherish and hold dear.

When you know your values, it’s incredibly easy to make quick decisions – and they’re always the right ones. I know this is true because there’s no question about my own values.

In my e-book, Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle, I tell a story about how I was once offered $1,000 to write a 2 page article on a controversial supplement. It would have meant national publicity for me in addition to the G-note. I turned it down because I didn’t believe in the product. The editor never contacted me again.

Two weeks ago, I was approached by an “Internet marketer” who said he owned an “affiliate network” company and wanted to promote my book. When he told me he could send out one billion emails, including every hotmail address in existence, I quickly realized he was nothing more than a big time spammer. “If they don’t like it, they can just click delete,” he said. After that comment, I laughed in the slimeball’s face and made a quick exit.

But this one takes the prize: Just three days ago, I got an email from a supplement company owner with an interesting proposition. I’m going to reprint most of it here, but the names have been removed. Take special notice of the sentence highlighted in blue:

“Hi Tom, My name is [Supplement company owner]. I use to be one of the guys who helped [another supplement company owner] in the marketing department at [big supplement company]. I left after [the other supplement company owner] sold the majority of the company. I figured it was time to start my own company.

This year I’m on track to do six million in sales all online. Sure these aren’t [the other big supplement company’s] numbers, but it’s a good start, I guess.

I want you to know that I’m not wasting your time with what I’m about to propose. To get to the point, I was working late tonight and came across your web site. I am very impressed; your site is very compelling.

After viewing your site a few thoughts came to mind:

I have a web site offering a FREE 30-day supply of “metabolic boosting” pills. Each bottle contains 120 capsules so it’s not some little sample size. All I charge is $5.95 for shipping and handling. I do this as a way to introduce thousands of people to my company at a very low cost and with a risk-free offer.

Of course, a pill isn’t the answer to people’s weight loss problems, proper exercise and eating is. But, as you know, research shows certain supplements do help. AND, most people want a pill to take for whatever reason.

Anyway, here’s what I’d like to propose to you: You could send an email to your customers, or include a note in your newsletter that tells your customers about a way they can get a FREE bottle.

You can position it as though an associate of yours is doing this to bring attention to his product, and your customers will be very grateful to you for turning them on to this free offer.

I will give you $9 for each customer who orders this free product. (We can have a third party track the results very easily.) I did this same arrangement with 15 owners of weight loss web sites and the results were as high as 18% conversion!

Let’s say you have an active, targeted list size of 25,000 people. 18% of this would be 4,500 orders x $9 = $40,500. You could literally make $40,500 (even if I’m half right this would be great!) for offering my product to your list.

In return, I could promote your e-book to my list of weight loss clients, who have bought diet products from me, in exchange for a percent of the profits. I have a list of over 750,000 dieters.”

Pretty tempting, huh? I could earn thousands by sending out an email, and also get my book in front of 750,000 people – an author’s dream (almost as good as getting on Oprah!) I’d make more money than Hueblein would have made by making their gravy with water.

What do you think I did? What would you do?

Here’s what I said when I emailed him back:

“Thank you for the offer, but we don’t have a match of interests. If you want to introduce my e-book to your list, be my guest – I’d be much obliged, but I can’t e-mail my subscribers and customers about diet pills because I don’t believe in them.”

I’ve said it before and I’m going to keep saying it over and over and over until I get this message drilled into the skulls of every person willing to listen (and I don’t care who I piss off by saying this):

A great body does not come in a pill!!!
Stop looking for fitness in a pill!

Are there ANY supplements that might have some benefits to your health or performance? Sure, but pills are not the ultimate answer to the problem of excess body fat. Even the people selling these products know this is true – as the email I received clearly proves… but they sell em’ anyway.

Every day there are publishers, authors, supplement companies, magazine editors, infomercial producers, equipment companies, health club owners and countless other fitness industry professionals who prostitute themselves the second the opportunity presents itself.

