Monthly Archives: April 2014

This week I'm re-hashing a very old post from my last blog.  Sadly attitudes towards female bodybuilders (and even male bodybuilders) by many hasn't changed much since.  I'm hoping that re-surfacing this post can help others to respect rather than be revolted by bodybuilders. 

Take a look at the two pictures below:

NaturalBodybuilders

They may not be very pleasing to your eyes.  It's probably not a physique you'd ever want to have.  You may even be a little disgusted.

It's completely fine to not want to look like a bodybuilder, I'd say most people don't.  However there's a trend I notice when talking about bodybuilders with many people that I do find a little troubling -

Bodybuilders are spoken of with disdain, with disgust, as though they were somehow less human than the rest of us merely because of their chosen sport.  As though because we don't like their physique ideals something about them must be flawed.

If you do a Google search for 'female bodybuilders,' the first link is entitled "Steroids gave me a penis."  Seriously?

In truth, bodybuilders are doing what most people want to accomplish, but to a higher degree: Losing fat and gaining muscle.  They're experts at it.  Thankfully for most of us, we don't have to work half as hard as a bodybuilder must to achieve our goals.

I'm hoping that this post will serve two purposes:

  1. Lend more evidence to why merely doing strength training is not enough to 'bulk' you up.  We'll take a look at how some bodybuilders train - it's probably a bit different than your typical strength routine!  Bodybuilders would love if they could just wake up one morning HUGE from a few months of strength training!
  2. Come to respect bodybuilders for their resolve, consistency and dedication to their sport instead of being repulsed by it.

Competition Divisions

Back in the day of Arnold Schwarzenegger and crew, bodybuilding was pretty simple.  Nowadays there are several different divisions, each with their own judging criteria.  It can get a little confusing.

In general though, all of the competitions are looking for some degree of muscle size, the best muscle symmetry and proportion, as well as a certain degree of muscle definition.

The fake tans caked on so liberally that competitors' heads look photoshopped on, oil, and minimal clothing isn't just to look as strange and inhuman as possible.  It's to enhance muscle definition and make it more visible to judges.

Let's define the different types of body aesthetic competitions:

Bodybuilding

Bodybuilding competitions have simple goals: Get as much muscle and as little bodyfat as possible, while maintaining good symmetry and proportion. (As in, not having one shoulder larger than the other and not having quads that are out of proportion with your hamstrings)

There are drug-tested bodybuilding competitions (the two bodybuilders at the beginning of the post are "natural" competitors), and then there are open divisions where basically anything goes.  That's where you'll find your Jay Cutlers, Ronnie Coleman's and Iris Kyle's.

Iris Kyle looks like she cares a lot about your opinion of her body.

In addition to the spray tans, oil, etc. mentioned above, dehydration and lifting weights before going on stage (in combination with drastically low body fat percentages) are some other techniques used to help increase vascularity and get that really 'shredded' look.  Before going on stage a competitor may also take in a high amount of carbohydrates in order to make the muscles appear fuller and larger.

Physique

Female physique competitors

Very similar to bodybuilding, except competitors can get marked down for having too much muscle.  That's really the main difference.  Sort of seems like an option for women looking to be muscular and compete but still retain a more traditionally "feminine" shape - but don't quote me on that.

Fitness

A step down again in terms of muscle size, leanness, and vascularity requirements.  However competitors in this division typically have to do some kind of routine that combines aspects of strength / flexibility, so a greater degree of athleticism is required.

Figure

Like the Fitness division, minus the routine.

Bikini

Bikini Competitors

I'll admit, I'm not sure what exactly judges look for in this division, because the only judging criteria from the NPC (National Physique Committee) website are:

  • Balance and Shape
  • Overall physical appearance including complexion, skin tone, poise and overall presentation.

So, perhaps a step down from figure.  Judging by the pictures of most bikini competitors, that's accurate: fairly lean, not much muscle definition.

