Tag Archives: tracy anderson

Guess it's time for my second "I hate Tracy Anderson with the fiery passion of 1,000 suns" post of 2014.  I'm a glutton for punishment I suppose.

When I saw that Tracy Anderson and Dr Oz were going to "de-bunk some popular fitness myths" I felt a strange combination of sorrow and giddiness.  This is an unlikely mix of emotion that can only really be properly encapsulated with one sentence:

"Oh my God, this is going to be the worst thing I've ever seen."

JustShittyThings

Tracy Anderson and Dr Oz - a dynamic duo topped only by Avril Lavigne and Chad Kroeger

But you know what, after watching the clip, I gotta say...it really wasn't that bad.

I mean, in just five minutes it's tough to get across any actual good information.  But nothing they said was particularly egregious.

I know, I was shocked as well.

So, let's go over exactly what was said and see if there was anything really helpful to glean from this segment.  Let's start from the top:

Dr. Oz: "You think you know the facts about getting fit?  Well you may be surprised to find that much of what you've been told is fiction.  So fitness expert Tracy Anderson is here to help de-bunk the three biggest fitness myths.

Why is it so important to tell fact from fiction for you?"

Anderson: "It's so important, we don't have a lot of time to exercise. We want people to see results, we don't want them to hurt themselves - they need to be educated."

Oh boy.  Let's just get this out of the way first...

Tracy Anderson is one of the biggest promoters of fitness myths

Whether it's having zero understanding of how the human body actually works,

...you know that my method reengineers your muscular structure through the constant flow of new workout sequences, prescribed specifically for you. These unique sequences are based on targeting the accessory muscles (the small muscle groups). Strengthening the accessory muscles while burning fat through intense cardiovascular work helps to create a tight knit group of small muscles that actually pull in the larger muscle groups...

seemingly just making shit up off the top of her head,

"We all store weight in different areas dependent on where we are muscularly weak," Tracy explains.

being under the impression that literally everything bulks women up (except her super-secret dance routines),

"...spinning creates an imbalance in the muscular system. It bulks the thigh and butt muscles. You develop mass by working these same muscles over and over."

Tracy is totally against other forms of cardio, such as running, where you repeat your movements over and over. That, she says, will bulk muscles.

or of course, the numerous times she's said not to lift anything heavier than 3 pounds,

"A woman should never lift anything heavier than 3 pounds."..."I carry my 30 pound son in my left arm...so [my right arm] sags lower than [my left arm]" The dissonance hurts...

So you want to build muscle but not look like the Terminator? Anderson suggests working accessory muscles first, avoiding bulking up the large groups. Also, never work out with weights heavier than 3 lbs.

Anderson says more things that are flat-out wrong and completely in line with common fitness myths than anything remotely close to the truth.

Let's not mention that some of Anderon's methods take an unnecessarily long time.  For example, one reporter had this to say about her "30-Day Method" plan:

On the 30-Day Method you have to do to three hours of exercise a day, which decreases to one hour on the 90-day plan.

Or her recommendation to work up to doing 100 repetitions of a single exercise - that wouldn't take a long time or anything:

Now on to toning. For each of the below, start with 10 repetitions and work up to 100.

Anyway, let's move on to the first myth Tracy Anderson and Dr Oz set out to de-bunk:

JustShittyThings2

Myth #1: Crunches are the key to flat abs

Dr. Oz: "This is why crunches don't help you get flat abs - it's all about this concept of 'spot reduction,' it doesn't work...

So if you really want to lose the fat so you can see the six-pack underneath, you gotta build up a lot of muscle, not just a little bit of muscle in your belly.  And to do that, Tracy, you say you've got a better way of doing it?"

Anderson: "Yes, I'm going to reach all of those muscles, not just the large ones, and we're going to use our whole body so we're gonna burn calories at the same time - which burns off the fat." 

This is an interesting exchange to look at in-depth.  I actually completely missed what Dr. Oz said the first time around - that one should 'build up a lot of muscle' to lose fat and see your abs.  This advice (though not the umm...best tactic for fat loss) completely flies in the face of everything Anderson promotes and suggests, so it's interesting to see how they just rolled with it.

