Snake Oil


I recently read a Q&A where a 6′ female who works out using CF weighing 150# with 14% bodyfat was worried that she was fueling herself with too many carbs and wanted to switch over to burning fat instead. BUT when she tried to do it on her own, she became violently ill.


First off, why isn’t her coach telling her she needs to gain some weight and body fat? A female with 14% body fat is extremely thin and truth be told, I would automatically believe some type of eating and exercise disorders are at play here. I’ve trained women who are very thin, it takes an extreme amount of patience and teamwork to get them comfortable with eating more on a daily basis. But to let it go and just take their money is unacceptable.

As is continuing to take money off an obese person who, for many various reasons, just can’t log that food and lose weight. Ever know a CF’r who remains overweight the entire time they “hit the box”? I have. Many, and it boggles my mind how they are not sat down and given a stern talking to. As in, “Look! (every stern talking to starts with the word ‘LOOK’) we want you here, you contribute to the community and you need us too (it’s okay to admit that folks need the gym. The gym is supposed to be a good place so it’s allowed.) But I can’t help but notice (due to the fact that we make every client log their workout, EVERY TIME!) that your workouts continue to be scaled without much improvement and your body composition has not changed in the 9 months you’ve been here (you don’t need to be a fucking dietary scientist to use your eyes and see that there have been NO changes!) and we need to start discussing whether or not this is the best place for you.

Uncomfortable eh? My first experience (last too, shocker) coaching in a CF setting (yes, I’m picking on this genre right now but don’t worry, I let loose on the WAC plenty around here too) involved a very nice, mid-western couple. A successful accountant and attorney, one son. She a bit soft and very weak, he a bit shorter and obese. After showing up together on a Tabata squat night, I got a talking to by the owner telling me it is not okay to make a wife count reps for a husband because it puts her in a role of authority over him.

Huh? Uhhhhhh, okay but I was on alert that this may not be the place for me. Cuz in my mind I’m thinking (WHATTHEEVERLASTINGFUCK is that about?! SRSLY? Your dick is so small that you can’t handle your wife no repping you on a foking air squat? FUK!) But okay, it could be I’m completely skewed coming from a strength background. No problem. After that they usually came separately but work schedules seemed to contribute to that. One thing I’ll say for husband, he was a worker. He worked harder than 80% of the others there. But there was never any change in his body composition and when I approached the topic, he clammed up. One day wife was on her own and seemed in a mood to talk and told me that when he comes home from CF he eats a full bag of Doritos and a 2L bottle of soda and THEN eats a crappy dinner. Ummmkay. Why?

My question baffled her. Well, cuz he’s hungry. Me: No, why do you even buy that crap after all these months? She: Cuz he get’s mad at me if I don’t. Ummmm, huh? My advice to the owner was to fire him. WHAT? Yup. You keep taking his money and he actually eats worse by doing your workouts because it gives him justification to eat crap since he just worked out. Well, that was out of the question. So I had to pull out my trump card.

He doesn’t want to be here. He hates it and the only reason he comes (yes, it’s a horrid thing that I was made aware of this) is that his wife gives sexual favors to get him there. Hey, ya know what kind? No? Guess what, I DO! Fok people, don’t tell your trainers this shit. It haunts us and we don’t get paid enough to be haunted. I even got the story of what went wrong when he used too much Icy/Hot and she…well anyways I’m getting off topic.

Needless to say, I didn’t last long there. Mostly though because it was a long drive for me and in true CF fashion, they didn’t pay me enough. But still, I quickly realized that just taking people’s money to keep the lights on wasn’t for me.

Anyways, back to this article. Of course Mark Sisson (one of my absolute favorite blogs) gave his version of a stern talking to (he’s a lot nicer than me it seems) of the fact that OP’r does need to gain some fat and cut down on a WOD type of workout and add strength training or walks. He’s smart.

He also included visual aides, I’m a sucker for visual aids. I’ve seen these before but they always are interesting to me, BF percentage pictures.


I’ve always liked these. Side by side proof that being a guy lets you get away carrying more fat. Dicks. (Nahhhhhh, J.K.) I once trained an overly obese woman who came to her session telling me that her doctor told her that she is about 35% BF so in spite of her nearly 400# girth, it’s low fat so that’s good. Quite honestly, this was my first indication that a little crazy was at play here (I missed the other signs, I guess they were there but it takes a while to sink in with me.) My reply was that I had a hard time understanding that because was at least 30% and our body compositions were very different. But nope, she was good to go. Doc said that her low BF% would keep her healthy and yes, she’d be better if she lost a little weight but she’s good now.

Fok. You’re fired. I can’t help you. Even after all these years I remember the shaking of the head wondering how I missed the reality of what I was dealing with. I missed her money, I wasn’t in a position to not have it. But I can’t do it. I can’t just take money because someone is willing to give it to me without conditions. I’m not your mommy, I don’t love you unconditionally (I hate that term actually.) You are expected to follow through on work to maximize my coaching and your workouts. Duh.

But to all you Snake Oil salesmen out there, who WILL continue to take folks money no matter what crappy product you’re giving them (including false hope if you don’t put them on a solid strength, conditioning, and sustainable diet), good job. It’s called malpractice but that rarely gets a second look these days, thanks a lot Obama. Look around your gym though, do you need to have the “LOOK” talk with someone? Will you?

Well? Will you?

Whatever luck I had, I made. I was never a natural athlete, but I paid my dues in sweat and concentration and took the time necessary to learn karate and become world champion.

Chuck Norris

Training Log

About tosabarbell

For training opportunities at tosabarbell, call or text Juli at 320-296-9313. e-mail to At tosabarbell, I build relationships cultivated in a strength and learning environment. There is no 12 week magic pill program to strength but rather a lifetime commitment to be the very best and most useful human you can be. tosabarbell is a private, home grown gym with three lifting platforms; squat rack; prowlers; throwing implements; bars, bumpers and everything else needed for an effective strength and conditioning program. Straightforward barbell programming including the Olympic lifts; sound (read: not fancy bullshit) diet advance for weight gain or loss; and strong coaching will ensure you will meet your goals such as becoming stronger, more explosive, and better conditioned. I have been coaching teams and athletes for over 30 years. I grew up participating in various sports at various levels but was always drawn to those that require strength training. I have multiple local, national, and world records in the sports of Weightlifting and Highland Games Heavy Events as well as a combined total of 5 World Championships. My 5 years of training and coaching under Mark Rippetoe provided a wide range of influence from some of the top strength & conditioning and throwing coaches in the country. I will strongly encourage tosabarbell athletes to compete (and prepare you to do so.) However, tosabarbell is also for those who wish to be stronger and go through life feeling better. Matt WanAt is a retired Professional Strongman who competed frequently with Strongman Champions League in Europe. He played a year of D1 football with Iowa before concentrating on his Chemical Engineering degree in Iowa City. He is a native of Wauwatosa and still remains a staunch supporter of Tosa East. This blog will be a mixture of strength notes, coaching and nutrition tips, personal shit; bacon delicacies, and a whole lot of fun.
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