Note: I thought Scott Abel's take on 'watering-down' bodybuilding competitions was interesting.  There is a lot of talk about the dangers of deciding to compete in figure and bikini competitions going on lately.  Take a few minutes to listen to this podcast starting at 12:48.

Bodybuilding Exercise Routines

Bodybuilders spend a lot of time in the gym.  The stereotypical "bodybuilding split" workout typically involves 4-5 days a week and tons of volume. (Competitors on drugs can recover faster and thus do more work) That takes quite a chunk of time each week.  To give you an idea, here's a sample day from competitor Josh McMillan:

*2 warm up sets of 15 reps, seated dumbbell curls, then:

  1. INCLINE SEATED DBELL CURLS (SUPINATED)-
    4 sets of 6 reps (slow deceleration), then 6 hammers.
  2. BARBELL REVERSE CURLS (to forehead)-
    3 sets of 12 reps (3 second decel)
  3. HIGH PULLEY MACHINE CURLS-
    3 sets to failure (around 15-20 rep range)
    *2 warm up sets of tricep push downs
  4. TRICEP ROPE PUSHDOWNS-
    4 sets of 12 reps w/flex
  5. ONE ARM REVERSE TRICEP PUSHDOWNS
    3 sets of 10 reps
  6. BENCH DIPS-
    3 sets to failure
  7. MACHINE SHRUGS-
    4 sets to failure

A bit more work than most put in on a typical day - done 4 or 5 times per week.  Doing exercises to failure is not pleasant.  It burns.  Your body begs you to stop but you must have the mental fortitude to push through it anyway.  Rinse, repeat again the next day.

This doesn't count the cardio that many competitors put in.  It varies from competitor to competitor, and you'll find many arguments for and against excessive cardio.  But at the end of the day most will do some form of cardio in the weeks leading up to a competition.

I got to interview Staci, a natural female bodybuilder in the 118-132lb weight group.  She gave me a general idea of how much time she spent in the gym and how much cardio she also did on top of regular training:

"During off season, I am in the gym for 1 hour a day for weight training 4 days a week and cardio will take up 2 of those other days, with 1 day full rest. When I am cutting for competition, I am in the gym in the morning for HITT (High Intensity Interval Training) before breakfast and for another hour later in the day for weights. I will do this for 4 days, and depending on energy levels, I will put in a few more cardio sessions the other 3 days as well."

Now bear in mind, this is just a sample.  Bodybuilding requires you to take note of whether or not an exercise is working for you, whether or not you should consider a different angle on the bench when you're doing incline bench press, whether or not you should widen or narrow your grip, are you making sure to target both your soleus and your gastrocnemius on calf day?

Bodybuilders need to have a good, basic understanding of human anatomy to be successful.  How can you make a muscle bigger when you don't know it exists?  How can you make sure a muscle is activating unless you know what its function is and what bone it attaches to? (You could always read blog posts, I guess!)

So if one needs to have a broad knowledge base in anatomy and physiology (or hire someone who does) to be successful in bodybuilding, where did this stereotype come from?

Bodybuilding Diets 

Dieting for a show can get pretty grueling - not to mention boring.  Ask any competitor.

If you think that your diet is restrictive, try a bodybuilder's who is preparing for competition.  Men strive to reach levels of 3-8% bodyfat, women around 9-15%.  For reference, average bodyfat percentage for men is 18-25% and for women is 25-31%.  How do you have to eat to get to these numbers?  I asked my friend Charlie, and he had this to say about dieting for competition:

"The diet is the tough part. Lifting is fun, being hungry for 12-16 weeks is not. Diet for competition is usually a low carb diet... total calories 1700-2000. The target is no more than 2lbs of weight lost a week, anything more your losing muscle. Off season diet is 3500-4000 calories a day with protein being about the same, but way more carbs...

