This is a blog straight from email requests. It’s not exactly about training, but one of the most frequent and perhaps most important question I get asked is how the heck do you spot the good stuff from the crap…

A while back I read the book Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks, which is an excellent read, and then just started reading the book Proofiness because of a recommendation. Both books are in a similar vein in that they both touch on how people can get fooled into believing wrong things. One focuses on the use of statistics while the other goes over how “guru’s” use bad science to fool the masses.

While it’s not directly related to training or running, it plays a crucial indirect role. As a coach or an athlete, we are bombarded with different training philosophies every day. If that isn’t enough, many of us browse through the latest scientific journal findings to see what’s going on in that side. It’s hard enough filtering through it if it’s your job and you’re a coach. While it’s impossible to come up with some tried and true method of evaluating claims, I’d like to go over several ways to spot a bad idea, bad science, or a bad expert, first and then offer a few brief suggestions on how to avoid the trap.

Falling into the trap:

The crossfit phenomenon is interesting to me. I don’t want to get caught up in the efficacy of it, but instead focus on some of the claims made about endurance performance from them. Why? Because it serves as a perfect example of falling into the trap. Before I get a backlash from the crossfit people, my premise is that using only high intensity max work to race a distance event isn’t the optimal way to do it. CFE has claimed before that runners would be better off maximizing their running performance if they ditched the traditional way and trained their way, random high intensity, low volume work…

I was browsing through Tim Ferris latest book at Barnes and Noble the other day and read the portion that applies to my area of expertise, running. I was saddened to see that Tim jumped on the bandwagon and essentially fell for the trap in buying into crossfit endurance, pose, and the Barry Ross way of sprinting. Ferris is highly educated and while he does make his living finding “hacks” it made me wonder why intelligent people make that mistake. So keeping the examples in mind from Ferris book, let’s look at how people get hooked in and fooled:

1. Establish expertise:

They’ve got to establish expertise in a persons mind. Whether it is through personal experience (“Hey I was once like you guys, but now I did this…”), connections with random professional athletes, degrees, or some other way, they’ve got to establish being an expert. And it’s not that hard to do, which is a post for another subject.

2. Enthusiasm-

The next step is for whoever is presenting the idea or concept to be extremely enthusiastic. We equate enthusiasm with passion, confidence, and trust. The logic is that if this “expert” seems to genuinely believe what he is saying, it must be true. Enthusiasm and passion are good things, but not when it replaces knowledge.

3. Exploit people’s goals- Give them a magic bullet

Make big promises that people can reach those goals that always seem out of reach. Guarantee them that they can and the only reason they haven’t before is because they were given the wrong workouts/information.

4. Tell us what we want to hear- It’s easy.

They’ll give people a shortcut. No need to run 80+mpw for an ultramarathon, just do 400’s! This is a common tactic in those wonderful infomercials or diets. Why did Atkins take off in popularity (before plummeting)? Because it was much more appealing to eat all the steak, fat, etc. you wanted than to eat a bunch of fruits/vegetables and the like.

5. Blame someone else

It’s not our fault we are out of shape, overweight, etc. If the guru can shift the blame from ourselves to someone else they gain an upper hand. There are many example sof this in the diet and exercise industry. Right now the trend towards blaming our obesity epidemic on the government dietary suggestions is an example. By shifting the blame to the outside, the guru is telling people what they want to hear. After all who wants to be responsible?

6. Go Against the accepted norms

In looking at the publication of scientific journal articles, there is an interesting trend. Whenever a new theory is tested and some positive results come back, there’s a swarm of papers on the theory trying to substantiate the fancy new theory and go against the previous norm. However, after a while, the tide turns and once this theory gains some ground, the trend switches to more and more papers trying to disprove the new idea. The point is that it’s human nature to like to be the first on a new trend. We like to go against the accepted norms. People will exploit this. Sometimes the norms are wrong, but often time they are the norms for a reason.

