The Mass Psychology of Fittism

Fitness, Evolution, and the First Two Laws of Thermodynamics


Author: Edward Yu
Media: Book, Paperback, 500 pages

Out of stock

In The Mass Psychology of Fittism, author Edward Yu employs Nikolai Bernstein’s degrees of freedom and Claude Shannon’s information theory to analyze both human movement in particular and human learning in general. In doing so, he demonstrates how conventional fitness programs tend to stifle learning as well as inhibit sensorimotor development. By taking a deeper look into fitness and comparing Darwin’s original concept of the word to our dominant culture’s interpretation of it, Yu further reveals how conventional fitness programs, when compared to less conventional and more exploratory ones, tend to minimize, if not reduce, our level of fitness.

The Mass Psychology of Fittism is an outstanding, well-written critique on the reductionistic thinking that lies behind the simplistic perspective of fitness culture; a perspective in which the path to the body completely bypasses the role of gravity and the brain in development, learning, and healing. This book provides a much-needed counterpoint to the mechanistic thinking of our time.

David Zemach-Bersin, CFT

Author of Relaxercise: The Easy New Way to Health and Fitness, Founder of Feldenkrais Access

Table of Contents

Prologue: What Does it Mean to be Fit? … 1
Introduction: The Growing Numbers of “Unfit” … 7

Part 1: Humans, Machines and the 1st Law of Thermodynamics … 13

Chapter 1. What is Exercise? … 15
Chapter 2. The Origins of Modern Exercise … 27
Chapter 3. The 1st Law of Thermodynamics … 35
Chapter 4. Evolution … 55
Chapter 5. Cartesian Reductionism … 71
Chapter 6. The Purpose of Exercise as We Know It … 79
Chapter 7. The Primacy of Numbers … 85
Chapter 8. Balance, Degrees of Freedom & External Constraints … 111
Chapter 9. The Spine & 3 Axes of Rotation… the Neuro in Neuromuscular … 129
Chapter 10. Reliability & Accuracy, Quality of Movement and Being Human … 143

Part 2: Information, Knowledge and the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics … 171

Chapter 11. Evolution, Information Theory, and a New Perspective on Fitness … 173
Chapter 12. Information Processing and Range of Strong Motion … 197
Chapter 13. Information to Knowledge: The Neuro in Neuromuscular … 217
Chapter 14. Evolution (or God) Doesn’t Make Mistakes … 233
Chapter 15. Freedom and Response-Ability … 247
Chapter 16. Learning, Novelty, Information & Knowledge … 261
Chapter 17. Novelty, Redundancy and Compressing Information … 285
Chapter 18. The Quick and the Dead … 311

Part 3: An Old Theory and a New Perspective: Relating Fitness to Evolution, Neuromuscular Complexity, Entropy and the Ground … 329

Chapter 19. A Few Words on Talent and (Over) Efforting … 331
Chapter 20. Complexity, Entropy and Learning … 347
Chapter 21. Learning: Sense-Ability, Neuromuscular Complexity and Reversing Entropy … 361
Chapter 22. Alternatives: Evolution, the Foot and the Ground … 385
Chapter 23. Recommendations … 405

Epilogue: 2,092,726 Quick and Easy Steps to 6-pack Abs (and other important secrets to getting fit) … 417

Bibliography … 443
Acknowledgements … 455
Index … 465

From the Epilogue

“…in contrast to our glamorized image of what it means to be fit, the process of getting fit, when viewed from an evolutionary perspective, can seem commonplace and even mundane. Yet for all that it lacks in industrial shine, fitness as a form of exploring, learning and growing harkens back to a truly enlivening process by which humans have survived and even thrived for eons — a process which is quintessentially holistic, diverse and imaginative, rather than reductionistic, robotic and anesthetizing. This is because in the evolutionary and thus, a revitalized sense of the word, fitness alludes to our innate desire to explore; it alludes, in other words, to our inextinguishable, if culturally repressed, yearning to live more fully, and the invigorating process by which this yearning can be fulfilled.”

The Mass Psychology of Fittism is a brilliant book-entertaining and informative, and for many, possibly life-changing. Edward Yu not only questions the current fads in the fitness world that rule how people think, feel and act, but leads us into a very thorough discussion of what fitness could actually mean if we were better informed about artistic, aesthetic, and scientific studies of the body and mind. 

Frank Wildman, PhD

Author of Busy Person’s Guide to Easier Movement

There is a microsecond moment between when a motor plan or habit forms when it is either unconsciously carried out or consciously stopped. At that moment one can learn to suspend even the most deeply rooted habits of action. This book will help you move from the culturally determined habits of obsession and compulsion to a way of living with dignity and the freedom of choice.

Jeff Haller, Ph.D., CFT

Founder of Ideal Organization and Profound Strength Academy

Once you are finished reading this book you will have a new and more complete understanding of what it means to be a human being. Edward Yu’s ‘sense-able’ approach to exercise, health, and movement strips away all that is wrong with the fitness industry and leaves you with all that is right about what it means to play like a kid again.

Terrence Mahon

Boston Athletic Association High Performance Coach, 4x USATF World Champs Team Coach

Edward Yu provides a furious challenge to the fitness industry in this well-researched and provocative piece. This book is the ‘bible’ for anyone deeply interested in an unconventional and humane approach to movement.

Jacob Marinko

Founder of Movelution/MovNat Scandinavia

Is talent inborn or is it acquired through learning? Edward Yu’s book sheds important light on this controversial topic by elucidating the often ignored fundamentals of learning. This is a must read for both coaches and athletes wanting to not only reach higher levels performance but enjoy the process of getting there.

Krešimir Šoš

Head Conditioning Coach at GNK Dinamo Zagreb, Croatia

With thorough and painstaking research, Edward Yu shows us how much of modern fitness tends to impose a machine-like ideal on human beings. Fortunately, he also goes into great depths in helping us find ways of putting the humanity back into our movement practices. This book gives a clear and reasoned voice to what many somatic practitioners have known and sensed, yet not been quite able to articulate.

John Tarr

Feldenkrais Assistant Trainer, Professional Musician


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