Category Archives: Video

Like a Girl

Always has released this ad (by Leo Burnett):

Girls know the difference between “like a girl” and “the way I (a girl) do it.” Boys know they are insulting girls, and are fine with it, but they don’t like insulting their sisters.

Let’s close those gaps.

Related: Verizon ad that calls attention to the ways we tell girls to stop what they’re doing, be pretty, and let the boys do it. Let’s stop doing that.

Thing-a-day 10: The Smith Machine

I don’t have much use for the Smith Machine. I pretty much only do triathlon sports, rowing, and big compound movements, and the Smith Machine doesn’t permit the appropriate ranges of motion for bench press, deadlift, squats, or overhead press. I’m always a little puzzled when I see one in a gym, because they are expensive, they take up a LOT of space, and the terrible experience they offer for big compound movements is not even close to justified by ‘safety’ claims.

At the end of the day, the Smith Machine is a resistance machine, and that’s why it doesn’t have much to offer people who are mainly interested in strength in context of balance and stabilization (including outdoor athletes such as myself). But there’s a whole world of people who love isolation and carefully controlled ranges of motion: bodybuilders.

Advanced and intermediate trainees only. You need to understand how to use the Smith machine correctly to derive the maximum benefit. Beginners should focus on learning basic barbell and dumbbell movement patterns and developing a strong base.

No feelers. For those who can’t “feel” a muscle working, the Smith machine is an excellent way to overcome that. The fixed plan[e] of motion allows you to really focus on the intended muscle without having to worry about balance and others factors.

From Why I Love the Smith Machine, by John Meadows.

He gives examples and sample workouts for ways to work the Smith Machine into a hypertrophy routine. Jack LaLanne invented it to be used within a regimen that included free weights (which Meadows also recommends), as a training device for novice lifters and not, it is said, with the intent of emphasizing focused mass gain. I don’t really know the merits of his argument, but my gut comes down with Meadows on this one – not for new lifters, and valuable mainly to a fairly narrow niche. If you are new to lifting, you are far better off grooving movements and dialing in form with weight as light as it takes for you to handle the safety aspect with balance and stabilization working in concert.

I belonged to a climbing gym that had a Smith Machine, and it was used regularly – people tested bench weights on it (I’ve done that myself), but mostly it was used as a rack for various kind of pullups, chinups, rows, and hanging abs work. A pretty good intersection with the (surprisingly sensible) advice in the last minute of this foul-mouthed video:

So there you have it – two carefully thought out (that video is better thought out than you think, I promise) approaches to getting value out of a Smith Machine. Something to arm yourself with in case – may it never happen – you are trapped in a gym with nothing else.

Thing-a-day 7: Languages That Didn’t Make the Cut

How would that controversial Coke ad have sounded with a line in Klingon? Or dolphin?

Coke’s ad was nice. The company has famously expressed its wish to buy the world a Coke, and many people have a bottle or can of Coke labeled in a foreign language, that they kept after a trip abroad. You can even buy them on eBay. Appearing throughout popular culture in movies, books, and music, it has had remarkable, multichannel success in Coca-Colanization of more or less the entire planet. Coke does business (in a friend’s words) “in every country that isn’t actually on fire” — and probably in a few that are.

The United States population is composed primarily of people who came from other places in the world, or whose fairly recent relatives did. Over the last 400 years, North America has drawn speakers of almost every language with the promise of a new life, of new opportunity. It has refined the idea of the melting pot, with whole generations of immigrants refusing to teach their children their native languages, not wanting to hold them back from assimilation. America the Beautiful is almost necessarily an idea in foreign languages — when they got here, many immigrants found a day-to-day life of backbreaking work, with the best hope of opportunity resting on that of their children to have a better standard of living than they did. It’s an essential aspect of the American experience, the essence of the American dream.

A lot of people didn’t like this ad, calling the foreign languages un-American. I saw some particularly vociferous critiques of it from people whose family names made it clear that their own great-grandparents, give or take a generation or two, might never have been able to form a full sentence in English without difficulty. I think about stories from my own family, about the native tongue being forbidden — mostly with sadness now that we understand more about the cognitive advantages of being bilingual. Well-meaning but short-sighted, rejecting the languages of our forefathers is a powerful signal of affiliation but at a steep cost of isolation, which can rob us of compassion. The language issue was such a powerful flashpoint for many people that they didn’t even notice the gay couple. Maybe that’s progress.