And therein lies the REAL problem with the weight loss, fitness, bodybuilding and supplement industries today: The PEOPLE behind the companies have rotten values, no values, or they profess one thing and do another.

Here are some higher values that you might want to embrace in your personal life and in your quest for health, fitness and a better body:

Hard work ethic
Health & vitality
Personal development
Vision, goals and dreams

And here are some lofty values you might want to embrace if you are in business and look for before patronizing someone else’s business:


Here’s the great irony that the spammers and scammers are too blind to realize:

If you align your personal life according these higher values, in the long run, you will come out the big winner. The people who succumb to the opposite of these values: laziness, quick fix mentality, corner-cutting, cheating, compromising quality, dishonesty and selfishness sometimes get short term benefits, but in the end, they wind up bankrupt – physically, mentally, financially and/or spiritually.

If you align your business according to the higher values, again in the long run, you’ll come out the big winner – and so will your customers. You see, these people selling snake oil could just as easily sell honest information and quality products, and in so doing, they would not only enrich the lives of others, but also enrich themselves in every sense.

So whatever side of the table you’re on – whether you’re a consumer or a business owner – I urge you to examine your values closely and be careful of who you do business with. Take stock of how you conduct your business and your life. Cherish your values, don’t sell out and never compromise on what you believe in.

Warmly, your friend and coach,

Tom Venuto,


Dear Tom,

Should I squat below parallel or is this bad for the knees?

For the answer, click here:


Functional Strength training Vs Bodybuilding:
Is Bodybuilding the Worst thing that ever happened to strength training?

I’ve been involved in the strength training and bodybuilding world for over 20 years now, including 14 years in the health club and personal training businesses. This has given me a very unique perspective on a trend that’s been taking place recently that’s quite disturbing to we, the dyed-in-the-wool “old school” bodybuilders. Quite simply, we are being “attacked!” We are being accused of training “all wrong!” Those machines we use? “Utterly worthless.” The leg press? “Non-functional.” Our strength? “Pathetic compared to our size.” Our speed? “Bwahhhh haa ha!” Our flexibility? “Like taffy at the north pole.” “Big, slow, weak, stiff, bloated, useless muscles” – that’s us – the bodybuilders. Or so says a certain group of vehement strength and athletic coaches. One well-known guru even went as far as saying, “The worst thing that ever happened to strength training was bodybuilding.”

Well, after being “picked on” for a long time for being a “vain” bodybuilder only interested in how I look (not caring about my athletic abilities), I figured it was time someone finally tackled the “functional” strength training versus “cosmetic” bodybuilding issue head on. In this article, you will learn the answers to these questions: What is “functional” training? What is “cosmetic” training? What’s the difference between the two? Should bodybuilders train like athletes? Should athletes train like bodybuilders? Will the two ever meet in the middle? How should you train if you’re just an “Average Joe” (or Jane) who wants to look good, feel good, play recreational sports and stay injury free? Do you listen to the heavily-muscled bodybuilding champ, or to the strength/athletic coach? Read on and find out.


Bodybuilding training, by definition, is “cosmetic.” In a bodybuilding competition, you are judged on the way you look, not by the way you perform. Whether you use light weights or heavy weights, slow reps or fast reps, long workouts or short workouts is completely irrelevant. The only thing that matters is that on the day of the contest, your physique is visually the best one onstage. This means having the perfect package of low body fat, muscular size and classical symmetry.

Bodybuilding is not aimed at increasing strength, flexibility, endurance, speed or other athletic factors as ends in themselves. In bodybuilding, these performance qualities are only sought to the extent to which they help the bodybuilder look better onstage. (Or as one functional training expert sarcastically put it, “The only athletic component bodybuilders encounter is having to walk across a stage and selectively spasm muscles to their favorite tune!”)

Functional training emerged primarily from the sports conditioning and rehabilitation world. By definition, functional training refers to a well-rounded program integrating exercises which contribute to better, more efficient and safer performance of real world activities or sports movements.