Three weeks out from the show I wanted to quit. I was grumpy, tired, hungry, and wondered was it all worth it. I didn't quit, because I knew I would beat myself up if I did. The diet messes with your mind. You question everything your doing and wonder if you're screwing up. This is why I think a coach is the most important thing you can have. Someone to talk you off the ledge, to have a sane mind that can hold you to the plan and can gauge your progress and make adjustments without sabotaging everything."

In the weeks leading up to the show, all food is logged.  How many ounces of chicken, exactly how many almonds, how many grams of plain oats?  Exact calories and macronutrient levels must be measured.  There can be no cheating involved - you bring your food to work, to restraunts, to birthday parties and holidays.  Research the correct supplements (legal or not, depending on your division), take them at the exact right times according to your training each day.  Any deviation might mean the different between first and last place.

And then there's the post-competition diet.  You don't want to completely de-rail for a month (though many do) and get fat, since it's just that much more weight you'll have to lose before the next show.  But to gain muscle, you do have to eat at a caloric surplus.  It's a fine balance between eating enough to gain muscle and support your workouts, but not so much you gain 50 pounds of fat.

Staci had this to say about switching between phases:

"The main difference between off season eating and pre-contest diet is the amount of calories. When I am bulking, I aim for about 2500 to 3000 cals a day. When cutting, I am looking at around 1400 to 1000 cals, depending on the workout for the day. Macros will move up or down, obviously but keep protein very very high...

The transition can be grueling. The key is to not reduce the amounts to quickly, as you will almost go in to shock psychologically and mentally. Obviously your body is use to taking in so much, and when it is not receiving, it will come back to bite you...[[One time]] I cut my cals too quickly and had a difficult time functioning, as far as speech, cognitive and emotionally. It was an eye opener to see just how much this affects you."

Now obviously if you found female bodybuilders less than easy on the eyes before this post, nothing above will have changed that.

But how about we show these ladies (and gents) a little respect for the tremendous amount of work they do and do away with comments like these:

FemaleBodybuilders

How about we stop being "afraid" of getting too "bulky" as though that's a bad thing or the only reason to lift weights?  Again, bodybuilders would LOVE it if it were that easy.  Hopefully we can see now that's not the case.

Even in light of all this, the physique of a bodybuilder will probably be continually unappealing.  And that's okay.  Take a look at this video of a young female bodybuilder:

Chances are good she doesn't care if you think she's too manly looking, or that some random dude on the internet wouldn't have sex with her.  But I just want you to look at the confidence she exudes while on stage.  Just from her body language you can see the hard work she put in, the dedication, and you can tell she knows she's amazing.

Even if you don't want to look like her, we should respect her for her resolve.  We should respect her for having the guts to even decide to prepare to get up on that stage.  We should respect her for the respect she has for herself.

That's something that we should all strive for, no matter in what manner.

So you want Michelle Obama arms?

Let's Move! ...over to the weight room to work on them gunzz

Or maybe you'd prefer Heidi Klum's legs.

Whatever example you use, you just want an overall 'toned' body.

While their hard work is inspiring and admirable, you're not really looking for the kind of 'bulk' like female bodybuilders have.

The amazing Alex "Delts" O'Hanlon. Can you see where she got the nickname? (Delts = Shoulder muscles)

So it stands to reason that you need to work out differently, right?  Bodybuilders lift weights to get their physique, so you probably need to do something else.  What are the kinds of workouts that offer you the toned look you want?

It could be Pure Barre, whose entire business model is hinged on promising you the "long, lean look."

Or maybe you head over to the Health & Fitness board on Pinterest until you find a workout that claims to tighten, tone or firm the body part you find lacking. (You won't have to scroll for very long!)

Or hey, why not all three at once?!

Or hey, why not all three at once?!

In the end, what do you get?  Usually some assortment of 4-8 light bodyweight exercises that target a particular area for 15-25 reps each.  Maybe you'll do the circuit 3-5 times.

So, would workouts like these actually work?  To figure that out, we need to know exactly what muscle tone is.

