Who is Anthony Colpo and (should anyone care)?

November 15, 2007

AnthonyAnthony Colpo is a personal trainer and health/fitness writer from Australia who has recently, caused a bit of controversy.

To some degree this controversy has been created by his very decent book on cholesterol, but most of it is due to his lovely persona whenever he responds to people who dare to disagree with any of his ideas on health, nutrition and fitness. I usually don't waste my time with people who act as he does, it’s usually not worth it. But this time I feel it is.

The interesting thing about Mr. Colpo is, for all the flotsam he spews forth, he does get a lot of stuff right. (Well, at least he agrees with those people who originated his ideas that are right.) Most of what he supports has good scientific foundation.

However, when it comes to fitness and exercise, many of his ideas are little more than old school dogma that belongs in a bodybuilding rag mag - and then promptly tossed into a trashcan.

Digression: I was turned onto Colpo's book The Great Cholesterol Con by my friend and co-author Dr. Michael R. Eades MD. I read it cover to cover. I had previously read several books on the subject that were similar but I liked Colpo’s simpler style.

I contacted Colpo to let him know how much I enjoyed his book and decided to join his Low Carb Muscle forum to ask some questions about his exercise ideas from his book.

I might as well have contacted Stalin. Rather than be gracious and courteous, he was rude, nasty, impertinent and childish.

Let's take a look at some examples of his cheery character so you can get a really good taste of the man. These are quotes directly from his web forum. Here he is addressing Dr. Eades:

I read with interest your recent post on your blog in which you made some assertions regarding the comparative rate of weight and muscle loss on low-carb versus high-carb diets. These assertions are so unscientifically ludicrous as to be laughable. I'll be honest: After reading that post I am convinced you must either be a shameless charlatan or one of the world's most amateurish researchers.

What a way to begin an ongoing and friendly relationship, with a bestselling author and physician right? Colpo would do well to read the book The Secret and perhaps take a tranquilizer.

Again, adressing Dr. Eades:

Your comparison of the Keys and Yudkin studies is so amateurish as to be absurd.

Ooo wee!

One more for good measure (here he tosses me into the fray.):

I suggest you spend a little less time with folks like Feinman, Hahn, and Cordain, who have already established that they care far more for doggedly defending their precious dogmas than respecting sound science.

Can you beleive this guy? (Though I'm honered to be lumped into such company!) He doesn't even know any of us and obviously has not read any of our collective works.

And what does he mean by 'sound science?' First of all, Colpo is not a scientist and trying to insult your betters to get your point across is a bit, well, ______ (you fill in the blank).

Here’s a goodie. He goes at Dr. Eades again:

Instead, start digging up the studies I've cited in my book, and get your butt into a REAL gym and start building the body of an athlete, not an armchair expert.

Such a charming fellow. He’s referring to his recent self-published book The Fat Loss Bible as if Dr. Eades hasn’t already read the research Coplo has poorly interpreted in his book. Dr. Eades would have written the textbooks upon which Colpo would have learned enough to write his Fat Loss Bible. "Dig up the research?" What a joke. My advice? Don't buy his book and instead pick up a copy of Reader's digest for a fraction of the price. You'll learn about the same stuff. Eat less food and exercise.

Furthermore he's never even met Dr. Eades. He has no idea what Dr. Eades looks like! And what, pray tell, is 'the body of an athlete?'

Marathon runners are athletes and I sure as heck don't want a body like theirs. (No offense intended to the person in the picture of course. She obviously loves running and that is fine by me!)

Bulletin Message
You have been banned for the following reason:
No reason was specified.

If you care to read his polite and intelligent comments in their entirety, go here.

OK. Let's read one more of his rants just to be crystal clear of Mr. Colpo's persona - the kind of professional you should spend your money on - before we mush on:

But I tell you what...why don't you post a photo of yourself with your top off, so that we can all see what a superior, awe-inspiring, uber-masculine physical specimen you truly are!

You just gotta love this guy, right?

Fact: You don't have to be 8% body fat or look like the cover of a modeling magazine to be in good health and physical condition. And there are plenty of out of shape trainers and coaches who know what they are talking about. You don't have to be a bodybuilder to know how to build muscle either. There are legions of skinny exercise physiologists who help body builders make incredible gains.

And as I mentioned earlier, genetics (not training style) dictate how large and muscular a person can ultimately become. Not everyone can be massive, ripped and lean. How one stores body fat due to their genetic heritage plays a major role in how they will look - no matter what the training method is you employ. Two people can have the same body fat percentage and look entirely different. Mr. Colpo seems completely ignorant of this fact, otherwise, why did he make such a statement?