7. It’s a conspiracy

The previous two points bring us to this one. If the guru’s go against the norms they have to provide a reason why the norms are wrong. The easiest way to establish this is to develop a conspiracy. People love conspiracies. For example, a common tactic is to blame the government diet or exercise recommendations and say they are controlled by pharmaceutical, agricultural, or any other industry.

8. Hide behind Science and complexity

At a recent track meet I was having a conversation with a friend in college, who made the astute observation that if the coaches inserted random scientific terms to explain things, even if they were totally wrong, the runners seemed to buy into it more enthusiastically. That’s a very common reaction, we all do it. We associate science and complexity with being smart or correct.  As I’ve said before…people trying to fool you go from simple to complex…good coaches translate complex things into simple understandable ideas.

The problem is most of us don’t have the knowledge or filter to figure out if what they are saying is correct or not. Even scientific experts don’t have the expertise at times, so how is a normal person going to? These guru’s will blend correct scientific terms (think: Neuromuscular, lactate threshold, VO2max, fascia, energy systems, etc.) and use them either incorrectly or out of context to explain something. Crossfit is a great example of this. They hide behind science, saying there way is based on science. Well, they use a lot of science in their lectures online, but the problem is they don’t understand it and use it wrong. The same can be said for Pose. They rely on a ton of science, and not all of it is bad, but when published in a reputable journal, the response from several biomechanist was nothing short of amusing.

9. Hide Behind numbers and statistics

The easiest way to trick someone is to throw in some numbers and statistics. Most of us (myself included) go a little brain dead when a bunch of stats are thrown out. We don’t ever question what they mean or how they go there. It’s human nature to just accept statistics. If you want to ramp things up even more, throw in a bunch of charts or graphs. Once again, these are very easy to manipulate in your favor (something as easy as changing the scale for example) and people rarely question them.

10. Rely on testimonial

Lastly, a common tactic is to rely on testimonials. It’s a tactic that is designed to make it plausible in the consumer’s mind that they too can reach the same results. After all, if all these “normal” people had success how can they be wrong? This line of thinking prevents us from delving deeper into the claims or legitimacy of it.

I don’t want to pick on any one group or get into the efficacy of any of them, but if you look at the latest trends or fads or whatever you want to call them in the exercise or diet world you can check off a number of the above tactics. Whether it’s atkins, Gary Taube’s book, Crossfit, Barry Ross’ sprinting ideas, High intensity interval training, Tabbata sprints, pose, chi running, supplement companies, SOMAX, or choose your own example, similarities between them all are readily noticeable.

How to avoid the trap:

Now that we know how to spot the trap, how can we avoid it? There’s no easy way and this would require a separate post in itself but here are some useful tips in deciding whether or not the particular training method or gimmick is worthwhile or not.

The Stool Test:

I’ve discussed the stool test previously, so I’ll just briefly go over it again. My thesis advisor, Jason Winchester, was the one who brought this concept to my attention and it’s a simple yet effective way to decide whether something is worthwhile.

Basically, you have 3 legs to a stool. If you have all 3, well then it works. If you only have 2, it could work but it depends on the strength of those 2 legs. If we only have one of the three, chances are it’s not going to work.

The three legs of the stool are:

1.Practical- Does it work in the “real world.” What this means is have you tried and it works or have many others tried it and it works.

2. Research- Is there scientific research on it and does it confirm that it works.

3. Theory- Is there a legitimate, non-pseudoscientific, theory for why it might work.

Look towards the elites:

Elite athletes aren’t perfect and don’t always get it right, but the chance that the majority of the successful ones are doing the right thing, is slimmer than looking at a bunch of recreational runners. Why, because elite runners generally have access to the best coaches and rely on maximizing performance as their job. There is more at stake for them to be right.

Secondly, many elites are always looking for an edge training wise. It’s not always the best of the best guys, but the ones a level below who are trying to make that jump. That’s why you’ll see an occasional pretty good athlete try crossfit or pose or some supplement. The key is not whether one guy tries it or not, but if they succeed and then several follow suit and succeed. It’s a copycat game and if someone has a lot of success with a particular training method, it will catch on. It’s why we went from a high interval training program to a higher volume one after the success of Lydiard’s athletes. Lydiard was bucking the norm but it worked, so it rapidly gained popularity.