Anderson suggesting that exercises that use more muscles at once burn more calories for your time is true enough. (For instance, doing a deadlift instead of fancy kneeling kicks for "butt toning") And burning extra calories could certainly help to get rid of the fat over your stomach eventually.  When she says "all of the muscles," she's referring to working all of your abdominal muscles, I assume.

There are a lot of exercises that do that.  Walking, squatting, deadlifting...etc.  But the exercise she demonstrates does as well.  It's a perfectly fine exercise, I suppose, but it's not likely to help you out a significant amount more than crunches to reveal dem abs.

JustShittyThings3

"I can't copyright a plank, so I added this little leg kick."

 Dr. Oz: "So you build those core muscles up...with all those core muscles getting strong you have a better metabolic furnace burning through calories to get rid of that fat."

It's technically true that muscle requires more calories to sustain itself than fat, though the difference is pathetically small.  Regardless, two things with that:

  1. Anderson doesn't advocate building muscle
  2. Simply doing that exercise won't be enough to build significant muscle mass

As well, counting on building muscle to be your saving grace in fat loss is probably not the way to go about achieving your goals.  If you've got a significant layer of fat covering those abs, your best bet will be to eat at a caloric deficit (which generally won't allow you to build much muscle anyway) to get rid of it.

Myth #2: The more you sweat, the more calories you burn

Dr Oz: "The amount you perspire is not at all correlated to the amount of calories you burn...you could sit in a sauna...and you're perfectly still burning no calories at all, sweating away.  So it clearly doesn't work.  In order to burn more calories you have to elevate your heart rate." 

I don't have too much to comment on here.  This is generally correct.  Sweating more does not equal burning more calories.  You might just be in a sauna, like Oz suggested, or you may be trying to squat in a garage gym with no AC in the middle of a North Carolina summer and have a hard time keeping the bar on your back because it's so sweaty and you nearly pass out.  I dunno.

As far as needing to elevate your heart rate to burn more calories, I'm gonna admit that I'm not 100% on how true that is.  After all, you could go through a weightlifting session picking up heavy weights for few reps at a time not get your heart rate up that much while still burning a significant number of calories.

Anyway, they go on to do some cardio to elevate the heart rate.  Yay.

Myth #3: Stretching before a workout warms up the muscles

Dr. Oz: "Truth is you can actually injure muscles if you stretch before you warm up a little bit."

I've read many studies on the efficacy of static stretching before warming-up, but none mentioned static stretching actively injuring the muscles - just that they didn't prevent injury from happening too well.  I may be missing studies on this, however. (1, 2, 3)

Anderson: "Absolutely, it's about warming up, it's about connecting your brain to your muscles, getting focused, getting ready to burn calories, build muscle..."

Woah woah woah.  Is this segment a foreshadow to Anderson's impending endorsement of building muscle for women?  Considering that she just released her exercise routine for men to make them "skinny ripped" panthers, as opposed to big, bulky, overdeveloped bison, it seems unlikely.  But then again, strength training for women is catching on...

In any case, I've got nothing against a good warm-up that gets your mind right to do some awesome stuff in the gym. (or do 30 minutes of glorified arm circles, whichever)

"Range of Motion"

"Range of Motion"

In the segment, Anderson says the warm-up sequence she's demonstrating will work on your range of motion, however I could think of quite a few better ways to do so than doing a slight knee bend with a backwards-to-overhead arm reach. Could try something like:

  1. Spiderman Lunge x 10
  2. Bodyweight Squat x 10
  3. Laying Windmill x 8 each side
  4. Downward Dog to Plank x 10

But, whatever, not a really big deal.

Conclusion

We end with a product promotion and that's the end of it.  Seriously, that's all.  Nothing that makes me want to rage and claw my eyes out or facepalm.  It's not a segment I'd be particularly proud of, but it's not one that would make me want to hide under my bed in shame for the rest of my life, I suppose.

And that's the most positive endorsement you'll likely ever hear me say about Anderson.

4 Comments

Read Part I and Part II of the "Get a Bombshell Bikini Body" review.

Finally down to the LAST segment here of what has become an unexpectedly long review of a very short spread in Cosmo UK.

Before we start reviewing this last segment, I noted that all of the pictures from Anderson's blog have been removed for some reason.  So, I took the liberty of searching around for cached pictures and uploaded them to imgur.  We'll be focusing on the last page today.