I'd like to see some proof of Mr. Colpo's clients and their amazing uber-bodies. I can't seem to find them anywhere on the internet. No doubt he'll feel the need to prove me wrong and pick and choose anyone he wishes who looks good and post them on his site. But it will require dated comparison photography and signed testimonials to be valid.

What I am going to do in a moment is discuss a few of his comments on slow repetition versus traditional speed strength training which will reveal his difficulty in interpreting a simple study and his personal bias on training.

But first, realize that Mr. Colpo is a staunch advocate (or so he says) of using science as 'a candle in the dark' (to qoute the late Carl Sagan). He is constantly calling himself a bastion of truth, justice and the scientific way.

Having said that, here are a few comments he has made with absolutely no scientific back-up:

"On a personal note, I've tried every approach there is, and bumping up the frequency and avoiding failure works best for me and my trainees. The scientific literature also indicates that this is the best approach."

Sorry but, no it doesn’t. There is no scientific evidence whatsoever to support this claim. (Remember, the burden of proof lies upon the claimant.) Whatever scientific literature he is referring to is more than likely hopelessly flawed - or he simply read it wrong. May we see it please Mr. Colpo? Where are your references?

And re-read the first part of this comment"

"On a personal note I've tried every approach there is..."

Sounds like the beginning of a bad infomercial. Whenever you hear people say things like this you "I've tried every approach there is..." know you are listening to BS.

He goes on to say:

"Heck, even Ellington Darden, the well-known "High Intensity Training" advocate, has begun singing the virtues of scheduling in not-to-failure traing days!!"

Good try Mr. Colpo. If he had read Dr. Darden's books (which he clearly hasn't) or spoken to him (which he clearly didn't - I know Dr. Darden personally) he would know that the not to failure training approach that Dr. Darden advocates is designed forrecovery and maintenance, not for building muscle. NTF training days simply appease people who feel the need to train more often than is necessary - hence recovery.

On page 90 of Dr. Darden's new book The New High Intensity Training:

"There's also another way you can save some of your recovery ability: Don't train to failure during a workout."

"Then you drop the the NTF (not to failure) workout which leaves you training five times in 2 weeks. After 6 more weeks, one of your workouts becomes NTF."

If you get Dr. Darden's book (and read it) you will see that Mr. Colpo's way of training (higher volume and never to failure) and Dr. Darden's are entirely different – world’s apart.

But Mr. Colpo likes to spin things to suit himself. Something he accuses just about everyone else of who disagrees with him. He acts as if he is immune to such one sided reporting.

In fact, Dr. Darden and I were discussing these issues just a few weeks ago at a memorial dinner for the late, great Arthur Jones.

(That's Dr. Darden in the middle right; I am at the far right and Roger Schwab on the middle left.)

I can tell you with all honesty that Dr. Darden is a firm believer in training to muscular failure for best gains and he has been for decades.

Let me toss out one other statement Colpo made on low carb:

"I really am starting to get sick of all the heat I am drawing for stating an indisputable fact: there is NO "metabolic advantage" (to a lower carbohydrate diet he means) when it comes to weight loss save for a slight increase in lean mass retention and slight increase in fat loss from higher protein intakes, which occurs independently of carb intake."

Well that wouldn't be NO metabolic advantage now would it? It would be some metabolic advantage I think. And if it occurs independently of carb intake this would mean you'd have to eat that many more calories in carbs in order to eat the extra fat and protein which will result in fat gain. If you keep the calories the same, then upping the protein and fat and lowering your carbs creates the metabolic advantage without the body fat gain.

And if it’s all about calories as Colpo suggests, why does he call his forum ‘Low Carb Muscle Forum?’ He should change the name to ‘The Low Calorie Muscle Forum.’

Another little bit of information before I move onto the Slow repetition speed vs. Traditional repetition speed study. Mr. Colpo in his letter to Dr. Eades tried to belittle him by suggesting that the only way studies can show or indicate that one approach to dieting is better than another is if they are conducted as 'ward' studies.

Essentially what Mr. Colpo means is that the conditions of the research are very tightly controlled so that the subjects cannot cheat (impossible) or at least have a very hard time cheating on the diets. The researchers can feed the subjects only what they wish them to eat and in doing so you have a much purer outcome (ideally, but they can still cheat).

Well if this is true about diets, the same must be said for research on exercise as well, agreed?

Any study on exercise (in this case strength training), would have to be controlled in the same ward-like manner. If not, how do we know that one group of subjects didn't cheat and do other exercises skewing the data when away from the researchers? Well, we wouldn’t of course. Remember what Colpo said above:

"The scientific literature also indicates that this is the best approach."

Were these ward studies Anthony?

Therefore virtually ALL the research ever published WRT strength training and exercise in general has this inherent non-ward flaw built in. Not enough control.

