Still on strength training bullshitology: does it matter if it is a book or a self-published e-book?

It does. At a first glance, you might think “that’s a scholar’s prejudice against the incredibly innovative post-modern deconstruction of authorship and publishing authority” (now, admit it, you didn’t think any of that). You would be partially right: the internet created the technical conditions not only for a much more agile and informal manner of publishing information and opinion, but made it possible to expand communication possibilities way beyond the linear narrative with hyper-text, multi-media, diffuse and collective authorship, etc.

In sports science, especially its niches concerned with strength and even more those relative to strength sports, we do have a serious problem when it comes to relying solely on primary sources (original research evidence published in peer reviewed journals): methodology. Several problems remain untouched by research, some due to lack of commercial interest, but many others because we simply lack a proper methodological approach. Either they are too complex, the environment is too uncontrollable and unpredictable, too many important variables to control for, too small a universe, too hard to draw a statistically sound sample from, too much individual variability, etc.

So, if the traditional procedures for validating knowledge handed down to us by Academia (peer reviewed publication) leave out a considerable body of useful information, but, at the same time, the body of useless and even dangerous digitally self-published information grows exponentially at a rate much higher than technical published evidence, how should we guide the information consumer?

The following don’t solve the problem, but they might help:

  1. Check the author’s background. A few very interesting authors with no background in the biological sciences publish useful material on strength training and strength sports. Most, however, are at best well meaning producers of irrelevant or outright wrong information. One simply cannot talk or write about nutrition without having studied (a lot of ) biochemistry, period.
  2. Check the author’s background number two: if he is handing out lifting advice, does he lift? Is he or was he a good lifter?
  3. Check the author’s background number three: do athletes acknowledge his expertise, claim to have been coached by him or learned from him?
  4. Check if the author has a published book by a technical publishing house.

Things that don’t represent any guarantee:

  1. To have been a guest writer at popular strength training websites like T-Nation and others. It is interesting, but the main reason one wants to be a guest writer there is that it represents an enormous boost to his own website. These are commercially successful sites, with thousands of hits per day. To get a guest article there means a lot in terms of traffic to the author’s site (and e-book sales, online coaching clients, etc). That’s SEO, nothing more.
  2. The author has a large crowd following him on facebook or instagram. He will have that chiefly for reasons that have nothing to do with the reliability of his content

Keep in mind that a lot of people have great self-marketing skills. They will promote themselves as true authorities. Unfortunately, they frequently succeed. Whether one day this huge mass of published information will get sorted out in terms of quality and reliability, there’s no possible way to predict.

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