Similarly, in the high jump, Dick Fosbury completely changed the game. The key again was that it worked and it was soon adapted by others. With fads that don’t work, you’ll see a handful of good athletes try them, but the results over the long term won’t be there and you won’t see more and more elites copying them.

Innovation is key, but the right innovation is even more important. If someone is doing something completely opposite from what the best do and claim their way is better, it’s doubtful. If they are still making that claim after a couple years, it’s even more doubtful because if it worked it would likely have caught on with someone as the results would be their (ala Lydiard or Fosbury). So look towards the elites as a general guide.

Know your history:

Last, but not least, know your history. A ton of different training methods have been tried before. Often they are repackaged and sold as new or breakthrough methods. The reality is that they may be useful but there is a reason we have evolved past them. For instance, the very low volume tons of intervals has been tried several times throughout the past 100 years. It doesn’t mean that intervals are bad, it just means that if you know your history, you know that we used to do a ton of them, and through evolution of training that amount has settled down into a more reasonable place. It doesn’t mean that innovation has to stop. It just means don’t throw away 60 years of evolution of training. Use the lessons learned as your guide and evolve from here.

The general pattern in history with anything training related is that with each generation we have a slight blowback against what the previous generation goes. So it’s a constantly swinging back and forth pendulum that gets closer and closer to the center with each generation. So we started with extreme swings of all mileage or all very short fast stuff. Now, we argue over how much and when to do each and the variation between most good programs is more minimal than in the past. The point of all of this is that if you know what happened before and the road that has been traveled, you don’t have to make those same mistakes in figuring things out. You progress…

What’s the take away message here?

In this internet age, there’s a ton of information available. It’s almost too much. So come up with a model to figure out how to separate the worthwhile info and the crap info. I’ve generally found that at first it all kind of flows together, but if you keep at it, eventually you hit a point where it all clicks, and sorting through things isn’t that difficult. For coaches out there, my best piece of advice is to know the basic foundation and use that as your guide. That means, know the history of training, the basics of human movement/biomechanics, and exercise science. If you know how we basically work, then spotting crap science is a lot easier.

Get My New Guide on: The Science of Creating Workouts


    1. Julia on May 10, 2011 at 10:02 pm

      Hey Steve,
      Thanks for such an interesting post!
      I'm a Crossfitter and a runner, and I'd love to hear more about your thoughts on the two. I love my long runs – for their mental benefit as much as their physical benefit – and am not giving them up anytime soon, no matter what the CrossFit Endurance gurus say. But I certainly find some of their arguments and proof points compelling. I'd love to hear your thoughts.


    2. Pete Larson on May 11, 2011 at 12:48 am

      Great post Steve, it's useful to always consider that just because something comes off sounding scientific doesn't mean that it is supported by science. Your three legs of the stool is a great place to start in evaluating what you hear.

    3. Ken Schafer on May 11, 2011 at 1:56 am

      This is an interesting post, and I don't wish to be overtly critical because I respect your opinion and level of expertise. In any case, here it goes.

      I'm not saying that CrossFit Endurance has it right. I have many reservations about their program. However, I know enough about CE to know that you have presented a grossly distorted and overly simplistic picture of their ideas. Also, many of your characterizations of CE methods and ideas are simply incorrect.

      To the best of my knowledge, the CE people have not had their methods directly tested with scientific studies yet. It is my understanding that some studies are underway. When those studies are done, then I may pass judgment on CE, assuming that the studies are well designed. However, in all likelihood, they will be inconclusive, and more research will have to be done.

      I admit that I am somewhat biased on the subject of Pose; mostly because it has improved my running dramatically. However, given my freely admitted bias, there are some points I would like to make.