For example, functional training would help the average person develop strength that carries over into daily activities such as pulling open a heavy door, hiking up a rocky trail, starting a lawnmower, carrying a child, unloading heavy packages from the trunk of a car, or reaching up and pulling down a bulky box from an overhead shelf.

If you’re an athlete, functional training will help improve your performance: You will improve your swing, throw further, run faster or increase your vertical jump. Because functional training helps link your entire body together so it performs optimally as a cohesive unit, you’ll also decrease your chances of getting injured.

The terms “core training” and “functional training” are often used interchangeably, although core training is just one modality of functional training. Core training means doing exercises that activate the “core” muscles of the torso, neck, pelvis, lower back and abdominal area. Basically, your core is everything except your arms and legs. Core training doesn’t just work the muscles you can see – it also works the deep muscles like the quadratus lumborum and transversus abdominus which are important in strengthening and stabilizing the lower back and torso.

The most common example of a core-training apparatus is the “stability ball,” which is used for full range abdominal work, resistance training and numerous other exercises to develop balance, stability, coordination and core strength.

Why functional training caught the eye of an “old school bodybuilder”

Functional training is old news in the sports and rehabilitation world, but it wasn’t until just a few years ago that it really came to my attention because I started seeing it catch on in a big way inside our health clubs. All of a sudden, the trainers had medicine balls, core balls, core boards, rubber tubing, stability balls, rollers and foam pads all over the place, whereas just five years ago, there wasn’t a ball to be found in the entire joint!

One day, as I was doing my weekly “white glove” gym inspection, I witnessed a jaw-dropping spectacle that literally stopped me dead in my tracks. I watched in astonishment as one of our trainers did full squats standing on top of a stability ball while holding a medicine ball at arms length in front of him. I later observed him take his clients through workouts including lunging off of foam pads, jumping on and off platforms, squatting one leg at a time, “playing catch” with medicine balls, and all kinds of “weird twisting stuff” you hardly ever see bodybuilders doing.

At the time, I thought this was all very bizarre. It looked to me like they were training for Cirque Du Soleil rather than getting in shape, so initially I just ignored them and continued on with my merry old bodybuilding ways; rowing, squatting and bench pressing for multiple sets of 6-12 controlled reps.

A few things finally made me take a closer look. First, client retention for these trainers went up. It seemed that all this new variety was a great motivator for the average Joe. Second, it seemed like the personal training clients were actually HAVING FUN (which could also explain the increased retention). Third, I saw the trainer (the one who was doing the circus act on the ball), doing one arm presses with a 100 pound dumbbell on a stability ball. Now THAT I thought was VERY interesting. I also saw him doing inclines for reps with the 120s. That may not seem like spectacular poundage for an advanced bodybuilder, but this guy wasn’t a bodybuilder. He had an athletic, but otherwise pretty average-looking build, yet he was a LOT stronger than he looked. I admit; I was intrigued.

So, being a humble guy who knows he doesn’t know it all, I started picking his brain and doing some research to learn more. I then tested out some of these techniques on myself, found the answers to all the questions that had been burning in my mind, and came to some conclusions.


To the casual observer, a bodybuilder walking shirtless down the beach represents the epitome of health, fitness and athleticism simply because he “looks” like he’s in great shape. However, a perceptive strength and conditioning coach would be likely to spot a lot of problems simply by analyzing the bodybuilder’s posture, gait and exercise performance. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link and many bodybuilders have some inconspicuous, but potentially dangerous weak points. Functional training can help the bodybuilder strengthen these weak links, which left unattended, could lead to major injuries that could set them back for months.

Bodybuilders also get tend to stuck at strength plateaus quite frequently, while certain “in the know” athletes with half the muscle mass continue to get stronger and stronger – even though they might not “look” as strong as they are. Functional training can help bodybuilders make steady gains in strength and power, which, while not the primary goal of the bodybuilder, can help the bodybuilder gain mass in the long run.


