@Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show #PleaseFeedTheModels

Exactly a year ago, I wrote THIS POST about the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.  As you can tell from the title of this post, we’re going to be covering the same topic today.

Before we get into that, let me just recommend an article by Tom Furman on T-Nation called 10-Minute Sets.  In the piece Tom discusses the advantages of using timed sets not only for developing work capacity but as well as for building muscle mass.  Timed sets are frequently used for conditioning, and for density training, and Tom provides a few examples that you can use in your own training.  I’m a fan of using timed sets towards the end of my training sessions, and it definitely can feel like you’ve got an elephant sitting in your chest.  On Friday a training partner and I decided that trap bar deadlifting 225 was a good idea, and it ended up being the hardest conditioning I’ve done in a while.  I also don’t think I’ve ever done 60 deadlifts in 5 minutes, even if those numbers are abysmal.  Tuesday night, right before the VS Fashion Show, I performed a 5 minute set of kettlebell snatches with a 20kg ‘bell, resting when needed.  That was almost as bad as the deadlifts, but my hands were getting kind of beat up so I had to slow down.  If you’re wondering, my all time favorite workout song, Killing in the Name by Rage Against the Machine is 5:14, allowing for 3 deep breaths between hitting play and beginning to hate life.  I’d get on that if you’re up for a challenge.

Now, let’s emancipate the emaciated…

Looked like a fun night, didn’t it?  Bright colors and flashing lights, booming beats from Kanye & Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj, and Maroon 5.  The Fantasy Treasure Bra was worn by the wife of everyone’s favorite pirate and elf, Orlando Bloom.  As wonderful as that $2.5 million bra that Miranda Kerr wore certainly looked marvelous, but there are plenty of other things that 2.5 million dollars could have purchased.  Something that would be a little bit better for the models, like a little bit of food.

In a country with a massive obesity problem that somehow thinks pizza is a vegetable, it seems that the whole eating thing isn’t very popular among the runway elite.  Based on my memory from last year, I think that the models were noticeably thinner this year.  If I need any help creating a Recipe for Being Skinny Fat, I’d definitely turn to Victoria’s Secret for help.  Creating under-muscled, under-weight models isn’t my goal or desire, and I’d rather help people develop healthy, strong bodies.  If we’re looking at training and eating styles that can contribute to the skinny-fat runway model look or the lean, healthy active-lifestyle look, we’ll see pretty distinct differences.

Those who really want to look like a model should follow a low calorie diet, with even lower amounts of protein.  Exercise should be low intensity, long duration aerobic training; lots of treadmill walking or ellipticizing*, but never at very high difficulty levels.  Avoid lifting any object that weighs more than 3lbs, and make sure that you completely disregard any suggestion to maintain a natural posture.

On the contrary, someone who wants to enhance their health, performance, and aesthetics would opt to do something like this:

I hope you see a stark contrast between how the Girls Gone Strong are training in that video and what we normally see advertised in popular media as effective exercise.  After watching that video fifty a few times in the last week, I’ve organized the exercises based on the equipment used:

  • Barbell – Deadlift, Sumo Deadlift, Clean, Snatch, Overhead Squat, Clean-Grip Reverse Lunge
  • Dumbbell – Snatch, Waiter’s Walk, and for Push-Up handles
  • Kettlebell – Swing, Snatch
  • Body Weight – Pull-Ups/Chin-Ups, Push Up (plus external load), Handstand Push Up
  • Conditioning – Sled push/drag and treadmill sprint

When was the last time you saw one of those exercises in your latest issue of Cosmo, Vogue, or fill-in-the-blank magazine-marketed-at-women here.  It’s rare that you’ll find those, and when you do the images seldom promote lifting heavy weight.  Instead, it’s about 15lb kettlebells, dumbbells less than 8lbs, and silly exercises like tricep kickbacks that are good for very few things.  To top it all off, the last thing that you’ll see is anything promoting feelings of satiety, getting a little protein in your diet, and eating real food.

I find it a bit problematic that our society puts misconstrued perceptions of what is aesthetically pleasing above our own health and wellness.