      1. I have yet to read a single well designed study of Pose Running. Particularly the studies you have brought up in previous posts which were very obviously and deeply flawed. Not all science is good science, and, in my opinion, it is mistake to dismiss something based on the deeply flawed research.

      2. I understand that Pose theory is controversial. However, Pose technique is very similar to the running technique you have promoted in past posts. Also, the training methods Dr. Romanov teaches are very similar to training methods you have discussed in previous posts. So it would seem that Pose technique and training are well within the mainstream even if the theory is not.

      One final comment, The 4-Hour Body is not a very accurate or detailed accounting of either CE or Pose Running.


    4. RunningPT12 on May 11, 2011 at 1:22 pm

      Thanks Steve, well said. I feel like I'm back in my research design/stat classes in physical therapy school.

    5. Anonymous on May 11, 2011 at 2:55 pm

      Great stuff!
      This article from last year focuses on some of your points.

    6. Josh Leeger on May 11, 2011 at 3:14 pm

      Great post Steve. I just browsed through Ferris' book myself, and am equally disturbed by the "hack" outlook on learning and especially physical achievement. Thanks for your great thoughts here! I suppose one of the problems is that the real "scientists" – those who do the three things you mention – aren't sensationalist enough…

    7. Anonymous on May 11, 2011 at 9:57 pm

      Great post. Thanks again

    8. stevemagness on May 11, 2011 at 11:04 pm

      Hey all-

      I'll address CF in the future…

      Ken- All the running philosophies have similarities, what differs is how we get there. And TO ME, Pose fails in the basic understanding/explanation/pseudo sciency side of things. Chi fails even more so. Doesn't mean it's all wrong, just throws up a red flag.

      As for CFE- The main guy has made claims that in the future all the best endurance athletes will train like CFE. He even said Ryan Hall should…If he just said, hey you'll be very mediocre at a lot of stuff if you do this, then I'd be fine. CFE- Fails horribly in the practical side (i.e. no one good ever trains that way), the history side (it's all been done in terms of distance running- and it didn't work that well…), adn the pseudoscience/basics side…(their lessons are horrible and they hide behind research, taking it to the extremes…i.e. generalizing…like Tabata sprints)

    9. Ken Schafer on May 12, 2011 at 7:09 pm

      I apologize for being a such a pain in the (select body part). However, I my opinion, the arguments against Pose tend to fall more on the pseudo-science side of things. So far, I've haven't heard anyone make a case against Pose, who didn't just end up exposing his or her ignorance of Pose.

      Also, you really didn't address my basic complaint about the inaccuracies in your statements about CFE training methods. Also, the running part of CFE may have been tried in the past, but I doubt that the CFE program, as a whole, has ever been tried in the past. Again I have my reservations about CFE, but I'm waiting for some well-done research on their complete methodology before I make any definitive statements.


    10. Anonymous on May 14, 2011 at 1:16 am

      I'll give a personal experience I had recently that I in no way intend as "proof" just my impression of the efficacy of CE.

      I'm a 33 year old distance trail and road runner and I do pretty typical stuff (Daniels, Brad Hudson, good volume). A new friend invited me to a CE workout when I moved to a new town. She said everyone was training for Marathons and ultra marathons; Great I said!!

      The first visit they went out in the freezing cold and, with no warm up at all, did 20 x 10 seconds all out with 10 s rest. They crushed me for two reasons; I refused to go 100% and also they were just way faster. After this they were done. They got back in their cars and went home.

      The second visit was 6 x 800 on a moderate uphill. I was much more excited about this, right in the distance runners wheel-house. Not only did I crush them, they got slower and slower each rep and they were exhausted afterwards.

      I'm sure I wasn't getting the whole picture, it was clear that they were getting worse with increasing aerobic load and distance which confused me given that they were getting ready for marathon+ events. I didn't go back (and I was not invited again). Sorry for the long comment.

      -Alex from New Haven

    11. Anonymous on May 16, 2011 at 10:03 pm

      Is this post about Barefoot/ Minimalist running..
      Cause it could have been.

