Greg Nuckols: A Better Way to Approach Strength Research

Greg Nuckols: A Better Way to Approach Strength Research

[laughs] I think that we do something that other people don’t. The biggest thing that helps set us apart is that, when I do a literature search, it’s like an actual literature search, and not just punching a term into PubMed and just looking at the first four, five studies that pop up.

Somewhere to what one would do for a systematic review, where you get some keywords together, you search multiple databases, you look at everything that comes up when you punch in those terms, and then filter down to all of the studies that do seem useful and relevant.

It starts with figuring out the correct keywords to run those searches, then pulling up 11,000 results and going through every single one of them, filtering it down to the 50 or 60 studies that really get at the specific topic that I’m interested in. Then actually reading all of those studies, searching the reference lists, getting really, really deep into that subject versus just staying at the surface level for it.

That’ll be the first thing I do. Then, when it comes to writing, generally, I try to at least have some sort of narrative that runs through what I write. I think that that’s something where a lot of the, again, “evidence-based fitness community” goes wrong. They treat their blog post almost as if it’s a journal article, where it’s just like, “Hey, here is information, and I’m going to spit a lot of information in your face and hope you like it.”

Most people just don’t respond well to that, because if they wanted to read something that read like a journal article, they just read journal articles and bypass your blog. It’s more like trying to find a way to frame something.

It could be as simple as, “Here are the things that people believe,” lay it all out and say, “Here seem to be some of the assumptions underpinning this, so let’s go through this, see if those assumptions check out, see what the research actually says.”

We’re not talking like an Old Man and the Sea-esque narrative but at least some sort of general narrative structure so that as people are working their way through the article, they see like, “OK, why should I care about this in the first place?” and then a logical sequence of information building up from the basic stuff to concrete takeaways.

The biggest thing that’s helped with the writing being clear and coming across well to the reader is…Stronger by Science, people think it’s just me, but it’s actually a partnership. It’s both me and my wife. I manage the content side of things. She manages the business and marketing side of things.

Her training is in copy editing. She is also quite knowledgeable about lifting but not as knowledgeable about science and physiology. One of the problems a lot of people run into is they assume that everyone they’re talking to is as big of a nerd as them and knows as much about science and physiology as they do.

When I’m writing, I have a combination of my wife and my 17-year-old self in mind. People who know a fair amount about lifting are pretty passionate about it but don’t have degrees in this stuff.

It helps me be able to pitch stuff where if someone is actually willing to read attentively, they can get all of the information they need in a way that’s understandable without getting four paragraphs in and being like, “Emptor? What the fuck’s that?” [laughs]

That helps a lot, having a clear reader in mind. Also surveying our audience so I know who these people are and where they’re at. If we surveyed our audience and saw that 80 percent of them work in the health and fitness industry and have a strong academic background, we would probably pitch our articles a little bit differently.

But our median reader is someone who is interested and passionate about powerlifting and strength sports but are mostly like engineers or IT workers that don’t have a physiology education or work professionally in the health and fitness industry.

That’s who I’m writing to, people who are generally intelligent but don’t have a graduate degree in this shit. That makes it more palatable for mass market as well.

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