Muscle tone is * comprised of two parts:

*(in the traditional sense, though the way we use it is actually a misuse of the physiological definition of the term.  No need to worry about that here, though)

What Muscle Tone IS

1) Having muscle!

Yes, most 'toning' workouts miss this point, but 'muscle tone' actually requires that you have some muscle.  If you barely have any, it's not going to really show through even a small amount of body fat.  I collected a few pictures for you to see what I mean:

MuscleTone1

All three of these girls are pretty lean and we go from one end of the spectrum (very little muscle) to the other (a lot of muscle).

So, if you're already fairly thin but still don't have the kind of muscle tone you'd like, (often referred to as being "skinny fat") then you need to build some muscle.

If image #2 is around the kind of look you have in mind, you're in luck.  It's going to be much easier for you to put on the bit of muscle it takes to get there than it would be to get to picture #3.

If you want some poppin' guns like the lovely lady in picture #3, you've got a lot of work ahead of you!

2) Having low enough body fat to see said muscles

If you're on the larger side and want to increase your muscle tone, you could certainly do that by building more muscle.  But if you're cool with the amount of muscle you have now and just want to, as they say, "tone up," then you'll need to lose some body fat.

Let's take a look at this through another visual, this time from  yours truly:

MuscleTone2

I didn't gain any muscle between those two pictures.  (In fact I would say I probably lost a fair amount.)  But I did lose about 20 pounds.  As you can see, it made a difference.  My muscles look more defined and a bit firmer just because I lost a bit of the fat that cushions them.

What Muscle Tone Is NOT

1) Building 'long and lean' muscle as opposed to 'bulky' muscle

Having 'toned' muscles doesn't mean building long & lean muscle, as opposed to bulky muscle.

Muscle is muscle.  It all looks the same.  Some reasons you might feel like you have 'bulky' muscle:

  • You have body fat that you may be confusing for muscle
  • You've got short, stocky limbs.  Draw of the cards, I'm afraid!
  • You have some muscle but also very low body fat, making said muscle appear more vascular and 'ripped' than you'd like. (see below for an example)
The same Alex O'Hanlon from above.  The only difference between picture #1 and #2 is 9 weeks and a bit of body fat.  What a difference!

The same Alex O'Hanlon from above. The only difference between picture #1 and #2 is 9 weeks and a bit of body fat. What a difference!

2) Something you can achieve with a couple of 'toning' workouts per week for a month

Losing fat and/or gaining muscle is a slow process.  The kinds of workouts in most DVDs or in magazines are not going to build very much muscle, especially if you're not a beginner.

The best they'll do is help you burn a few calories so you can lose some fat and help you preserve some muscle.  (Note: I am NOT trying to dissuade you from doing these kinds of workouts if you enjoy them. They definitely serve a purpose. By themselves, however, they may not get you the kind of results you're looking for) 

In any case, it's going to take more than a month of dedication, or a 60-day challenge, or whatever short-term results advertised.  As they say, it's a lifestyle change.

Your best bet is to train with actually challenging weights, doing total-body movements such as squats, push-ups, deadlifts, etc.

Moral:

So, in sum, the kind of workouts you'd do for increasing muscle tone involve what you'd generally think of for building muscle.  

Whether that's challenging bodyweight exercises like chin-ups, push-ups or dips; or adding some actual weight to a bench press or squat, you need something that is going to stimulate and challenge said muscles.  25 donkey kicks or a 30-day squat challenge won't cut it.

Muscle is good.  Even if you didn't lose a pound of fat, adding some muscle can help you appear more 'toned' if that's what you're going for.

But even if you already have a ton of muscle like the unbelievably strong Holly Mangold, if there is too much body fat surrounding it you won't see it.  (Though if you could clean & jerk over 300 pounds I doubt you'd care too much)

2 Comments

There's an old adage of the internet: Never read the comments section.

