I’m mad. And I’m on heavy painkillers.
You’ll have to forgive the fact that I’m about half a week late jumping onto the “F OFF WOMEN’S HEALTH MAGAZINE” bandwagon. I underwent “surprise” ACL surgery this week. Though everything was textbook about the surgery, the Percocet and I have not gotten along well… so long story short, I’m just now getting around to writing about the fact that Women’s Health Magazine is worried about my ugly, ugly back fat. You know no amount of narcotics could keep me from getting self righteous about my back fat.
Here’s what happened, in brief: The magazine posted a fluff piece to their website about the machines women should avoid in the weight room. This was a golden opportunity to talk about how machines are not nearly effective as free weights, but never the ones to take the side of logic, Women’s Health spoke to Holly Perkins, a “women’s strength expert”, who says bench press and lat pulldowns are giving you muscles in all the wrong places, pushing your fat OUT AND OVER YOUR BRA OMG! Instead, do chest flyes so they bump up your tits! Because duh, women’s strength is all about spilling over in the front of your bra, not the back.
Aesthetics aside, let’s talk about her tips on a fitness level for just a moment. I won’t call benching the most functional exercise ever, and I don’t dedicate an entire day of the week to it, but I grew up powerlifting, and believe it has its place in a well-rounded strength regimen. I would nix lat pulldowns because they are hardly ever done properly, require an expensive machine, and over time, are far less effective for functional strength than learning how to do a pull-up. On a completely emotional level, they’re way less satisfying. No one Instagrams their lat pulldown PRs (um, thankfully). But they’ll sure as hell tell you all about the first time they hauled their own mass up and over a bar.
Perkins names a third culprit– the hip adductor machine. It might surprise some to know that this is one of a few machines I actually think a lot of people can benefit from, including CrossFitters. Strong hip adductors mean a more balanced knee and improved knee mechanics during a squat. What’s there to balance those monster quads CrossFitters are so proud of? Take it from the lady who learned the hard way– an ACL tear. Don’t get me wrong– there are ways to strengthen your adductors in a CrossFit box, but they usually need to be done on the side, as I’ve yet to hear of a WOD incorporating rower slide-outs and sumo squats. But I digress.
The WH post has been taken down. But it can be read in Google cache, in all its comedic glory. If you want great reading, please do scroll down to the comments. The backlash has been searing. My friend Caitlin over at Fit & Feminist can fill you in on why this is a glorious day in women’s fitness media. WH, we are on to you.
I cancelled my subscription to WH a long time ago. I liken my smug feeling in the wake of BenchGate to a breakup where the other person eventually turns into an overweight alcoholic who skips leg day. Their editors really came through and made me feel vindicated. So thank you, Women’s Health, for that satisfaction. I zero percent miss having you kill trees to print pages and pages of women who look like they’ve never deadlifted in their lives.
As someone who comes from a media background, I know to what extent eyeballs drive corporate decisions. If you don’t like what WH has to say, then there is a very simple solution: Quit buying it. Unlike their Facebook page. Now. If you think Shape is ridiculous– IT IS– then quit letting them autocharge you for a subscription that you have been too lazy to cancel since 2007– and tell them why you are leaving. Don’t feed the beast. You vote with your dollars.
I’ll end this rant before I collapse into a deep, drooling, painkiller-induced slumber. I want Women’s Health to change. They have a great domain name that could be used for good. They have a massive subscriber base that could be exposed to an honest discussion of what fitness and strength are all about– tough but worthwhile, a journey everyone is on, not just a contrived snapshot taken for a magazine cover. Until they do, it’s time to seek out sources that have their act together– even if it’s not glossy, airbrushed, and readily accessible next to the grocery checkout line.