      I would add #11 to the trap.

      Find out more information will cost you $$.

    12. torger on May 17, 2011 at 12:03 pm

      One problem is that legitimate concepts can be sold in using the same type of methods, and probably often are too. When I read your list I thought "isn't this the way they do in America when they sell things"? :-). That is this is general marketing culture rather than a specific program used to sell crap.

      In other words, when you see these things you need to be careful, analyzing and skeptic but it is no evidence of that the concept they're selling truly is bad, just that the marketing is.

    13. torger on May 17, 2011 at 12:19 pm

      As an addition to my previous comment, I think barefoot and minimalist running is an excellent example of a concept that likely is good, but is "marketed" with lots of bad science here and there.

      This leaves the doors wide open for criticism, where the critics attack the obviously bad science but never really get to the core subject. For example, I've seen lots of criticism of bad conclusions drawn from Daniel Lieberman's research, and while it is a valid argument the critic often try to somehow get to the conclusion since many barefoot/minimalist evangelists is bullshitting and exaggerating things then barefoot/minimalism as a concept must be bad.

      But the actual problem in this case is that there is too little research out there so noone really knows anything for sure yet.

      When a concept is marketed with both good and bad science, a common method to criticize the concept is to attack only the obviously bad science and pretend that the good science/arguments do not exist.

    14. Craig on May 17, 2011 at 10:06 pm


      I truly enjoy your website. I've been a coach for over 10 years and have read more books than I care to admit. I've also attended many clinics and am myself an trained in exercise. I often tell people that things like Crossfit and HITT have been around for a long time but under a different name. The fact remains that one problem with us as people is that we want a quick fix. If 100 people did crossfit and 99 were not successful but 1 was then that would be their promotional tool. No program or plan works for everyone. Even the Lydiard system is not for most runners. Without getting into a long post, factors such as: time to train, biomechanics, age, genetic make-up, diet are only a few things that will determine the type of training we do. I've tried low volume, high intensity and vice versa. The reality is that each system can work, but on an individual basis.


    15. Anonymous on May 17, 2011 at 11:59 pm

      6&7 – I could say that cholesterol and saturated fat consumption has NEVER been proven to cause heart disease or any problems for the past 50 years. Why the gov't keep promoting that is beyond me.

      FYI, Atkins was right. You just don't have the knowledge to figure that out. Most people don't even follow it right but if done right, obese people will do much better cholesterol wise. The trick is to use NMR, not calculated cholesterol test which can be widely inaccurate. It's really excessive carbohydrates that cause heart disease and diabetes problem but do you see AHA and gov't talking about it? Nope. You're the one that fell for that…

    16. Anonymous on May 18, 2011 at 12:13 am

      Number 9… reminds me of China Study… what a crock. Dr. Campbell "manipulated" data to justify reasoning why we should eat vegan or whatever it is he is recommending. Denise Minger from Raw Food SOS took raw data and ran numbers, etc. She made Dr. Campbell look pretty bad.

      6. Go against norm… sometimes they are wrong… big time. Time will tell but for a long time, gov't had recommended that we take certain amount of vitamin D and scared us over skin cancer… May have turned out to be the most costliest mistake in history… maybe 4 trillion dollars in medical expense for the next decade no thanks to wide spread vitamin D deficiency because of incompetency and bad science.

      Same with cholesterol and saturated fat causing heart disease… pure myth. There's nothing in the literature that CONCLUSIVELY proved that. We had 50 years and nothing. You think conspiracy… I think a scam to generate massive profit… Same with vitamin D. Dr. Deluca from University of Wisconsin has over 100 patents of knock off vitamin D to treat various disease caused by widespread chronic vitamin D deficiency. Some will come out on market in the future.

    17. Anonymous on May 19, 2011 at 9:00 am

      Hi Steve, I would be interested to hear your thoughts on crossfit for general performance rather than specifically endurance running – i.e. is it an effective method of training for recreational athletes with multiple fitness goals – for example running, rock climbing, mountain biking performance – assuming that additional specific training is carried out for each sport/goal? Many thanks

    18. Anonymous on May 20, 2011 at 3:44 pm

      Sure it is easy to discredit things you don't believe in but everything you wrote also applies to barefoot/minimalist running.

