The First Step Toward Solving Any Problem Is To Call It By Its Proper Name

16 comments written by Joshua Trentine

For the past 12 years I have, for the most part, stayed a safe distance from most people in the HIT community.  With the retirement and death of Arthur Jones I have struggled to observe any significant progress concerning refinements or a major breakthrough in the understanding of high intensity exercise. 

This is not to say that interesting theories have not been stated. 

Only that we are no further down the research path then we were 20 years ago. Over this same period of time there has been a huge influx of information coming out of the “strength training community” to attempt to describe training adaptations.

The direction has not been defined in the classical sciences as Nautilus principles were but, instead we are besieged with this mentality of new terminology, of a new language, that’s been designed to confuse and complicate and supposedly specialize, rather than define.

I did a Google search to look up basic exercise definitions, the number one search came up with 14 different “types” of strength. The article was called 

“Defining strength. There are many kinds of strength”

The article included “regular” strength, starting strength, speed strength, absolute strength, relative strength, limit strength, strength endurance, dynamic strength, isometric strength, general strength, special strength, functional strength, eccentric strength, and concentric strength.

Hilarious, only in this business, anyway…

All of these things are products of strength, but all we need to know is:

STRENGTH – The ability to produce torque.

Renaissance Exercise methods rely on concrete definitions of Strength, Inroad, Intensity, Tension and Fatigue.

Some of the modern Strength Societies claim that this isn’t good enough so, first they create 14 meaningless definitions of strength. Then some tell me the one thing I can measure; Inroad is supposedly meaningless and now we can’t talk about fatigue because there are so many kinds that we must discuss, all of these fatigues (plural-odd?), but we can’t define them so well because there are supposedly so many kinds.

I’m also told that the one concrete definition that we always had, Tension is no longer good enough that we must talk about Tensions (again plural) because there are so many kinds’ of tensions just like Strength.

I’m sorry; I’m calling bullshit on all of this.

So…the modern jock/scientist has stripped our words of their meaning.

None of our definitions have a single and agreed meaning?

None of them are concrete?

They can have as many meanings as you can think up?

Sounds like a convenient out to justify anything and everything.   

What is Strength

What is Fatigue?

What is Tension?

Why would we see these words used as plural?

These words have concrete/definable meanings, but they become unidentifiable, vague concepts when applied inappropriately by the anything goes, me too, we already tried that mentalities.  

These types of bastardized words are common place in the pseudo exercise scientist’s lexicon.

Words like Aerobics, the 14 derivations of Strength and now add to the list Tensions and Fatigues— we can’t solve or explain anything until we define our terms.

 There is no basis for any of these words, they are instead, made up to confuse the public, and in turn create some sort of knowledge base inaccessible to the average man. Like a great deal of the “research” being performed, it keeps people employed.

Ken Hutchins has written about the importance of language sophistication in our pursuit and how the exercise field will be lost without it.

Ken writes “I am a fan of the writings of Richard Mitchell, the so-called underground grammarian. Mitchell is a strong advocate for the notion that the first step toward solving any problem is to call it by its proper name.”

“I believe that Mitchell would concur that progressive sophistication in any field of endeavor is largely dependent on the development of progressively finer linguistic distinctions. If usage of any word in a discipline is excessive to the degree that it becomes too interchangeable with multiple concepts (i.e. Strength, Tensions, Fatigues), then for true progress to occur one of two possibilities must occur. Either new words must be invented to distinguish each of the multiple concepts or the overused word must be HARSHLY restricted in its meaning.”

“It is impossible to truly respect a concept that is nameless or that has the SAME name as other concepts. A concept, much like a person, must have its own distinctive name.”

“A respectable service is one in which all the practitioners of the discipline have a relatively high level of linguistic distinction and consistency for the concepts philosophies and practices of their discipline so that efficient communication can be performed between the practitioners and subjects. Anything less is a collection of babble. This babble within the rabble, hence, deserves no respect. And this rabble can never constitute a legitimate profession.” 

“Linguistic distinctions must also be consistent with science, particularly classical science. To veer off the path of accepted science to invent a sequestered world of linguistic distinctions is not likely to gain respect, especially if those distinctions are not fit with the rest of the science-described reality.”

Exercise must fit too!

The laws of exercise are definable.

We have strength (torque), we have tension, and we have fatigue. These terms do not have endless, nebulous meanings which may be applied at the convenience of the end user.

The way to identify this vague mentality, the giveaway, is when you witness their training application.  You discover that nothing has meaning, it’s just phony language, concocted in an attempt to disguise the type of training most of us did in high school.

 The common statement the exercising public likes to ask is “but what about my goals”.  Your goal is to inroad, period. 

You accomplish this by mastering the technologies we presently have available, period. 

As always, let us know your thoughts by posting a comment below. We’d be happy to reply!