That’s not a very profound statement; we’ve been doing stupid crap that compromises our health for years.  Remember when smoking was considered sexy?  We’re slowly learning with the tobacco, but we’re nowhere close to figuring this all out.  In some gyms you’ll find manual therapists to provide soft tissue work and massage to clients/patients to help accelerate recovery, while other gyms advertise their tanning beds so folks can go tanning after their arms and abs workout.  The heavy focus is on how we look, and not on how we feel.

What if you can get both, and can train to feel great and perform better, and as a result you end up looking pretty damn good.  The Victoria’s Secret Angels are beautiful, certainly, but there’s something much more attractive about someone who can kick their own butt in the gym, eat a real meal, and be healthy.

***Elipticizing: Exercising on an elliptical.  The last thing you should be spending your time doing at the gym, but still better than sitting at home on the couch.  <–I think I made this word up!

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13 Replies to “@Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show #PleaseFeedTheModels”

  1. This reminded me of a story I was recently told by one of my coworkers. Evidently the cheerleading coach at the big university in town puts a LOT of pressure on his female cheerleaders to all stay the same weight. I see his logic for the stunts they do but weighing 120 lbs at 5′ vs. 120 lbs at 5’5″ is very different.

    Not to mention I consider collegiate cheerleaders to be athletes as they train as such. It’s quite hard to put on mass weightlifting for females but STILL, that has to account for something for them too. I can’t imagine that kind of a stressor in my life.

    1. Juliet, that sounds ridiculous! We can probably consider cheerleading a weight-class sport in the sense that flyers and bases have different weight requirements as well as the requisite strength-to-weight ratios. Local coach must not understand that, or just has a very old-fashioned attitude about his athletes. While that imposed standard weight regardless of height must really cause some physical stress on some of the taller girls, I bet that the psychological stress of having to deal with that is way worse. Thanks for that example of society’s obsession with scale numbers contributing to body image issues!

  2. Harold,
    Great post. You mention doing overhead presses quite often. In your experience, will a standing overhead press using dumbbells be as effective as using a barbell? Thanks.

    1. Thank you, John! You’re right, I think OH pressing variations are near the top of my bang-for-your-buck hierarchy. Of all the presses, the barbell military press gets the most press as far as being a lifter’s lift, but I think that dumbbell pressing can usually be better. Dumbbells allow your arms to move more freely than a barbell does, so you reduce some of the stress on the wrists, elbows, and shoulders. Typically our dumbbell press poundages are lighter than barbell pressing poundages, and I’d say it’s usually safer/smarter to choose an exercise that requires less loading as the chances of being injured should be lower. (Obviously, this is not always the case.)

      I prefer barbell pressing out of a rack and while standing, but I find that dumbbell pressing in half kneeling works exceptionally well. You can train hip stability, reinforce thoracic extension and proper movement of the scapulae. I’ve included two videos below; I like the two-handed press better, but I prefer the elbow position of the single arm press, in front of the body, as it tends to be more shoulder-friendly. I’ll record a video and upload it to my YouTube channel in the next few days.


  3. This is the best article I’ve read in a long time. It’s amazing how my mindset has changed over the years. All I used to aspire to was looking like those Victoria’s Secret models but now I would never want to look like them. While they are beautiful, and it takes hard work in their own right to look like that, I would much rather have my muscle and be strong. Plus I like eating all the food I do!

    1. Thank you for the kind words, Tara. I wholeheartedly agree with your insights; I think that many girls have been indoctrinated to hold the runway model as the ideal body, and as a result compromise their physical and mental health. Unfortunately, the models natural beauty (and hard work) is considered idea, and their muscle-less, too-thin bodies are deemed attractive. (Thanks, Hollywood!) I love the way you said it:

      While they are beautiful, and it takes hard work in their own right to look like that, I would much rather have my muscle and be strong. Plus I like eating all the food I do!

      I completely agree, and I think that most readers will as well, that strength, muscle, and enjoying quality food feels much better than being stick thin and not eating.

    1. Thank you Meg! I hope that more people start thinking like the Girls Gone Strong, (and you and I) and really get after it in the gym. As we encourage people to be more active and train harder, I’m hoping we’ll see a turn around with how people look, AND feel. Maybe we can collaborate in the future in a post about male and female body image, diet, and nutrition?

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