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March 21, 2023

'The internet's richest fitness resource is a site from 1999'

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Up top is the headline over Lauren Michele Jackson's March 3, 2023 New Yorker story, which follows.

Exrx.net is little changed since the days of Yahoo GeoCities and dial-up and saying 'www' aloud. Yet beneath its bare-bones interface is a deep physiological compendium.

In twelve years of lifting weights, I can't say that I've ever attempted a sissy squat. Yet the name intrigues me, like a tickle in my brain. I know that it is an exercise of some kind, working out some lower portion of the body. I know, too, where I can go to be filled in on every detail of the sissy squat, should I wish to learn more. Not the nearest personal trainer nor her virtual equivalent — not YouTube, not Instagram. Lord only knows what TikTok would proffer. No. Instead, I fire up my browser, ignore my million other open tabs, and type the following: "exrx.net."

What you'll find if you do the same is a Web site that by all appearances has been forgotten by the wider Internet. Exrx.net, which bills itself as an online "exercise prescription," launched in 1999, and indeed, were it not for the updated copyright notice at the bottom of its pages, new visitors would think they've happened upon a site of antiquity, abandoned in the rush toward a brave new Web 2.0. The home page is an anticlimax of a greeting, stale and still except for the bare-bones gif of a small, perpetually running blue figure that serves as the site's logo.
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Below it is a most perfunctory choose-your-own-adventure: twenty-four squares denoting twenty-four destinations ("Weight Training," "Injury Management," "Nutrition"), displayed in a thick, nondescript font and accompanied by what look like stock images. The site's hyperlinks glow in the brilliant default shade of blue; there are banner ads. All of it suggests an amateur HTML from the days of Yahoo GeoCities and dial-up and saying "www" aloud. It is my favorite fitness resource on the Internet.
Exrx.net's seeming lack of sophistication belies a physiological compendium that is sourced by professors, physical therapists, physicians, coaches, and military personnel, and endorsed by the American College of Sports Medicine. The site has granted use of its materials to NASA and the N.Y.P.D. Among its listed contributors and editorial-board members are Ph.D.s and M.D.s and M.S.s, including the site's creator and publisher, James Griffing, who received his master's in exercise physiology and psychology from Kansas State University, in 1996, after winning the bodybuilding title Mr. Kansas. ExRx began as a master’s thesis, "An Interactive Multimedia Computer Database of 250 Weight Training Exercises and Muscular Analyses," which Griffing started translating to the Web the year that he graduated. ExRx went live "using 10 MB of free webspace provided by a local internet provider," the site explains. At its height, between 2008 and 2018, it received more than a million unique visitors per month. "Nowadays," the About Us page reads, "we maintain approximately one third our past peak traffic," which is no small thing, given the many higher-production alternatives that fitness enthusiasts can find online today.
Web sites, at least in their earliest iterations, were mere directories miraculously made virtual, accessible. Transparency was a virtue. Accordingly, ExRx makes its organizational logic plain. Its pages adopt the structure of unordered lists — uniform and sturdy. Sections on weight management or weight-training mistakes unfurl as dispassionately as those on academic journals and aerobic conditioning. The site is primed for spelunking — you might happen upon a page dedicated to, say, cervical lateral flexion — but, unlike elsewhere on the modern Internet, on ExRx you are never lost.
Lack of décor doesn't equal lack of mediation — I am not so naïve as to think that ExRx is without its own intentions. But the site's plain face lends it a certain authority. In a fitness ecosystem dominated by new- and old-school flash, from personal trainers on the hard sell to influencers with soft power, exrx.net treats me like an adult. If Instagram Reels and TikTok videos are the solicitous pusher on commission, ExRx is a librarian — or, better yet, the library itself.
Admittedly, in my many years using the site I've trawled through only a fraction of what exrx.net has to offer. My infatuation with it began and remains centered upon its holy grail: the exercise directory. It is a bodybuilder/physical-therapist hog heaven, for who else would concern herself not only with chest and back muscles but with the serratus anterior and the upper fibres of the trapezius? Who else needs to know nearly twenty modifications for tricep dips, or that weighted dips "recruit" the biceps brachii as a dynamic stabilizer, which may "assist in joint stabilization by countering the rotator force of an agonist," whatever that means? I am neither a bodybuilder nor a medical professional, as perhaps goes without saying, but I'll consult ExRx to fill out new workout regimens, insuring that the movements I've chosen are strengthening the intended areas. Mostly, though, I visit exrx.net to know way too much about exercise.
Searching the site for "sissy squat," for instance, yields a page with info on how it's classified (utility: auxiliary; mechanics: isolated; force: push), how it's executed, how to increase or reduce its difficulty, and, of course, the muscles (target, synergists, stabilizers) that it recruits. But I'll be honest: none of those are the main attraction. One of the more wondrous features of ExRx is that nearly every exercise in its directory (nearly two thousand and counting, according to the site) comes with a looping gif demonstration. The gif for the sissy squat shows something like a standard squat on hard mode: a ponytailed woman stands on the tips of her toes and leans far backward with a stiff upper body while her knees bend toward the floor, then rises and does it again and again. At first glance, the footage appears seamless, but no — we can gather, from a bus that passes by the window behind her, that she does three real-time reps before the loop starts over.
The only thing we don't learn on ExRx's "Sissy Squat" page is why the exercise has that name. Per some old-fashioned Googling, the appellation is said to be a nod to Sisyphus, whose interminable push workout surely earned him a pair of massive yams. But during fact checking for this piece Griffing said that this explanation was absent from his site because it "was not substantiated" with sufficient "academic scrutiny." ExRx may be old, but it remains tough about its standards. Both my inner scholar and my inner meathead genuflect.