Get Gwyneth Paltrow's Legs

Anderson has often stated that repetitive exercises, like running or biking will 'bulk' your legs.  This leads to some confusion because of her usual suggestions.  How much repetition is too much by her standards?

After all, she'd like for you to work up to doing 80 reps of each exercise (I'm assuming 80 reps per leg), would that be better or worse than taking 160 steps running?  You could obviously argue that the impact from running causes a stronger adaptation in your legs, bulking them - so what about biking?  is 160 rotations on a bike more or less likely to bulk than the exercises she gives in this section?

I suppose I'm being overly critical since almost no one is just going to take 160 steps or 160 rotations, but you can question the principle.

In any case, just take a look at some marathon runners to see that running a lot of miles doesn't automatically 'bulk' your legs:

Such bulk.  Much muscle.  Wow.

Such bulk. Much muscle. Wow.

And an endurance cyclist for good measure:

Here are the things a person needs to do in order to put massive bulk on their legs:

  1. Eat a caloric surplus - this is a must.  If you are eating less calories than you burn throughout the day, your body isn't going to put a lot of resources into building NEW muscle.  It must devote all of its energy to keeping your current body functioning.  As well, a good portion of said calories need to be protein.
  2. Train in a way that promotes muscle growth - this will typically be lifting weights that are difficult to do in a ~12-20 rep range.  Definitely not endurance running, definitely not long distance cycling, and for most all women not lifting heavy shit for less than 10 reps.  However, if condition #1 above is not being met, this point doesn't matter.
  3. Get enough sleep - good for a lot of things, like optimizing muscle growth.

Do all those though, and it's still going to be very, very difficult to put on a noticeable amount of muscle if you're not really trying at it.  You will never just wake up one day and look like a body builder on accident.

Secret Move #1 - The Frog Cross Leg Lift

"...stimulates the accessory muscles - key to pulling in the larger ones."

Even if working your "accessory" muscles (not sure what this term is supposed to mean) could pull in muscles five times their size, this exercise is working some very large muscle groups, such as your glutes and thighs.  This exercise is basically like a lying clamshell followed by a lying hip abduction.  Big, powerful muscles being worked here!  So again, I ask, WHAT accessory muscles?  What defines an accessory muscle?

The second 'secret' move worked the same large muscles as the first.  Nothing special here.

Gym / Fridge Friend

Our gym friend is the bike - with the stipulation that you shouldn't "overdo" it.  If overdoing it on the bike leads to massive bulk, it would certainly be nice to know what 'overdoing it' actually means.  Does it mean you shouldn't bike for more than 30 minutes?  That you should keep it under a certain number of rotations per minute?  Not to bike up hills or at a higher resistance?  Can you do intervals?

My advice - just do what you like.  Remember that if you're not following the 3 muscle-building musts outlined above, you won't be able to build much muscle.

Our fridge friends are a random assortment of high fiber foods because,

"High-fibre foods boost metabolism..."

It's possible that foods that are high in fiber take a little more energy to digest than say, pure fat.  However just know that the calories of fiber have already been taken out on your food labels.

Go ahead and do the math. 1g carb/protein = 4 calories. 1g fat = 9 calories. So, (1x9) + (25x4) + (2x4) = 117 calories. But the label says 60! Well, 14g of fiber, so: 117-(14x4) = 61. Pretty cool.

As well, I've been unable to find any studies to substantiate the claims of "negative" or "zero" calorie foods like celery.  The claim is that they take more energy to digest than they give - haven't been able to find anything to back that up.  If you find something, let me know.

In any case, for most people eating fiber is a good plan - it's satiating so you'll end up eating less calories, and it might even help you poop.  Woohoo!

The Secret Celebrity Trainers DON'T Want You to Know!

(Yes, that headline is very, very tongue-in cheek)

I've had many criticisms of my criticisms of celebrity trainers.  I've been told I'm just jealous and hating on their success, that not everyone wants to be a bodybuilder, that they personally really enjoy their workouts and DVDs, etc, etc.

The only one that really bothers me, though, are comments like "the proof is in the pudding!  If her methods don't work, why are all of her clients so small?"

Stick with me here, I'm going to drop a bomb:

Her clients already looked small before they ever even heard of her.

Yes, this is the key to being a successful model or actress - you must already look amazing.