But of course this doesn't bother Mr. Colpo. He likes to pick and choose his criteria and use it as it suits his position and then act as if he somehow he has got it all right and anyone who disagrees has got it all wrong - a strong indicator of a dogmatist.

If you do disagree with him to the point where he is incapable of responding, he spews forth insults and expletives and bans you from his message board. He’ll also edit a nay-sayer’s post to his liking. If a poster on his forum says anything that proves Colpo wrong, something he can't possibly refute, he edits those parts of the message out. He did it to me.

Then he bans them or closes the thread for further comment - as he did to me. When I try to log onto his Low Carb Forum this is what I get:

I weep.

On his low carb forum Colpo answers a poster who asserts that Slow Burn training has given him great results. The poster says:

"I have been following Fred Kahn's Slow Burn method with excellent results. In an oversimplified nutshell, you do each exercise with the heaviest weight you can manage to move very slowly to failure within 60 - 90 seconds. You can do a full body workout in less than 30 minutes, and you only need to do it 1x per week, or 2x if you are in a hurry. I am getting excellent results with this approach, I can't see why I would need to do multiple sets and spend that much more time in the gym."

Colpo responds:

"I am yet to come across or read about a champion strength athlete who uses Fred Kahn's Slow Burn ... but hey, I'm glad you feel it's working for you."

Why does a champion strength athlete have to use my system for it to be a valid method of becoming stronger? Even if it were true that not a single athlete on earth used my system, would this make my system invalid? Of course not. Some strength athletes wear good luck yellow ducky socks to a meet – do these work? Should we all wear yellow ducky socks to the gym because some champion strength athletes do?

Rather than praise the commenter for finding a system that he's happy with and that he is making progress on, he has to in a round about way, denigrate the technique and make the poster feel stupid about using it. I guess Slow Burn doesn't get the AC seal of approval even though if he came to my gym and trained he'd barely be able to walk out.

"Be aware that I hear these kind of reports all the time, and excuse me for sounding jaded, but they tend to become rather yawn-inducing...these novel training schemes often present the body with a new stimulus, one that shocks the body into growth. But this novel stimulus does not stay novel forever. The body endeavors to adapt to new stresses imposed upon it."Colpo spurts.

Why try and make the poster feel stupid with unscientific drivel like this? 'Shocks the body into growth.' Show me the science Mr. Colpo.

Then he says:

"So report back to me in a year or two, if you are still getting "excellent results" and making stupendous progress (that has been carefully documented and can be verified), then I'll sit up and take notice."

First of all, who gives a poop if Anthony Colpo, the self appointed, expert sits up and takes notice? How about saying: "Good for you my good man, keep up the great work!"

And, by the way, after a couple of years of consistent, smart training, anyone will be close to or at their genetic potential. You don’t keep getting stronger and more muscular year after year after year. Let's see all of the documented progress Colpo has achieved.


"So it is with lifting: high volume and avoidance of failure allows you to perfect your lifts."

Here Mr. Colpo confuses strength training with skill acquisition. Strength training is not about perfecting ‘a lift’ (as in Olympic lifting), it's about fatiguing your muscles in the proper time frame and then at the next session increasing the load, sometimes fractionally. Sure, you want good form when strength training but that is not the focus of the training. The focus of strength training is fatiguing the muscles enough to initiate/stimulate a strength/growth response.

He blathers on:

"You are more than welcome to disagree with me about training to failure, but the fact is that Olympic lifters and power lifters have been avoiding failure as a matter of course since time immemorial."

Again, Colpo can't seem to differentiate between the sports of Olympic and power lifting and the modality known as strength training. Clearly he is unaware of the theory of orderly recruitment of muscle fibers. And perhaps if these lifters understood the physiology behind fiber recruitment, they too would start adding some strength training to aid their power and olympic lifts.

Here's a good one. Colpo says to the same commenter:

"So again, you are welcome to disagree, but if you are going to publicly express your disagreement on this forum, please try and base your assertions on something a little more substantial than "I am using Slow Burn and getting excellent results!"

But then in the same thread Colpo says this:

"So for me and my training partner, the difference was making no progress whatsoever with superslow, and making progress with more traditional style training. I'd say that justifies any extra time input!!"

Perhaps Colpo should take his own advice? And the poster was talking about Slow Burn not Superslow.

OK onward. One of the studies Colpo cites on his forum to 'prove' the superiority of traditional training over slow training is this one:

Keeler LK, et al. Early-phase adaptations of traditional-speed vs. superslow resistance training on strength and aerobic capacity in sedentary individuals. J Strength Cond Res. 2001 Aug; 15 (3): 309-14.