March 21, 2023 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Angel Alvarado solves three Rubik's Cubes while juggling them

From the Guinness Book of World Records:

Angel Alvarado of Colombia has broken the record for the fastest time to solve three rotating puzzle cubes whilst juggling with a phenomenal time of 4 min 31.01 seconds.

The 19-year-old set the record in Bogota, Colombia, on 1 April 2022.

Angel was competing against himself for this record, as he also held the previous time of 4 min 52.43 sec, which he achieved in May 2021.

Angel trained for two years to achieve his first record, finding lots of time to practice during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns. 

The first obstacle was figuring out how to solve a single cube while juggling, which took him five months.

Once he harnessed the skill, he added more cubes into the rotation. 

It took him a further four months to be able to solve three efficiently.

It takes immense dexterity and concentration to be able to rotate the cubes while they're flying through the air, keeping track of what cube is where and how many turns each has had. 

His training involved one-hour solves for just one cube, as well as three-cube attempts with focus on consistency and accuracy.

He wanted to prove to himself that with practice and a tonne of determination, he could achieve something this difficult. 

"It would mean a lot to me since it would be the first both juggling and speedcubing world record of Colombia, and would be cool to be the first person who achieved that," he said.

The History of the Record

The record for the fastest time to solve three rotating puzzle cubes whilst juggling was first set on 23 December 2017 by Que Jianyu (China) when he was just 13 years old.

He wowed the audience on the set of the Chinese TV show iDream, by achieving the feat in 5 minutes and 6.61 seconds.

Afterwards, clips of his awesome record attempt went viral online. 

Then, on 17 November 2018, Que Jianyu bettered his own record on the set of another TV show, La Notte dei Record, this time in Italy: He managed to shave over 4 seconds off his record in another nail-biting attempt. 

Four years later, Angel has cut down Que Jianyu's original record time by over 30 seconds. 

Who knows who will break this impressive record next!

March 21, 2023 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Compact Ratcheting Screwdriver for Bike Repair

Featured by Rain Noe earlier this month in Core77; his review follows.

Nifty Design for a Compact Ratcheting Screwdriver for Bike Repair

The Lollipop by bicycle tool company 711L

This Lollipop ratcheting screwdriver, patented in the U.S. by Taiwanese bicycle tool company 711L, appears to be a simple shaft with a knurled grip.

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If you need some extra leverage, you can pull the red endcap out. It's attached to a shaft that terminates in a knife hinge, so you can make the tool L-shaped, giving you that extra bit of torque.

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The magnetic driver comes with eight bits.

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It can also be used as an extension for one of the company's more conventional mini-ratchets.



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The black version is made of aluminum and costs $54.99; The silver version is stainless steel and costs $75.99.

March 21, 2023 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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