Don't believe me?  Anderson's first superstar client was Madonna around 2007.  Here is Madonna in 2005 vs. 2010:

Looks about the same to me.

Looks about the same to me.

What about some of her other clients?  Let's look at Gwyneth Paltrow:

Paltrow

Shakira became a client more recently:

Shakira

You know the show America's Next Top Model?  All the girls on there are gorgeous.  They were gorgeous before being models, they'll continue being gorgeous after becoming models regardless of if they pick up a "trainer to the stars" or not.

Conclusion

I'm not trying to discount the hard work any of these ladies probably put in to maintain their figure.  But the moral of the story is that Anderson didn't 'make' their bodies.  She didn't give them their figure.  She's not defying their genetics.  I would say that her success is actually because of their genetics.

Thus concludes my first Anderson rant of 2014.  Hopefully I won't have to do more - but I probably will.

6 Comments

In our last segment we went over the introduction and first segment of a Cosmo UK spread telling us how to best get a beautiful bangin' bombshell bootylicious bikini bod in a mere two weeks.

Bangin' Burger Bikini Body

If that sounds too good to be true, it's because it is.  Let's delve into why in Part II of our investigation:

Get Jennifer Lopez's Abs

"Tracy says plain crunches won't work; some smarter moves are required..."

Here's the deal on exercising to get great abs:

You could be doing the best exercises for abdominal activation in the world, but it wouldn't matter if you don't lose the fat along with increasing the muscle.  Now, to be fair, the introduction to this article states you are to be eating 1,200 calories per day - anyone will lose weight on that.  (Not that I advocate eating that little) For most women, this would be enough to get closer to the abdominal muscles they want.

Tracy is also correct that plain crunches don't do a lot for your abdominals.

But, heavy squats and deadlifts activate various core muscles better than other bodyweight "ab" exercises like a sideplank.  (After all, your abs are a big player in keeping you upright during these lifts, as opposed to crumpling over that heavy weight on your back or in your hands) As well, doing certain exercises on an unstable surface doesn't seem to be doing us many favors either.

Here's an important question to ask yourself: What are you trying to accomplish with these ab exercises?

After all, 80 reps of any fancy ab exercise isn't going to build you much muscle.  And you're not going to spot-reduce away your belly fat.  So what are these abdominal exercises really accomplishing?

Maybe they're burning a few calories.  Maybe if you were completely sedentary before, 80 reps would build a little bit of muscle - but probably nothing that would cause a big visible difference.

Here are a few reasons to do abdominal-isolation exercises:

  1. To increase your core strength - so you'd want to stick on the lower end of repetitions if that was your goal.
  2. For aesthetics - if you're at a low body fat percentage already (or plan to be) and want bigger abdominal muscles.  You still wouldn't be doing 80 repetitions in a row for this.
  3. Physical therapy - many people who suffer from lower back pain go through a progression of core-strengthening exercises (most all of which involve your abdominals) to return to function.  Still not doing 80 reps in a row.

My advice for exercises to get better looking abs are to supplement heavy squats and deadlifts with abdominal isolation exercises that are difficult to complete in the 12-15 rep range.

In any case, there is nothing secret about the two moves presented here.  They're just a couple of exercises that activate your abdominals.  You could accomplish the same thing with a variety of other moves as well.

Gym Friend / Food Friend

Our gym friend is swimming and the treadmill.  Perhaps because you need to be at a caloric deficit to reveal your abs, and exercise can help accomplish that?  Don't see much of any other reason.

Our fridge friends are cherries, red grapes and blueberries.

"The chemicals responsible for their colouring are anthocyanins, which, according to research, can burn abdominal fat."

There have been a couple of studies showing that, in obese rats, fed either a very high-fat or very low-fat diet, consumption of blueberries or cherries appear to reduce markers for various metabolic diseases and a decrease in abdominal fat when compared to an equal-calorie control group.  (Well, the link about the blueberry study doesn't specify if the control group had an equal-calorie diet, but I'll assume they did.)

Unfortunately, rat metabolism can differ from human metabolism.  Truly all we know right now is put quite succinctly in the conclusion of one of the studies:

"In conclusion, in at-risk obese rats fed a high fat diet, physiologically relevant tart cherry consumption reduced several phenotypes of metabolic syndrome and reduced both systemic and local inflammation.  Tart cherries may reduce the degree or trajectory of metabolic syndrome, thereby reducing risk for the development of type 2 diabetes and heart disease."

