Church of Crossfit (3): Stop Doing Bicep Curls

By February 7, 2011No Comments

One of the first things Scott told me was that we would never do anything like bicep curls, one of the most common workout techniques to give a person big arms.  The reason?  That exercise isn’t functional; you never do an isolated curl in your everyday life or sports.  The only reason why a person does bicep curls is because they want to look good. Emphasis on the word “look”.

This is one of the reasons I am attracted to Crossfit: it’s functional and not expressly image-focused.  Most guys who go to the gym only workout their biceps, chest and abs.  Why?  Because these are the muscles you want to show off when you take off your shirt. (Haven’t we all known people with a massive upper body and chicken legs?)

The truth is, a big upper body can be a decoy.  Having an out-of-proportion upper body won’t really make you that much better at performing everyday tasks and can actually inhibit performance in a lot of sports.

In a society that is so image-focused, it was refreshing to discover a workout philosophy that concentrates on all around fitness first.  “Looking good” is simply a byproduct of good fitness rather than the ultimate goal.  Perhaps it is an indication that people are looking for deep fitness, something beyond the facade.

I tell my students all the time that there’s nothing wrong with wanting to look good.  The problem is that for most of us it has become too important – an obsession, an idol.  Culture tells young men that abs and biceps make the man, and so millions of young men go to gyms and stand in front of mirrors, worshipping. This is the way they know who they are, that they know they matter.  Bicep curls.

Our problem is that we take secondary things and make them primary things.  In workout world, looking good is a secondary thing and actually being healthy and fit is primary.  When we take looking good and make it a primary thing, the result is that our fitness is a mirage.

When we do this in the larger world – take secondary things and make them primary -the result is that our identity becomes a mirage as well.   Beyond the surface level, we don’t know who we are or what the heck we’re supposed to be doing. But we keep doing bicep curls.

C.S. Lewis writes that if we let primary things have their place, we get secondary things thrown in.  When we aim for secondary things, we get neither.

Simple lesson: Is looking good the goal, or the byproduct of something else more important?  Apply it to how you dress, how you do your job, how you present yourself in front of people.  What’s the goal?  Image is nothing, and it’s not enough.

For all our fascination with the superficial, somewhere in the soul, humanity craves depth.

Here’s to making primary things primary.

Wednesday: Church of Crossfit (4): The Local Crossfit Church

Question: Any funny stories about people consumed with their image?

No Comments

  • Scott O'Donnell says:

    your xsport trainer sounds like a genius.

  • Joshua Jalandoon says:

    Well said Kuya. This reminds me of something that my soccer coach in high school told me. I remember working out in the weight room once, and he came by and we started having this conversation. And he told me, “Josh dont become obessed with trying to look good by working out, because thats easy to get. Usually when people get start looking good, they stop working out. Then They dont challenge themselves anymore. So just challenge yourself, in running, in trying to get stronger, and looks will eventually come. but that is not the point of working out.” Thought it was very wise advice.

    • it is great advice man. i think it’s a good principle for life. instead of managing your image, actually get fit. instead of managing your reputation, actually be a person of integrity. instead of working on your brand, work on your character.

  • Jesse Bondoc says:

    Nice article, Pas.
    Here is my story. I started July 19, 2010 weighing 188.2 lbs. I am 5’7″ @ the age of 47 years old. My goal was pretty simple. I didn’t really focus on looking good although it would be nice looking good too! My focus was really two things. 1. Getting quicker and building stamina for tennis because man I tell you tennis here in Cincinnati is very competitive and 2. Winning the weight loss competition at work…hahaha.. Talk about good timing.
    All I did was tennis, between 20min-40min treadmill jogging, easy benchpresses which was 50lbs., 15 sets of 5 and eating heathy food. Here was my progress report:
    188.2 lbs.– July 19,10 170.8– Sept.27,10
    186– Aug.2 168.4– Oct. 11
    180.2– Aug.16 166– Oct.25
    177.4– Aug.30 164.8– Nov.8
    173.4– Sept. 13 164.2– Nov. 22
    162.2– Dec. 6
    160.4– Dec.13, 2010

    During these times, I won back to back weight loss competitions at work, lost almost 30 lbs. and competed a lot better with my tennis friends! It was a great achievement for me at the time but the biggest thrill of all was what my medical doctor told me. She told me that I could drop all my high blood pressure and cholesterol pills that I have been taking for around 10 years now and gave me an A+ on my medical report with a big smiley face. I kept the test results/report.. Lol…
    My funny story of being consumed with my image happened after I lost weight. I guess it started when the results were finally showing in the mirror…
    Most of my clothes really didn’t fit anymore especially because I liked loose clothing too so I started shopping for the “new me”. Hahaha… what an adventure and what a nagger I became. Ask my wife. I kept asking her how I looked EVERY TIME I dressed up and kept checking my weight EVERY TIME I went to the washroom. I was becoming obsessed. My mind was filled with all my accomplishments and now I started thinking of getting ripped and developing a six-pack etc.. etc.. Hahaha…What a funny time in my life when I think of it. It didn’t really help when I went to a Family reunion during Christmastime and everyone noticed the results. At the end of it all, after the dust settled down, I am back to being the same lovable me as everyone knows me:)
    In closing, I totally agree that working out to look good should not be the goal. It’s just a consolation. In the same sense that if you are a competitive athlete, you shouldn’t play to win but play to improve your skills. Winning is just the consolation.
    What I accomplished is hard because of the abundance of good food surrounding us at all times. Maintaining can be as hard as well. Got any tips?
    Bottom line, What is in the inside always beats what is in the outside. God should always be Glorified in everything we do.

    • Jesse, thanks so much for the comment and the great story! That’s great news from the doctor, did you put it on your fridge? It’s also pretty funny how you always used to ask your wife how you look. I agree that maintaining can be hard. I’m no expert but Crossfit’s variety and intensity has really helped me. Also, it’s almost impossible to get in or stay in shape without changing the way you eat, as you’ve found! I’m sure there will be more as I continue to tell my story. Yours could be a blog post in itself! Great to hear from you!


  • Scott O'Donnell says:

    fyi I found it funny that there was a tanning lotion/bronzing or whatever called “Hero Worship.” It would be amusing if people didn’t use it…instead its hilarious.

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