Physical Culture

On tech

Just read Edward Mendelson’s excellent NYRB essay, “In the Depths of the Digital Age,” in which he cites Bernard Harcourt: “In place of the medieval idea of the king’s two bodies—the king’s royal powers derived from heaven and his natural self—Harcourt proposes the two bodies of ‘the liberal democratic citizen…: the now permanent digital self, which we are etching into the virtual cloud with every click and tap, and our mortal analog selves, which seem by contrast to be fading like the color on a Polaroid instant photo.’ ” It would be interesting to consider and discuss the burgeoning of today’s physical practices, and the new asceticisms they have engendered, as a response to our increasingly robust digital selves. This would not be a new phenomenon: various fitness practices, from gymnastics to sport, arose in the early 19th century in response to the technologies of the Industrial Revolution and to…

Facade Bod

A few thoughts about a piece in Vice, called “Your Sculpted Pecs Are Worthless.” Although it’s great to see the mainstream press picking up on the idea that looking fit and being fit are completely different animals—a notion that I discuss extensively throughout my book–there are a few misstatements here worth discussing. The clickbait title, for instance. Your pecs are far from worthless, as it claims, and the bench press certainly has an important place in functional strength training. Rather it’s having pecs without back and shoulder muscles—working only those muscles you see in the mirror and ignoring the all-important back—that is worthless in producing usable strength. Similarly, the article presents the visible abs on a 26-year-old, seemingly ripped guy as indicative of a “façade-bod.” I love the notion of a façade bod, since it points so directly at the looks versus strength issue, but the visibility of abs indicates…

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