      Sometimes the hardest place to look for flaws is in the mirror

    19. Anonymous on May 21, 2011 at 2:51 pm

      Hi Steve,

      I'd like to make a few key points about many of the new trends in exercise and running. The point being that they're just that, trends. History when it comes to training isn't really that complicated. If you are a distance runner you need to do moderate to high mileage depending on the length of your race. If you want to race faster, instead of just finishing then some intervals are necessary for the body to become acclimated to the faster tempo. Obviously adding in tempo or threshold work is also beneficial. From my experience in the exercise field I won't say that programs like Crossfit have no purpose but I believe that specificity of running is the most important key to improvement.

    20. Curb on June 2, 2011 at 7:08 pm

      Excellent post Steve. I think all the CFE guys should read this paper:
      Keep up the good work.

    21. Armi Legge on June 6, 2011 at 12:04 am

      The important thing is to glean as much information as possible and use logic to try and sort it out.

      The mistake most people make is to put all their beliefs behind one way of training. It will be a little different for everyone.

      As Bruce Lee said:
      "Take what is useful. Discard what it not. Add what is uniquely your own."

      I'm not saying you should be different for differences sake. I don't like to say I'm a "Crossfitter" or "Pose" athlete. I'm Armi Legge- human being.

      I think almost all workouts have some value, and its up to the individual to do some experimenting and use research to find whats best.

      It's also important to find credible sources of information and come back to them-

      like The Science of Running;)

      Great work Steve!


    22. Anonymous on June 22, 2011 at 3:42 am

      Hi Steve, interesting post as most of your's are. True, bad science and fads often go hand-in-hand. Over the past 40+ years as athlete and coach I've seen quite a few. However, your point of "look to the elites as a general guide" to what is true in training is equally fraught with misconception and often based on nothing more than an athlete's perception or an attraction to coaching personality or style. The fact is most of us don't have those types of athletes to coach. As Daniels points out, inherent talent is the first factor of success in athletic performance. Give any coach an athlete with superior inherent talent and he / she will be asked what it is they are doing to elicit such performances. Just because an athlete is on the box of Wheaties shouldn't make us change our breakfast habits, but it often does. In addition, you throw out Barry Ross as an example of "bad science or fad" for sprinting. Based upon your reported protocol of muscular force training, you follow Barry's philosophy of fast-twitch muscle fiber activation in spades. If your beef with Barry is the ASR training based on Dr. Peter Weyand's 2006 research on speed decrement, then say so. Barry is only the messenger. This brings me to the crux of your post, training models whether based on science or fads, often comes down to who is controlling the message as opposed to the message itself.

      Coach Doug Robinson

    23. Rob Smith on July 12, 2011 at 3:04 pm

      Hi there

      I know your intention was not to get into specifics about the examples you give but I've read several posts where you use the Pose method as a potential example of pseudoscience.

      Having been on a Pose clinic with Romanov, it was clear to me from how he answered my questions that he understood a lot of the subtleties that the Pose method leaves out and that he has deliberately simplified things to make it something that is easy to learn. Note that he called it a "method" and not a "technique". For me, a key idea was to focus on getting the foot off the ground and not on landing – the two influence each other but the latter is hard to actively change without tensing up and risking injury. As you say in one of your articles, you shouldn't try to take your foot off the ground too quickly and this appears to set you at odds with the Pose method. I see it a bit like the difference between Newtonian mechanics and General Relativity: Newtonian mechanics is still taught in school even though it is an approximation to what we know.

      Having said this, there are people who take the Pose method like a religion and refuse to accept any divergence from the laws. This also lends itself to a good analogy with the development of our understanding of physics. Well, those people are going to be limited by their ability to accept new ideas and are, in some sense, the antithesis of pioneers of thinking that they follow. Personally, I have found your ideas to complement what I have learned from the Pose method and I hope that my running technique is now at a level where I might be able to experiment with those ideas.

