This video is low-hanging fruit, I’ll admit it. But it was such a perfect compilation of the flawed language used by the fitness industry at large that I couldn’t resist the opportunity.
First of all, let’s watch this thing, then go over it line by line.
Okay, so here we have a 5-minute piece with celebrity trainer David Kirsch. He’s here to tell us how to get legs like Heidi Klum or <insert model here>. (So I guess this article should be renamed ‘David’s Tips for Killer Legs’!) Let’s get started:
Katie: “Seriously David! Aren’t you just born with A-list legs?”
David: “No. Sexy, tone, long and lean.”
I’m not sure what that line is supposed to mean. It sort of seems that he just picked out every buzzword as his opening statement.
- “Sexy” is subjective, but I suppose we’ll assume that it entails the next three adjectives.
- “Tone” could be added to your legs through exercise, true. (Although I loathe that word for a myriad of reasons)
- “Long” – now here is something no exercise can do. If you’re 5’0 with a long torso, long legs just aren’t in the cards for you. You could perhaps make them look longer with certain cuts of shirts or heels, but there’s only so much that can be done and there’s no exercise routine that can elongate your femur.
- “Lean” is something that can be achieved through diet and exercise, true.
Katie: “When clients come to you, David, and they say, ‘Really, I want my legs to look better’, you don’t ever say ‘Honey, it’s genetic’?”
David: “No…never…there’s not a one size fits all. You gotta visualize the legs you want to have. Whether it’s Heidi’s or Kate’s…”
This is another bizarre exchange to analyze. After all, what does “look better” mean? Again, we’ll assume that it’s to have longer, thinner legs with low body fat. His response of “there’s not a one size fits all” right next to the requirement of visualizing what individual’s legs you want is rather odd. If there is no one size fits all, then why are you striving for the exact legs of another woman? That sort of sounds like one size fits all to me.
Katie: “Well don’t I have to grow a foot or two to have Heidi Klum’s legs?” (For reference, Katie is 5’1 and Heidi is 5’9)
David: “No, I’ve seen you wear crazy shoes. Wear those high heels, you’ve got the length – and you have…the genetics, you have that shape there.”
Here we have direct contradiction #1. Above David said that genetics don’t play a role in what kind of legs you have, and here he tells Katie she has the genetics to have Heidi Klum’s legs. A bit ridiculous since Heidi is a good 8 inches taller than Katie and also has a habit of wearing crazy high heels.
Katie: “Let me ask you about diet…I mean how important is that to having great legs?”
David: “It’s huge. I had a new woman come through today. She’s shorter and she’s got hips and thicker thighs and she’s not working out properly. You know, she’s doing a lot of squats and…just like…stop. No squats…no traditional squats. I said…visualize…I want a ‘window’…here’s your window, right up here, inner thighs. When your legs get too bulky, this space gets lost. So I want a window, I said I want to shave [the butt] and I want to lift it.”
Well, first off she asked about diet and somehow this got turned into a conversation about exercise. Anyway, this section sets up for a bit more hilarity a couple of minutes later, but let’s go over a few of the things here. First he is implying that squats make your legs too ‘bulky’ for a thigh gap. Oh wait, did I say thigh gap? Sorry, “window.” Other things that can get rid of your thigh gap include genetics. It’s been said a million times already, but even the skinniest of girls can manage to lack a thigh gap. Just depends on your anatomy.
Also, for a good example of heavy squatting not making your legs big, see Jennifer Petrosino or Nia Shanks.
So just to sum up what he just said, Window=Thigh Gap and Squats = Bad, Bulky and never to be done. Got it? We’ll be quizzing you on this later.
David: “So if you’re eating cheese – I live in Italy, cheese, pasta, bread – I’m like, no. No more dairy. Zero dairy. Because it’s going right [to your butt and thighs].”
So…dairy by some magical property goes right to the hips and thighs as opposed to other kinds of foods? Many women may nod their head in agreement because when he says that food goes right to their hips and thighs, well, he’s relating to their struggles. You’ve probably heard women in your life say that <insert ‘bad’ food here> goes straight to their thighs – maybe you’ve even said it yourself! But here’s all that’s happening:
- Women tend to gain weight on hips and thighs
- Dairy can have a lot of calories in it and things like cheese can add up quickly to a caloric surplus.