Functional training can definitely help the bodybuilder become a better bodybuilder, but is the reverse also true? In some instances yes, bodybuilding training can help the athlete. For example, when an athlete needs to add 15-20 pounds of muscle, a bodybuilding style program could be incorporated into a carefully periodized schedule in order to achieve the hypertrophy desired.

However, functional training has more application to bodybuilders than bodybuilding training has to athletes. For example, most bodybuilders train with a controlled tempo and greater time under tension. Bodybuilders generally perform little or no explosive exercise, usually opting for slow reps such as a 2-3 second concentric and a 3-4 second eccentric. Time under tension is an important consideration for the bodybuilders.

If an athlete requiring explosiveness and strength used a traditional bodybuilding protocol of 6-8 reps on a slow tempo such as 4031 or 9-12 reps on a 3020 tempo, they would not be training the qualities they wanted to improve. As many strength coaches are fond of saying, “train slow, get slow.”

Athletes are not primarily interested in cosmetic improvements or pure muscle mass– they want functionality! They want strength, power, flexibility, coordination, agility, balance and endurance. They want to run faster, jump higher and hit harder.

Athletes need very high levels of neuromuscular integration and recruitment of fast twitch muscle fiber. They require activation of postural and stabilizing muscles. If the athlete focused on muscular isolation and machine work as many of the bodybuilders do, once again, they would not be training with the proper specificity.

The best thing an athlete can do to improve their sports performance is to use free weights, explosive movements and functional training modalities that are as specific to the requirements of their events as possible. Therefore, it’s only logical to conclude that athletes should NOT train like bodybuilders.


While athletes should basically “train like athletes,” bodybuilders can and should train in a more functional manner, while still keeping their unique goal of cosmetic improvement clearly in mind. There are many ways this can be done:

(1) Do more unsupported exercises, which activate stabilizers and core muscles.

Many years ago, I injured my lower back and my training was quite limited for some time. I figured that to “be safe,” I should do every exercise possible with my torso supported so there was no “strain” on my back. I chose exercises like incline dumbbell and machine curls instead of standing curls, lever rows and machine rows instead of barbell rows, Leg extensions and horizontal (supine) leg presses instead of squats, and seated dumbbell presses with back support instead of free standing presses.

While this strategy was probably wise during the acute phase of my injury, it unfortunately stuck as a habit for a long time afterwards. Little did I know, that by “babying” my back all the time, I was NOT allowing my core to get stronger.

To make your workouts more functional, get off the machines and torso-supported exercises and get onto the free weights and unsupported exercises. To progress even further, you can begin to incorporate stability ball work into your regimen.

(2) Use the Stability Ball

I admit; I was very hesitant to start using a stability ball. In fact, I did my first few stability ball workouts after the gym was closed (when no one was looking!) Bodybuilders can benefit from stability ball work by developing a stronger core. You’ll even get a nice growth spurt because these movements are quite a shock to your body when performed the first time. Any exercise that can be done lying or sitting on a bench or seat can also be done on a ball.

The first time you use a stability ball, expect it to feel quite wobbly and awkward… after all, it’s… un-stable! Start with light weights and build up gradually. The likelihood of injuring yourself in a variety of embarrassing and painful ways is quite high while doing weight training exercises in an unstable environment. Therefore, leave your ego at the door and get professional to show you how to use the ball when you’re just starting out.

(3) Perform integrated AND isolated movements for your abs including rotational movements – and avoid using ab machines exclusively.

Some of the pro-functional strength/anti-bodybuilding advocates have been known to make statements such as, “Crunches are totally worthless.” I wouldn’t go that far. Crunches are not “worthless,” they’re simply over-used. Crunches can be an excellent addition to a bodybuilder’s ab routine, but if you do nothing but floor crunches and ab machines, it’s like working out in one dimension. You miss the benefits of full range ab work and integrated ab work. Bodybuilders could also stand to do more rotational work such as Russian twists, twisting sit-ups and the “Wood Chop.” Bodybuilders should be cautioned, however about doing heavy weighted side bends, as this tends to build the sides of the waist and can ruin the symmetry that bodybuilders require.