So, eat cherries and blueberries if you like them - but I wouldn't count on it to make a large difference in your abdominal fat.  (But, on the other hand, it might - we really don't know one way or the other!)

Get Jennifer Aniston's Arms

"If I'm working with someone who needs to see some results fast, I will focus on their arms because they really don't take long to show results," Tracy says.

This can be true, especially if you have a client roster like Tracy's - people who are already pretty thin and lean.  For most women, the arms and upper body in general don't hold much fat relative to the lower body. (Minus the girls, of course.) So you're already 50% of the way to toned / firm / sculpted / shapely / whatever buzzword you want to use arms.  The other 50% is just adding some muscle.

Michelle Obama arms

How to get firmer arms: Step 1 - Have little bodyfat Step 2 - Have some muscle

Both of the moves Anderson gives work large muscle groups - exactly what she says will cause bulk.

"Tracy says using small weights in different rotations is the key to great arms."

The only key to 'great' (by which we are to understand, means small with low body fat) arms are Step 1 and Step 2 outlined above.  You could accomplish that with no weights and just do bodyweight resistance exercises like push-ups, or you could accomplish it with heavy bench or overhead press.  Doing 100 repetitions of overhead press with 3 pound dumbbells is essentially like doing cardio on an ergometer, except less shoulder-friendly.

Gym / Fridge Friend

Our gym friends are the rowing machine or arm bike (the ergometer like I linked above).  I'm surprised that Anderson is okay with these, considering she is often quoted as saying running will bulk your legs.  So wouldn't an arm bike bulk your arms by that same logic?

Anyway, if you're going at an easy pace, whether or not you use your arms in your cardio doesn't matter that much.  The only thing you're looking to accomplish here is burning overall calories - you can't spot reduce arm fat by using them during lifting or cardio.  If you're doing high-intensity intervals it's a little different, but for the most part just do what you enjoy if you're looking to get a little extra calorie burn in.  I'd suggest walking the dog or playing with the kids!

Our fridge friends are eggs, salmon and lean meat.

"Flabby arms can be due to low testosterone.  Good fats in eggs, organic salmon and lean meats can help."

If I'm reading this correctly, Cosmo is admitting that saturated fat is not a 'bad' fat like it has so often been labeled, which is awesome!  Yay!  (Chicken and eggs contain saturated fat)

Moving on to flabby arms being due to low testosterone - I'm uncertain what they are basing this off of, but my guess is it's off Charles Poliquin's Biosignature method.  (Which has a wonderful, in-depth critique here)

How hormones control fat distribution according to the Biosignature Method. (Which bear in mind has a ton of flaws)

In any case, there isn't much clear-cut evidence for low testosterone causing you to store an abnormal amount of fat on your arms.  Your best bet based on what we know now is to just lose overall bodyfat and gain muscle in your arms.

However, eating the 'fridge friends' above can absolutely help you with that - they're great sources of protein which can help you build lean muscle as well as keep your calories down.  And most importantly, they're delicious.

We'll finally conclude this in Part III.  I really only intended this to be one post, but apparently there's a lot to say on a simple two-page spread!

9 Comments

Today we have a detailed review of a segment in the UK Cosmo magazine claiming to show you how to get a "Bombshell Body in 14 Days."

Ten-Second Marketing Segue

Before we dive into the content, I'd like to point it the two uses of ellipses (...) on the cover page.  You can find use of these three important little dots on so many sales copy pages it's ridiculous.

EllipsesEverywhere

I'm not sure why, but for some reason the use of those kind of annoy me.  I spent a little time trying to find all the reasons they're used in the majority of sales copies - and it's mostly just because they get you to keep reading.  Interesting how three dots in a row continue to pique our interest and motivate us to keep reading!

Anyway, let's get back on track and go over how we're supposed to get a totally new body in 14 days.

The opening statement

There's not very much that gives a greater appearance of credibility than celebrity endorsements - let alone when you can rattle them off in a list.  Being able to claim that you are personally responsible for the bodies our society covets gives Anderson more expert status than any level of education in exercise physiology or biomechanics (which she lacks) ever could.