Most of the time this is good advice.  If you get easily frustrated at misinformed opinions, have a hard time controlling what you say to internet strangers, or just want to save yourself the pain of a dozen facepalms, then yeah, comments may not be for you.

(From The Oatmeal)

(From The Oatmeal)

But I almost never follow this rule.

Before I write about a certain topic, I try to do a fair amount of research on it.  This leads me to some heated discussions at times.

There are battles being waged in blog posts and news articles around the net.  Some of them still rage on, some of them are now just smoldering ruins of harsh words and hurt egos with no real victor.

Some common weapons used by these fierce internet warriors are ad hominems and appeals to authority, among other masterful forms of name-calling and condescension.

This is how I imagine flame wars.

This is how I imagine flame wars.

We can do better than that.

The internet is a fantastic medium to have a debate on a particular topic:

1) With in-person debates, if you take time to gather your thoughts and make a smart rebuttal, it can seem like you don't have a retort at all.  You look bad.  Try to fill it in with meaningless fluff, and someone, somewhere will call you out on it.  Lose-lose.

With internet debates, however, you not only have your opponent's arguments in front of your face, verbatim, but you have time to gather your thoughts and articulate them in an organized manner.

2) I remember in the last presidential debates, Obama and Romney were debating about oil costs.  It went something like:

Obama: Costs are down from four years ago.
Romney: Actually, they aren't.  They're up <some specific number> percentage!
Obama: No, your information is out-dated.
Romney: No it's not.
Obama: Yes it is.

What could the listener have possibly learned from that?  When you don't have proof in hand, there's no amount of words that can thoroughly de-bunk your opponent in the heat of the moment.

True, you could fact check after the debate, but most viewers aren't going to do that.  With the glory of the internet, you can link to your sources right in your argument!  How fantastic!

3) If a certain piece of information isn't known between the two debating, others can chime in to help fill gaps on knowledge so the debate can continue.Because no one is literally talking over eachother (you can just skip to the comments you want to read), things are much less confusing.

Sadly many of us don't take advantage of this.  I'm not innocent - there have been plenty of times I just had such a witty response to a stupid comment that I couldn't wait to hit the submit button.  I've regretted it everytime.  The only purpose such a comment serves is to make the commenter feel smart.

If you couldn't tell, I feel that internet debates could be a great tool for change.  If you agree, here are 4 things to keep in mind when engaging in yet another discussion on GMOs or the latest T-nation 'cardio makes you fat' article:

1) When you engage in debate, your goal is NOT to convince the person you are debating

During an argument you've probably told yourself "what's the point, he'll never change his mind."  And it's true.  How many times have you engaged in a debate and had your opponent conceded defeat?  It's been known to happen, but it's only like 5% of the time, via a statistic I just made up.

When it's become clear that your debate is a stalemate, comments like "We'll just have to agree to disagree," or this show up:

InternetDebates2

A message like the above also makes you seem like an asshole, which is rather unhelpful.

Approach your arguments with the knowledge that you're not going to win.  Your objective is to educate and persuade the audience.  Trust me, there is always an audience of lurkers who you will never speak to.  You'll probably never know they exist at all unless they post something about getting out popcorn for the impending argument.

I spent 6 years just reading about exercise and nutrition before I ever made a single comment or assertion on any message board.  We're out there.

So even when you know the person you debate isn't going to address the studies you cited or refute solid arguments you gave, keep pushing them to do so.  When they resort to name-calling, anecdotes, conjecture, and excessive obscenity, remain level-headed and positive.  This way you avoid alienating anyone who may be listening.

Keep responding as long as you can do this for the benefit of your audience.  You're giving them ammunition to try out on their own in any debates they do choose to engage in.  And if anything, you're teaching everyone what an argument should actually look like.

2) Yes, it is your job to educate people

If you care about a subject (say, de-bunking the myth that red meat is inherently bad for you), then when someone says "but what about The China Study?" for the umpteenth time, it is your duty to answer them.

