When necessary, our dormant fitness column, "I of the Tiger," will return in order to address urgent fitness issues which demand a timely reckoning. This is one of those times.
Men's Health, the magazine for men too embarrassed to be seen reading Shape, has pasted together a list of "The 100 Fittest Men of All Time," culminating in "The Fittest Man of All Time." This alleged listicle is such an abomination that we feel to compelled to offer a reasoned critique, lest anyone be misguided by its woeful conclusions.
Allow us first, if you will, to examine what passes for the "criteria" of this hastily-collected assemblage of what the French call le garbage. "Fitness, as we define it here at Men's Health [ed note: *chuckle*], isn't just about how much you can lift, how fast you can sprint, or how many records you've broken," says the text superimposed on the listicle slide-show's landing page, or, in other words, where all serious fitness literature lives. "It's also about what else you do with the body you build—the people you inspire, and the legacy you leave behind."
I know what you're thinking: by that criteria, the Fittest Man of All Time was Moroccan king Moulay Ismaïl Ibn Sharif, who fathered 888 children, because now that's what I call a legacy you leave behind! And now that's what I call "what else you do with the body" (fucking all the time)! But—as I'm forced to say all too often—answering every hard question is not as simple as just writing down "Moulay Ismail Ibn Sharif" and then running off to eat a lollipop. In our quest to find The Fittest Man of All Time, we must dig deep into the past, present, and future, like a shovel being pushed into a time machine as the time machine is running, and carefully determine, through persistent investigation, who BOOM. Did that scare you? That's the sound of hardcoreness flying off the page, better get used to it.
But first let's take a moment to mock the Men's Health list. Were there some worthy inclusions on their list of The 100 Fittest Men of All Time? Sure. There better be. There were 100 god damn people on the list. "Let's make a list so mind-bogglingly large that it would be almost statistically impossible not to include some worthy people," said the brave editorial fitness gurus at Men's Health. I mean, nobody is going to argue that six-time Ironman champion Dave Scott or world class decathlete Roman Sebrle or Paddy Doyle, who holds 200 fitness-related Guinness World Records, are not among the 100 fittest men of all time. That's just math. It's far more instructive, though, to look at some of the other dudes that MH anointed as among—a reminder of what's at stake here—the Fittest Men of All Time: P90X founder Tony Horton (huckster salesman), NFLer-turned-Army guy Pat Tillman (pseudopatriotic flag-waving pandering), Lance Armstrong (drug-enhanced career cheat), Mr. T (no), David Beckham (No), Daniel Craig (NO), and Brad Pitt (NO!).
If you sincerely believe that Brad Pitt is one of The Fittest Men of All Time, stop reading this Profile in Courage Award-winning column right now and never start again.
Oh, OH. And, most importantly, let's get right down to the bone and gristle here, who did the prestigious fellows at Men's Health—the fellows whose list did not include, say, a real Spartan, but did include the dude who played a Spartan in the movie 300—select as The Fittest Man of All Time? The Fittest Man ever, in history, to set foot on the earth, and do things, with his body, which leave a legacy for all mankind? The Fittest Man of All Time, according to Men's Health, is... *slide whistle*: Subway sandwich pitchman Michael Phelps. THE FITTEST MAN TO EVER WALK THE EARTH IN ALL HUMAN HISTORY. What a fortunate coincidence that he is some famous athlete who lives in our age.
If you sincerely believe that Michael Phelps is the The Fittest Man of All Time, I have a magazine for you to subscribe to. It's called Men's Health, and it is for dumb people.
So then, down to bone marrow, licking the plate clean. Who is, in fact, The Fittest Man of All Time? Based upon "the people you inspire, and the legacy you leave behind?" Sure, we may be tempted to equivocate—to select some superstar sports player, or some bland uber-athlete with a prototypical blend of strength, speed, power and endurance. Or Stanley Tookie Williams. But let us look a little closer, a little deeper, into the BOOM. Legacy of hardcoreness.
The most obvious candidate for this honor is, of course, Milo of Croton, the ancient Greek wrestling hero who trained by carrying a newborn calf every day as it grew into a bull, thereby inventing the concept of progressive overload, the most fundamental building block of strength training. It is Milo's insight that allows you to get greater results in your Zumba class by adding the body bar to your workouts. You owe him a great debt of gratitude.
But it is more appropriate to award the title of The Fittest Man of All Time to someone whose feats of hardcoreness are more thoroughly documented. We considered giving the title to Paul Anderson, the old country boy who was squatting close to 1,200 pounds back when most people thought "squatting" was something that Harry S. Truman did on the toilet. Or, perhaps, to Tom Platz, who can be seen here squatting 500+ pounds for 23 reps like it ain't a motherfucking thing, and who once explained his squat workouts by saying, "the attitude that I had back then was that my life had to pass in front of my eyes...to go to the gym that morning would be a very scary thing."
That is the type of harrowingly fearsome attitude that we all should strive to bring to squat day.
Paul Anderson and Tom Platz are, without a doubt, historically hardcore motherfuckers. And, you know, there are probably lots of runners and shit who were great too (obligatory insincere nod to the running community). But we must take legacy into account. And so—with the importance of squats as the very foundation of fitness in mind—we hereby award the title of The Fittest Man of All Time to the esteemed Dr. Randall J. Strossen, Ph.D, the author of "SUPER SQUATS: How to Gain 30 Pounds of Muscle in 6 Weeks."
Randall J. Strossen literally wrote the book on Super Squats. It does not get any more Fitness than that.
Image by Jim Cooke.