      I think there are many other much clearer examples of pseudoscience that you could use – for me, the Pose method is not a good one. In the same way as people skim through scientific journals picking conclusions out of context for lack of time or knowledge, people may discredit Pose from skimming through an article like this which I think is a shame because I believe it is a very effective way to learn to run better.

    24. Ken Schafer on August 4, 2011 at 11:10 pm

      Rob, I think you hit the nail on the head. Great Comment!

    25. Robert on August 8, 2011 at 6:52 am

      Hi Ken and Rob,

      Pose is a good example of something based pseudoscience because the basic idea of being able to land under the center of gravity and idea that you can to use forward lean to give you forward propulusion both break the laws of physics.

      You can't land under your center of gravity when running at steady state as otherwise you'd topple over and land on you face, it's a very simply case of having to balance yourself – you can't balance if the vertical loading is on average behind the center of mass.

      Also forward lean can't provide propulsion as gravity is vertical force and doesn't resolve horizontally at all. If it were possible to use gravity as propulsion where would the energy come from? To exchange gravitational potential energy with kinetic energy one has to reduces ones height, unless you height is reducing no gravitational energy can be exchanged. So wether you look at it from a forces or energy perspective the forward lean providing propulsion is nonesense.

      The reason why we lean forward is to provide balance when accelerating, and when we slow down to balance we lean back. Balance is when the net forces move up through the center of mass, so when we want to generate a horizontal force we have to move the center of mass further forward/aft to keep the moments about the center of mass close to zero. Once we've accelerated to the required speed we ease back it a more vertical and balanced posture.

      I say "more vertical" as air resistance does generate a small horizontal force that requires us to generaate a small net horziontal propulsuion force from out feet. This propulsive force needs balancing, so one can lean a small amount into the wind and retain balance.

      Rembember, whether you are accelerating faster, slowing down, running into a bend or pushing against the wind you lean to keep balance. Lean never provides propulsion, only balance.

    26. Ken Schafer on August 20, 2011 at 10:02 pm

      I'm probably going to regret this, because I am not the best qualified person to explain the physics behind Pose theory, but here it goes. I believe you have a fundamental misunderstandings about Pose theory. Frankly, if you do, it is completely understandable, because there are not very many good sources that explain it well. Also, I am willing to admit that Dr. Romanov may be wrong, but even if he is, that does not necessarily justify calling it pseudo-science.

      Where does the energy come from according to Pose? With each step you recover the height you lost from falling by using muscular effort, and then you fall again. The energy comes from your muscles. They are used to place you back in a position for falling. Pose theory just claims that the forward movement is achieved by falling; it does not say that you don’t have to put energy into the effort, but it does say that you don’t need to put effort in to pushing back. If you have ever tripped on something, and had to scramble very fast to keep from falling, then you should understand that gravity can pull you forward very rapidly even when you aren’t trying to accelerate.

      Finally, what do you mean by landing? Because the working definition that most people use for “landing” is not the same as what is meant by a landing in Pose running. There is a very subtle but important difference. My guess is that what you mean by “landing” is when the any part of the foot first touches the ground. If that’s the case, then you are not defining the landing in the same way it is defined by in Pose. However, I admit, the Pose book does not do a good job of accurately explaining this point.

      I know that you probably are not convinced by my explanation, because it is not very good. However, based on what you have written, it is clear to me that you do not fully understand Dr. Romanov’s theory and his arguments. If you are interested in learning more about what Pose theory actually states, then a good place to start would be in the following publications where your points of misunderstanding are directly addressed.

      Sports Biomechanics September 2008; 7(3): 403–405 – Comments on “Runners do not push off but fall forward via a gravitational torque” (Vol. 6, pp. 434 – 452)

      Sports Biomechanics September 2008; 7(3): 406–411 – Authors’ response to “Comments on ‘Runners do not push off but fall forward via a gravitational torque’” (Vol. 6, pp. 434 –452)

      • Anonymous on March 6, 2012 at 11:40 am

        Ken, why doesn't elite runners then do pose? Why are there no good pose runners?