You don't have to write out a unique answer for every comment, but at least be prepared to give out appropriate resources for commonly asked questions. ("I watched this documentary Forks over Knives and it said...")

Having FAQs if you have a website on a controversial topic is helpful, but dismissing people's questions with a derisive "Read the fucking FAQ" is not.  Simply stating that there are resources out there is equally unhelpful.  Make it EASY for the person you're debating (well, more importantly for the people reading along) to see how you came to your conclusions.

InternetDebates1

What books exactly? What number of press releases are appropriate?

I know it can be very frustrating to answer the same questions over and over (spot-reduction and "toning" anyone?), but while they are old news to you, they are brand new to the person who is asking.  They're not idiots and they're not being willfully ignorant.  If you turn away someone who is actively seeking to expand their knowledge, you are not representing your cause very well.

3) Always go back to the science

Reuters put out an article recently about the number of people who believe in medical conspiracy theories.  While these kinds of stories are probably old news to many of my readers, as the article states there are plenty of people who still believe in them.

What can you do when someone believes in 'conspiracy theories'?  Are they beyond saving?

Well, if someone believes that herbal supplements are the best way to treat cancer, calling their belief a 'conspiracy theory' right off the bat is probably not the best place to start.  They obviously don't see it that way.

In a similar vein, what good does it do to tell someone "The FDA cleared it" when debating GMO's if they already distrust the government and think they're in bed with Monsanto?

If someone has had bad experiences with doctors their whole life, will the argument of "The AMA stands behind it" help in a conversation about vaccines?

Regardless of how much sense it can make to call upon these arguments, for some people they will fall on deaf ears.  In this case you must always fall back on the scientific studies that the FDA or AMA based their judgments off of.

"But Kat," you say, "the studies probably won't mean anything to them.  Many of these studies are not lay-person friendly."

That's absolutely true.  Not being able to comprehend studies is a huge issue in these kinds of arguments and why it's so important that everyone gets a basic understanding in how they work.  (Even then it's not enough to say you'll be able to understand as well as someone who actually works in the field) Unfortunately that's another topic for another day.

Sometimes you are just going to have to let someone go when they fall back on arguments that are impossible to refute. ("All of these studies are secretly funded by Monsanto", "there is literally nothing you could say to change my mind", etc.) The best you can hope for is that your audience doesn't feel the same way.

4) Be humble.

You (usually) never know when someone will come out with a new study that blows your beliefs out of the water.  They may even confirm the opposite and you'll have an awful lot of apologizing to do.  (If you wonder why researchers seem to just refuse to say things in certain and clear-cut terms, that's why.)

Got any other suggestions?  Think I'm crazy and that humanity is inevitably doomed?  Wonder if I've ever seen Idiocracy? (yes) Let me know!

(taken from wikipedia)

"A lie, Mr. Mulder, is most convincingly hidden between two truths."

-Deep Throat, The X-files

It's Sunday morning and you're awoken by sunlight streaming through your shades.  Groggily, you reach over for your phone to check the time.

...

Revision: it's Sunday afternoon.  You had a pretty hard night - even if you didn't remember exactly how much you drank, your inability to stand up without stumbling would have reminded you.  That's what happens when it's nickel shot night at O'Halligan's.

Your head is killing you and walking is proving quite difficult.  Do you:

  • A) Find the nearest Waffle House, stat
  • B) Take some advil and settle in to watch The Princess Bride for the millionth time
  • C) Salt the shit out of two scrambled eggs and wash it down with a Diet Coke (that was my tactic, anyway)
  • D) Grab some Vitamin Water then go about your day bright-eyed and bushy-tailed

Haha, Amish people!  That's so random and edgy Vitamin Water, you totally get me.

Well, this commercial would lead you to believe that 'D' is the best option.  Here are the claims made in this commercial.  The first two are stated explicitly, while the last is implicit - meaning they never actually say this, but it is glaringly obvious from the commercial.

