This was Mark Rippetoe’s point in Starting Strength—our natural state is meant to be ripped. Everything else is a deviation. https://t.co/pd92i3E7yp
— Thomas Chatterton Williams 🌍 🎧 (@thomaschattwill) July 24, 2021
Our natural state often meant dying from common injuries which are mere inconveniences to us now, so, as usual, talk of what we were “naturally” “meant” to be is meaningless. Chimpanzees are much stronger than humans, not because they have extra muscle fibers or a more “natural” existence, but because we have more specialized motor neurons which allow us to do things like knit, play piano, and perform laser surgery. The difference is in our brains, not our biceps. (My trainer would like to know who authorized that trade-off; he says he doesn’t need to play the trumpet anymore and would happily re-engineer some neurons in service to his squat strength.) Powerlifters are often stronger than bodybuilders, despite lacking the chiseled physiques of the latter, so functional strength isn’t even necessarily the same thing as being “ripped.” Hunter-gatherers, the most “natural” humans, are often of slight build. It’s not Blake’s grain of sand, but it’s still amazing that one tiny tweet can contain a whole world of mistaken assumptions and implications.
In a book I just read, Exercised, by Daniel Lieberman, he makes the familiar case that humans evolved to become endurance athletes above all. Most other animals are much faster than us in a sprint, but our relatively hairless bodies and abundance of sweat glands make a more efficient cooling system, allowing us to continue running after the faster animals have been forced to stop and rest to avoid overheating. Slow and steady wins the race, indeed. Perhaps even “work smarter, not harder” — we ran our prey to exhaustion rather than beat it to death.
Aesthetic musculature, like music, poetry, and reading for pleasure, is itself a “deviation” from the bare necessity of securing enough calories to survive long enough to reproduce. Thank all the gods for such deviations!