Training for vanity - What is best? A six-pack or a heavy squat?

Training for vanity

Why do we train?

Many people I meet at the gym have a very clear goal: they want to look good. Women want to be as skinny as possible, men want to develop a 6-pack and big guns. For most of us, looking better is what dragged us to train (although nobody really agrees on the definition of looking better). A few years ago, I was on the way to be forever fat and weak, and I made the decision to train seriously. Let’s be honest: being fat bothered me more than being weak, I wanted to look good!

I was fortunate enough, during my research on how to train, to find the work of various strength experts, like Pavel Tsatsouline, Marty Gallagher, Mark Rippetoe and many others. When I did Starting strength, the point when I started to make good progress was when I stopped wishing to look good and focused more on how I performed. I stopped worrying about my waistline, and my numbers on the bar increased. The scale too by the way. It did not matter; I was not training for the look anymore. I was more content with the feeling of getting stronger.

The funny thing is that when I focused on performance rather than look, I actually started to look better.

Many trainees share the same approach. But somehow, It has gone that far, than now, those trainees are mocking those who train for vanity. They mean that, if you train for having a 6-pack, it is all look, all vanity, and not very good. They, on the opposite, do not train for vanity, they train for being strong.

Stop a minute and think about it.

If you train to be able to announce, proudly, that you have a twice body weight squat, is it less vanity than training for a 6-pack?

There are no good or bad reason to train. Vanity can take many forms.

I will leave the final words to Mark Reikfind, as quoted by StrongFirst founder and Chairman, Pavel Tsatsouline, in Simple and Sinister:

If you think you are only strong if you can lift a certain number, whatever that number is, you will feel pretty weak most of the time. Strength is not a data point; it’s not a number. It’s an attitude.

Mark Reikfind

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