  1. Vitamin Water Revive has B vitamins and potassium
  2. Vitamin Water Revive will re-hydrate you
  3. Vitamin Water Revive will relieve hangovers

Let's look at these claims more in-depth:

Vitamin Water Revive has B Vitamins and Potassium

VitaminWaterConfused

By 120 I mean 125.  If you know the reason behind the differences here, let me know!

This is true.  It DOES have these things.  However, in trying to find exactly how much, I came across some confusion in the actual nutrition label on Vitamin Water and what their website says.  It's possible this nutrition label information is out of date.

However, you shouldn't stop questioning there.  The next question you need to ask is:

Why does it matter that this product has B vitamins and potassium?

In the context of normal day-to-day life, it doesn't matter.  If you're not vegetarian, you're likely not deficient in any B vitamins.  If you're not competing or training in endurance sports or suffering from diarrhea, you're likely not deficient in potassium.  These are rare conditions.

So, if you're suffering from a hangover, does that change things?  We'll go over that in our last point.

Vitamin Water will re-hydrate you

Well, the first ingredient in Vitamin Water is - you guessed it - water.  (Right before the second ingredient - sugar.  Mmmm it's like hydration candy, delicious!)

Delicious hydration candy. Just look at all dat sugar. (taken from brobility.com)

So yeah, if you're dehydrated, Vitamin Water can help re-hydrate you.  So could tap water, or diet coke, or Gatorade, or tea, or broth...you get the idea.

Vitamin Water will relieve hangovers

Well, this is where we're getting into bullshit territory.  You would think that given humanity's long history of enjoying getting hammered, we'd understand hangovers better. Unfortunately, we don't have a strong grasp on exactly why they happen.

Home remedies abound however, usually consisting of some kind of salty food and water to 're-hydrate' you.  We all know that dehydration is the real cause of hangovers, right?

Well, it doesn't seem to be that easy.  Many hangover cures have been tried and found wanting.  (1, 2, 3) Dehydration only seems to account for a small fraction of symptoms, such as dry mouth.

But, that's not really my point.  This isn't an article about hangover cures.

My point was to draw your attention to one of many health and fitness marketing tactics: hiding the bullshit between some non-bullshit.  You can find examples all over the place.  Often you'll see this in nutrition products or supplements:

But you can also find it in different fitness routines:

SpotTheBullshit

I encourage you to go to the full website for hilarious explanations of the benefits of various yoga poses.

In this case you have one realistic claim and two bullshit ones.  A warm muscle is easier to stretch (4), detoxification is bullshit, and it's doubtful that a hot environment would increase cardiovascular benefits. (5 - an ACE sponsored study that I couldn't find in any database so take it with a grain of salt.  Here's a different study showing benefits of training in heat...but it's with cyclists, who undoubtedly have a much different adaptation to their training the hot yogis.)

Or in fitness products, like the Sketcher's "Shape Up" shoes (I encourage you to watch this video and look for the numerous questionable promises), which claim to:

  1. Maximize calorie burn
  2. Improve circulation
  3. Strengthen muscles

While Shape-Ups (or literally any other footwear...or just your bare feet) could improve circulation and strengthen muscles - due to the fact that you are exercising while wearing them - they do not significantly change the amount of calories you burn performing a particular exercise.  But it's easy to glance over that when you're watching an entire infomercial, isn't it?

Moral

Beware of the many claims put forth in advertisements and promotions of health and fitness products.  It may be true that a protein powder helps build lean muscle and keep you full, but it probably doesn't keep your blood sugar levels steady or promote alert thinking while somehow at the same time reducing anxiety.

Take every claim one at a time.  Many times the real benefits are just the benefits you'd get from eating any kind of food, or doing any kind of exercise, then with your defenses lowered they hit you with a bogus, too-good-to-be-true claim.  More than likely you'll take it.

Trust no advertisement.  That should have been Deep Throat's advice in the X-files.  Perhaps not as pertinent to Mulder, though.