So what better way to convince you she's the real deal than listing off the famous celebrities she trains?  Add a flattering image of Kim Kardashian on the cover and name all of your routines after celebrities and you've got a recipe for the perfect illusion of expertise.

...while you should always exercise your entire body, Tracy believes that everyone should workout slightly differently according to their shape.  "We're all like snowflakes, no one has the same body.  We all store weight in different areas dependent on where we are muscularly weak," Tracy explains.

...What?

Even if you have no experience or knowledge in fitness, you can figure out why that last sentence makes no sense.  We store weight dependent on where we are weak?  Most of us know that women have weak upper bodies relative to their lower bodies.  So if we stored fat where we were weak, wouldn't we be more prone to store fat on our arms, chest and back rather than hips, thighs and butt?

Not to mention Anderson doesn't advocate becoming strong.  She's rather well-known around the fitness community for frequently saying things like women shouldn't lift anything heavier than three pounds.

That's not to say you can't get strong with just your bodyweight - just think about how strong gynmasts are!  But if you're okay with women doing something like a push-up, plank or handstand (which would put more strain on your arms than 3lb dumbbells), why wouldn't you be okay with them lifting heavier weights?

Here's Anderson lifting something heavier than 3 pounds.

Anyway, I also find it amusing that Anderson says no two bodies are the same, but is here to provide you workouts to give you Kim Kardashian's butt, Jennifer Aniston's arms or Gwenyth Paltrow's legs.  She just said your body is not like theirs, so why are you going to  to achieve their identical body parts?

Her method works by strengthening the smaller muscle groups so these muscles can pull in the larger ones.

Specifically which 'smaller' muscle groups is she talking about?  Either way, your muscles don't really work that way.  You're going to have a really tough time using your gracilis without the rest of your larger thigh muscles working in tandem.

Plus, as we'll see below, most of the exercises she gives do work your 'larger' muscle groups.

The intoduction also gives us some basic rules - eating 1,200 calories a day, doing an extra 30 minutes of cardio everyday and building up to doing 80 reps of each exercise.  Obviously I don't advocate eating only 1,200 calories a day, but I do like the idea of people going for a nice 30 minute walk everyday.  As far as 80 reps...I think I'd lose count.

Get Kim Kardashian's Butt 

Let's go over the formatting of this article really quickly.  Each section gives two "secret" moves to work a certain body part.  Just know, there are no 'secrets' in this industry anymore, really.  An exercise either works a certain body part or it doesn't.  This move either activates your glutes or it doesn't.  You could google "glute exercises" and get hundreds of thousands of free results.  Hardly a secret.

Each section also gives a gym friend (some machine or exercise to help work the area) and a food friend - a specific food meant to help you shape the area...somehow.

Her first move is basically a donkey kick with a little extra flair that doesn't add too much to the exercise.  The second move is a version of a squat.  I'd like to mention that both of these moves would work large muscle groups.  The donkey kick uses your glutes, which aren't exactly small.  The squat would use your hamstrings, glutes and quads among other things.  Once again, all large muscle groups.

Is this enough evidence to show that her 'method' is completely made up?

Secondly, Kim Kardashian has the butt she has because that's where she tends to store fat.

If making a muscle stronger would cause you to store less fat (according to Anderson's logic in the introduction), why would you work that area if you wanted a Kardashian-esque butt?

The things Anderson says just don't add up.

Gym Friend / Food Friend

The gym-friend here is the cross-trainer (aka elliptical).  Why?  Honestly your guess is as good as mine.  I mean there's nothing wrong with it, but why it's given specifically for your butt, I have no idea.

Your food friend is bananas and mangoes.  Supposedly they're going to boost blood flow and thus lessen cellulite.

Let's forget about the blood flow claim for a second.  Cellulite simply has to do with the distribution of fat on your body.  Women have it much more often than men.  It's not a health concern.  There is only ONE proven 'treatment' for cellulite.  It's losing fat.

Massage to increase blood flow to the area, scrubbing, laser treatment - none of these have been proven to work in reducing the frequency and appearance of cellulite.

It's not that you shouldn't eat bananas and mangoes - hell they may help you lose weight, which would reduce the appearance of cellulite.  But you shouldn't eat them just because you hope they'll help you get rid of cottage-cheese thighs.

I was going to review this all in one go but this has gotten a tad bit long.  In Part II we'll go over the rest of this article!