- Dairy is then associated with going straight to the hips and thighs, even if it doesn’t do so more than any other food.
I have a hard time believing that David truly believes what he’s saying, but it is possible he is hardcore into Paleo. Who knows.
Katie: “But please don’t be obsessed with this thigh gap thing, because a lot of girls are going crazy if they don’t have thigh gaps, and they’re starting to get eating disorders because of it.”
David: “No, I’m not about eating disorders…look I have two twins, 4-year-old twins. And so, it’s not ever about…we don’t use the word ‘diet’, we don’t use the word ‘fat’…it’s moving your body. It’s doing correct moves. So all these moves, whether it’s a single leg deadlift or sumo lunge or reverse crossover, will shape and tone your legs. And you’ll get the inner…you’ll tighten up…if you go like this and you tighten it up, you’re gonna get the window.”
I’m actually kinda proud of Katie on this one, I have to admit. I’m sure she wasn’t intentionally calling him out on his “window” bullshit, but she inadvertently seemed to put him on the defensive. Just watch the video during this segment, it’s really amusing. You have to watch him during this to get the most out of it. He is literally signifying a thigh gap with his hands and almost says “the inner thigh gap” but catches himself. Apparently using the word “window” is better than “thigh gap,” and he clearly states that’s what he wants for his clients, while somehow at the same time coming across as being anti-thigh gap.
It’s probably because he pulled the “I have children” card, though he didn’t mention if either of the twins were girls. So he doesn’t use the word ‘diet’ and is anti-eating disorders but his clients aren’t allowed to have dairy? “Fat” isn’t okay but “bulky” is?
We also have our first claim of exercises being able to spot-reduce areas, but expressed with the word “tighten” instead.
The rest of this video, nothing much of value is said. David does say either the word “tighten” “shave” or “tone” 5 times in about 1 minute though! David takes us through three bodyweight lower body movements. Katie could use a little work on sitting back at the hips, but I suppose if I only had 90 seconds to show someone three exercises I wouldn’t worry too much about it either.
David also says that if you want to avoid getting bulky, a big fear for many women, then the answer is to increase your repetitions and only use bodyweight exercises.
I have a theory to why so many women fear getting bulky from a training program. It’s because of people telling women they should be afraid of getting bulky on a training program.
Let’s also point out how all three of the moves involved many of the same muscles as a ‘traditional’ squat. If a squat made you bulky, then so would these moves.
Katie: “Now what’s that good for?”
David: “…Cardio, right? You’re gonna get your heart rate up, you’re gonna start metabolizing fat so it’ll lean you out.”
Sort of. The kind of workout you’d get doing all these moves in a row seems like it would be on the higher intensity side of things, as opposed to an easy walk. The higher the intensity, the less percentage of fat you’ll use to power the movements, the lower the intensity, the more fat you’ll use. However, it’s important to bear in mind that the macronutrient you’re utilizing (for most regular non-athlete trainees) doesn’t matter for overall fat loss. It just comes down to how many calories you burn. (I may have mentioned that a couple of times before…)
In summation we get a good synopsis of the main pieces of misinformation spread by the fitness industry.
- “Spot Reduction” being a thing, though apparently now going by the name ‘shaving’ and ‘tightening’.
- Mysterious and nonsensical food elimination rules that must be obeyed to lose fat. Dairy, in this case
- Use high repetitions and light or no weight to avoid bulking during training.
- Use of words like ‘tone’, ‘shape’, ‘tighten’ or ‘firm’ specifically in regards to women’s fitness.
- Automatic assumption that ‘sexy’ equals tall, thin with little muscle or fat.
- Claims to be able to defy your own anatomy to obtain certain features such as ‘long’ legs or a thigh-gap, aka ‘window’.
I’m honestly surprised to see something like that come on air so recently. I thought we were beyond things like spot reduction and fear of getting bulky – apparently not.