If Colpo had read this study properly, he'd have tossed it into the garbage and never cited it as proof of anything. But instead he tries to use it to prove his point.

In this study, the traditional speed group (n=8) used 80% of their 1 repetition maximum as their starting poundage. A correct percentage of resistance to use by any standards for gaining strength.

The slow speed group (n=6) was given 50% of their 1RM. Now, any exercise physiologist worth her salt would know that using 50% of a person’s 1RM will do little if anything to increase strength.

And so should Coplo. But I guess not.

Nowhere in any of the scientific literature does it state that slow training should use 50% of a person's 1RM. So why did these researchers use such a piddley little weight load? I smell bias bread a mile away.

The study lasted 10 weeks (only). They were supposed to increase the weight load for the leg press by 2.5 pounds when the correct number of repetitions was reached. But the researchers had BOTH groups using 8-12 repetitions! The traditional speed group was instructed to lift the weights in 2 seconds and lower in 4 seconds making each repetition last 6 seconds.

The slow speed group was instructed to lift the weight in 10 seconds and lower in 5. That's 15 seconds per repetition.

Therefore, the traditional rep speed group was given more weight once the set length reached 48 -72 seconds (the anaerobic window) but the slow speed group had to reach between 120 - 180 seconds (far beyond the anaerobic window) before they received more weight. Could these researchers not see the gross difference in the set times?

The slow speed group should have performed 3 - 5 repetitions in order to keep the set time equal which also would have forced the researchers to start the slow speed group off with a lot more weight - a lot.

So as an example, the amount of weight that the slow speed group increased by in the leg press exercise over the 10 weeks was only 9.6 kgs! That's a measley 21 pounds! What exactly were the researchers thinking? Could they think is more the question. How in the world did this study pass peer review?

Further, studies where there are less than 20 subjects in a group are usually considered invalid given too few subjects to render a good statistical outcome. This study had less than 10 in each group.

What was Colpo thinking using this paper as 'proof' of anything? Or did he just visit Pubmed, read the abstract, cut and paste it onto the thread on his forum and hope that no one would call him on it?

Most of the other research papers on this thread used to prove the superiority of traditional rep speeds have the same fatal flaws:

"Subjects participated in an 8-week resistance training program in either SST (n = 9, 3 men, 6 women), using 50% of 1RM, or TRT (n = 7, 3 men, 4 women), using 80% of 1RM. Both groups trained 3 days per week."

Here we see again the traditional speed group (TRT) was given 80% 1RM and the slow group got gypped only receiving 50% 1RM. What is the problem with these researchers? Again, nowhere in any of the slow speed books or literature does it say to use 50% 1RM as a starting weight load.

Some of the slow training books state that you should decrease the weight you would traditionally use with faster rep speeds by 20%-30%. What this means is if you are using 100 pounds in a biceps curl you should lower the weight to 70-80 pounds to start off to get the technique right. Not lower your 1RM to only 50%.

If the 1RM of a person is 120 pounds in a biceps curl, they will use 100 pounds for the working set. Superslow training asks that you lower the weight by 20%-30% for the weight you would normally use in a faster set. 20%  of 100 pounds = 20 pounds. 100 - 20 = 80. Lowering this to 60 pounds (as they would have done in these studies for the slow group) would be far too light for any meaningful strength gains.

Mr. Colpo likes to pretend that he is an unbiased researcher at large who provides the world with the truth and nothing but the truth. But the real truth is he does not do so consistently. He does so only with what suits him and when it suits him.

And when it doesn’t suit him he bad mouths anyone who disagrees with him and if done so on his forum, bans the person so they can’t respond. He’s like the bully in the playground who spits in your eye and then runs away.

He insults his betters to gain popularity and scoffs at the science that disagrees with his opinion. Yes, Mr. Colpo is a real bastion of science – his interpretation of the science that is – and if you don’t like it he’ll take his ball, run home, lock the door and twiddle his thumbs in his ears at you.

We should all take a man like Mr. Colpo very seriously indeed. It is clear by his actions and words that he isn’t in the least bit interested in a serious debate – or relationship - with anyone. He just likes to hear the sound of his own voice.

On his web forum under his name he uses this quote from Sir William Osler:

"The greater the ignorance the greater the dogmatism."

Amen to that. It would do Colpo well to re-read the very quotes he uses to define himself.

Here's one for you Mr. Colpo:

"What you resist, persists."  - C.Jung.

I can't wait to read the response to this blog that Mr. Colpo will assuredly feverishly pen. Perhaps we will get a whole slew of insults and explitives here-to-fore not known to the English language. Maybe he'll even write an entire 50 page free PDF download all about ME this time. Let's wait and see!

Date the ban will be lifted: Never