(4) Do more unilateral work (and more dumbbell work in general)

Virtually any dumbbell or cable exercise can be done one arm at a time or in an alternating fashion. One arm movements add functionality while still doing a great job building muscle mass. You should also do more dumbbell work in general: Strength coach Charles Poliquin says, “Dumbbell work is the foundation of strength.” This is true not just because dumbbells often allow a greater range of motion, but also because dumbbell work is functional – it requires more stabilization.

(5) Emphasize free weights over machines

Many bodybuilders rely too much on machines. Machines have a definite place in a bodybuilder’s routine, but machines should not come first in the hierarchy of importance. Machines will help hit the muscles from a wide variety of angles – which bodybuilders need – but they they lock you into a fixed path and are generally not functional.

(6) Use more compound, large muscle mass, multi-joint exercises and fewer isolation movements

Isolation movements often provide the finishing touch that give bodybuilders the “polished” look that many strength athletes lack. As such, bodybuilders should certainly use isolation movements such as machine flyes, leg extensions and lateral raises to round out their routines. However, doing primarily isolation movements is a mistake. Compound, multi joint exercises like squats, presses and rows are unsurpassed for strength, muscle mass, power and functionality and should remain in a bodybuilder’s program year round – even before competitions.


Here is the ultimate answer to all your training questions: CLARITY OF PURPOSE! Any confusion you have about the multitude of training methods being promoted today will evaporate when you get clear about what you want. Why are you in the gym? What, specifically, are your goals?

Many coaches and athletes in strength, speed or power sports let their emotions and personal preferences color their judgement and they wrongly accuse bodybuilders of faulty training… when in fact, the bodybuilders are simply doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing: Training to look good. Bodybuilders are not weight lifters, they are “physique artists.” On the other hand, many bodybuilders are closed minded to trying methods from the sports world (such as functional training), even though they would clearly benefit from it.

Truth is, bodybuilding is NOT “the worst thing that ever happened to strength training.” Neither bodybuilders nor strength athletes have a training methodology superior to the other. Each is simply training to achieve the specific goals and requirements of their respective sports. Success in either endeavor all boils down to knowing what you want (clarity), then choosing the appropriate tools to help you get there the fastest.

Copyright 2003, Tom Venuto & Fitness Renaissance, LLC. No reproduction of this article is permitted. This article originally appeared as an exclusive in Will Brink’s Muscle Building Nutrition.Com member’s area. For more information about Muscle Building Nutrition, and the exclusive member’s area.


If you’d like to see an independent expert’s review of popular bodybuilding and muscle-mass building supplements, and you’d like to learn which one’s really work and which ones are complete hype, I highly recommend Will Brink’s newest e-book, Muscle Building Nutrition.

Like myself, Will is an independent bodybuilding & fitness writer/researcher who is NOT affiliated with any supplement company. What’s more, Will is a stickler for the facts and for the unbiased reporting of research.

[Note: Will’s newest e-book is a greatcompanion guide to my Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle program and the training section by world renowned Strength coach Charles Poliquin is simply priceless.] Click here to find out more:

PS. Muscle building nutrition is a weight (muscle) gaining program. If you are interested in honest reviews of weight loss and fat loss supplements (like thermogenics, etc), you should check out Will’s other e-book, “Diet Supplements Revealed”


By Christian Larsen

To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.

To talk health, happiness, prosperity to every person you meet.

To make all your friends feel that there is something of value in them.

To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.

To think only the best, to work only for the best, and to expect the best.

To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.

To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.

To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile.

To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.

To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit presence of trouble.

Reprinted with permission from Optimists Club International


” It’s kind of fun to do the impossible”

- Walt Disney



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