Paul Chek on the fitness industry

(Image credit: Unknown)

I’ll come right out with it. I don’t like the way that most fitness professionals work and train. I don’t like seeing the meatheads who do nothing but stack on muscle. I don’t like seeing the power-hungry people who want to hammer the shit out of you on any kind of exercise they can and get you swinging whatever implement they think is cool.
I’ve been lecturing professionally since 1988 and, back then, I would talk about functional exercise, using free weights and the dangers of machines and people thought I was nuts. Yet I’m the man who introduced the use of the gym ball to the exercise community. Before I popularised their use they were only used in professional rehab facilities and even they didn’t know how to use them properly. I also reinvigorated the concept of medicine ball training. And I developed an item of kit called the tornado ball.
The problem is, I’ve watched the industry go from being very controlled with the use of fixed access machines to something more like what I was teaching and then to being extremely radical. The same people who used to be on leg press and knee extension machines are doing combat martial arts, hardcore kettlebell classes and all sorts of extreme stuff, yet their knowledge of how the body works and how to condition themselves is no better than it was 20 years ago. Consequently, the rate of injury I see is going through the roof.
My philosophy is that there’s no such thing as a bad exercise, only an incorrectly prescribed exercise. To me, all exercises are like tools in a mechanic’s toolbox. If you went to a mechanic and you needed your engine rebuilt and all he had was a screwdriver and a crescent wrench you’d get nervous, right? That’s because every tool has limitations. You can only get so strong on a gym ball, for example. And you can’t improve agility and co-ordination on a leg press.

The correct way to think about fitness is to think about every aspect of your mental and physical wellbeing – holistic health. I call my system ‘the four doctors’. To me there are only four doctors you’ll ever need and as long as you have regular meetings with those four doctors you’ll never need any other doctor. Those doctors are Dr Happiness, Dr Diet, Dr Movement and Dr Quiet. I tell my students that if you have a big enough dream, you don’t need a crisis, so Dr Happiness is ‘have a dream’. Dr Diet is fuelling yourself to achieve the dream. Dr Movement is anything to do with creating, moving, thinking or doing and Dr Quiet is the rest you require. When you have balance between Dr Quiet and Dr Movement you have adequate energy to accomplish your objective.
It’s not difficult to live according to my system. If you look at how much time and energy people spend going to doctors or buying pills, how much time they miss from work due to illness, how diminished their sex drive is, how diminished their creativity is – all due to their mismanagement of those four doctors – my system seems pretty effective and efficient.
Paul Chek was speaking at the FitPro convention. For more on Chek, visit For more from top coaches and industry experts, subscribe to Men's Fitness. We'll give you five issues for £5. You can also download digital versions of the magazine here.

Jon Lipsey

Jon Lipsey worked for Men’s Fitness UK, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach. Jon was deputy editor and editor from 2007 to 2013. He returned as editor-in-chief from 2016 to 2019. He also co-founded IronLife Media and the New Body Plan