      • Anonymous on November 4, 2013 at 6:42 am

        When a method must change the definitions of commonly used words like falling and landing, that is a red flag.

    27. Anonymous on September 8, 2011 at 3:46 am


      I don't know much about Pose or have any great understanding of science but your example of tripping bothers me. As I understand it if I were to trip forward (or backward or to either side) I will be scrambling to 'retain' balance, to describe this attempt to 'retain' balance as gravity 'pulling' you forward sounds out of place to me.

    28. Anonymous on December 10, 2011 at 10:38 pm

      You do realize Barry Ross pumps out sprint champion after sprint champion, right? Yes, what a "hack" he is!

    29. Ottawa Foot Orthotics on February 10, 2012 at 4:18 pm

      Hi Steve Magness,

      First off I would like to say you hit the money with your analysis. I like how you pointed out the confusion using scientific jargon and then add the picture perfect individual/athlete to provide them with the enthusiasm to overlook the possibly misleading facts.

      I would have to agree on nearly all account and would like to point it out that this is due to our current MEDIA PR culture. In order to sell large quantities and maintain that standard you have to provide the consumer with a ideal, a method, a unquestionable reasoning, and then the outcome with some statistics. Any number of massive companies can provide you with all these flaws as money is generally their key goal not necessarily providing the best possible products for their consumers. Our current society is based upon money.

      Back to the science, as I have some bio-mechanics and gait experience I would like to state that there are many people who can possible achieve barefoot running standards. But of those who achieve it perhaps maybe 5-10% can do this regularly over a long period of time without injury or excessive stress. Those 5-10% are bio-mechanically perfect – God give gifts of perfection so to speak. The majority of runners and athletes may dabble and train in these fashions but in most cases will likely not be able to maintain this standard for long periods of time as their bio-mechanics are not perfect and consistent wear and tear or injuries occur.

      What is being hushed up is that a great proportion of professional athletes who are pursuing barefoot running are experiencing a need for 40-80% increased physiotherapy. This is talking about elite athletes at world standards. So you will find them training 1-3 days a week in barefoot running but still maintain their previous training regime.

      Finally, I do not disagree with barefoot running (to make myself clear)but do know the implication and requirement to attain consistent and injury free barefoot running regime. So I generally state to many people who ask: by all means try the theory and work at it but do so at an extremely gradual rate. But remember that your bio-mechanics (explain reasons as to why he/she may encounter problems) may decrease you ability to maintain your usual standards of training and your competitive ability as you may be dealing with new or other injuries (that may have or not occurred due to the training change). Each individual is unique and there is no hard fast rule stating this will work for one or the other. For certain bio-mechanical and gait associated problems we can say for certainty but many are in a grey area that could allow them if training correctly and eating healthy to maintain the standards and health to continue with barefoot running theory.

      Thanks for your post Steve I really enjoyed the breakdown in writing as I have been viewing many things in this capacity for quite a while but did not realize it until I read your post.


    30. Anonymous on July 21, 2012 at 6:52 pm

      I didn't read much talk about Barry Ross and his training methods. I read his book and tend to agree with alot that he says (have visited his forum, too).
      What do the naysayers of Barry have to say??

    31. Andrew Turner on September 15, 2015 at 7:38 am

      Every coach of any standing regardless of whatever method he is touting will agree that every one of his athletes is a one off and therefore there is no one training method that will allow every athlete to reach their full potential.
      I am afraid we all have to keep an open mind as pseudo scientists or whatever you like to call them are paid for producing the results their masters require to further their money making ends.
      If you like a certain piece of science, try it out and see if it works for you.
      Scientists have been so wrong about so many things that only a fool would set much store by what they said. Lets face it , they all thought the world was flat at one time.

    Leave a Reply