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Andrew Shortt March 7, 2011 at 5:17 pm

Good post. Johnston wrote extensively about definitions (and the need for) as well. The mistake I see so much of the exercises community making is with these convoluted definitions. I think what non-objective folks are doing is mixing up the creating of a context and actual fundamental definitions of things. An example would be to try and describe the action of sprinting out of the blocks by calling it starting-strength. Strength is strength (A is A) and how it is applied and with what other interactive elements is the context. It doesn’t change the meaning of strength; it is the context that changes. What baffles me is that ‘context’, as it were, is fairly rudimentary in science is it not?



avatar Drew Baye March 7, 2011 at 5:20 pm

You are absolutely correct. I think some trainers and coaches make up these meaningless distinctions just to make things seem more complex and themselves more knowledgeable than they actually are. All of those things – speed, stamina, power, etc. – are ultimately expressions of strength.


avatar Paul Marsland March 7, 2011 at 7:11 pm

A lot of the definitions are driven by what I called a “niche” market especially as it relates to exercise. How do you make yourself stand out from all the other so called experts? Create, notions and definitons that fit your critera, then create mystery and smokes screens to keep the audience interested/ confused, hence we now have strength “gurus”, this further adds to the mystery that this person holds knowledge that is only know to him BUT for a fee, he’ll share it with you!

On a very basic level the simple goal of a high intensity exercise program should be to evoke the strongest possible alarm reaction and then step back and let nature do the rest…training in the manner that is prescribed here, goes a very very long way to attaining that goal, sadly though some people are simply still not “getting it”…..


avatar Paul Marsland March 7, 2011 at 7:17 pm

As Yoda once said ““Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”


“You must unlearn what you have learned.” “Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will…”


avatar Travis Weigand March 8, 2011 at 12:03 am

This post makes me think about the first time I read Ken Hutchin’s definition of exercise. I was a downright revelation. I’ve since read and recited that definition literally hundreds of times. What a vital contribution. The power that language holds is astounding, as trainers this element cannot be overlooked.


avatar robyn harte-bunting March 8, 2011 at 2:44 am

Superb, superb post. Utterly clarifying. By coincidence I have just finished Richard Mitchell’s “The Gift of Fire”-maybe the best book I have read in the last 10 years at least.


avatar Joshua Trentine March 8, 2011 at 3:22 pm

Robyn Thank you!

I’m going to pick up “The gift of Fire”


avatar JOHN O'ROURKE March 8, 2011 at 6:27 am

Great article Josh, I’m glad someone is attempting to pick up where Jones left off. If someone new to exercise was slightly confused about the best way to train a few weeks of study on the internet would leave them very confused.
I read stuff on T-Nation sometimes and it is the same old crap that was in the muscle mags 20 years ago, sad.


avatar Joshua Trentine March 8, 2011 at 3:20 pm


I’m with you I’ve seen more digression than anything with exercise information over the last 20 years.

The old magazines from the 1950’s had as much if not more relevant information than the main stream stuff now.


avatar Scott Springston March 8, 2011 at 8:07 am

Yes many terms are not well defined or easy to understand and the term inroad is still one of them. From an earlier post on here came this quote. “Most guys who try and compare protocols don’t understand that reaching failure and inroading deeply are not the same.” I’d say many of us still don’t understand the difference between reaching failure , the point where you can’t do another rep in good form, from the the point where you have inroaded the muscle as much as possible in a set as in Renaissance training. Perhaps you can try and clear this confusion up with more information about what you consider maximum inroad to be and how it differs from failure?


avatar Joshua Trentine March 8, 2011 at 3:17 pm

Inroad is the depth of momentary fatigue attained due to an exercise.

Behavioral, physiological and mechanical issues could cause a set to come to an end well before the muscles have been inroaded to any significant degree.

Comprehension of the above mentioned factors along with protocol and equipment make thorough inroad possible and makes training with a single set to failure the protocol of choice for its efficiency and effectiveness.


avatar David Landau March 8, 2011 at 2:44 pm

If one can read through Mitchell’s works, that is a HIT workout alone – Bravo! (Less Than Words Can Say!)


avatar Franco March 9, 2011 at 8:45 am

There are a few meaningful distinctions of those terms in a physiological sense, e.g. active and passive tension, peak and mean torque(force), shortening(concentric), lengthening(eccentric) and isometric contraction.

All those coaching-terms like starting strength, explosive strength and so on are just made up, trying to vaguely descripe the interactions of those.


avatar Joshua Trentine March 9, 2011 at 12:45 pm

Linguistic distinctions must also be consistent with science, particularly classical science, the ones you mention are.

The others…not so much.

I wonder if people ever consider the origins of these words or if they just work their way in to the language like slang.


avatar Frank Scott March 9, 2011 at 2:02 pm

I think it is very decent of you to keep posting at Ellington Darden’s forum in the face of such unpleasantness and perhaps you should consider opting out and leave the antagonists to fight among themselves.Unfortunately I doubt that you are achieving the benefits and goodwill that motivated you in the first place.


avatar Jay Horn October 28, 2012 at 12:10 am


Thank you!!

Can’t stand the nonsense these so called “experts” and certifications spout off!! They have their heads so far up their ass they don’t know which way up or down is!!

Great article!!


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