Hans Kroon: 15-minute sixpack session only adds a lot of misery

Hans Kroon discusses the myths about fitness
Published on Jun 10, 2022, 12:46:18 PM

It's great that social media has made access to information so much easier in recent years. At the same time, it has also opened the doors wide to all sorts of self-proclaimed “certified professionals” who consider themselves to have a more important role than they would deserve.

Fitness, for example, is one such industry that is perhaps, more than we’d like to more, ruled by pseudoscientists and fitness coaches who have gained some notoriety through social media.

As part of Warrior Code's mission to hear directly from true professionals in the world of sports about responsible training, nutrition and philosophy, we recently spoke with strength training expert Hans Kroon. Kroon has been involved in the world of fitness since the early 1980s, is the owner of the Fitnesscentrumnoord in Rotterdam, also commonly referred to as the 'House of Champions', and still fanatically lifts weights himself: he trains 6 times a week and is a natural bodybuilder. Having said that, Hans Kroon is probably best known for his work with Dutch top athletes such as judokas Marhinde Verkerk and Juul Fransen, but also boxer Nouchka Fontijn, football players Stefan de Vrij and Ron Vlaar and kickboxers Serkan Ozcaglayan, Gokhan Saki, Bulaid and Tayfun Özcan. They all work with the veteran because of his uncompromising approach to sport and dedication to achieving success. 

We spoke with Kroon about certain hard-to-erase-myths that continue to live on in fitness, the incomprehensible decision by the government to equate sport with the hospitality industry during the lockdowns, the dubious role of social media, its influence on our discipline and the supermarket as a reflection of the state of our society. What is the role and responsibility of the individual in this and how does it relate to all the distractions and obstacles that come along the way 

Hans, maybe to start at the beginning, you have been involved in the fitness world for about 40 years, you have completed the CIOS (Dutch school for physical exercise) yourself and then completed the physical education training in military service. If you take stock now, how do you look at the fitness landscape?

"It hurts me somewhat to see how so many untruths about how to exercise just don’t seem to be able to go away. Of course, you have opinions and facts and you have quite a lot of people today who base many claims on an opinion that is not scientifically substantiated but is very much presented that way."

Why is it a problem that so many different people can present their views on fitness and sports? Isn't this simply called democratising information and putting the responsibility on the individual for how they deal with it?

"Partly it's because there is an abundance of trainers and there is no credential system that actually forms the basis of anything. Well, a certificate doesn't always say everything, but it should provide somewhat of a guaranteed quality. The biggest problem that derives from the current state of affairs in which you have so many pseudo-trainers and scientists is that the myths are actually all maintained, and it becomes a tangle that is impossible to unravel what is right and what is wrong. 

Of course, there are 50 shades of grey when it comes to sports science, but really some things should be universally accepted.

To give an example: the enormous misunderstandings that exist with regard to abdominal exercises. This so-called 15-minute sixpack session or the way in which abdominal exercises are sometimes taught in the kickboxing world is a straight application for lower back problems. It doesn't add anything except a lot of misery."

Let’s take one step back, the 15-minute sixpack session you’re referring to. Besides the fact that it’s, as you say, a short-cut to lower back problems, does it also expose how we are currently so focused on achieving short-term successes and do not want to invest too much time to achieve results?

"I think so. It is of course a question of mentality. People are always looking for the highway, the path with the least amount of resistance with all the associated risks. Wanting to achieve results by just talking about it, but otherwise not wanting to put in the real work or invest time. The result is always linked to a process and that requires the necessary ingredients to be successful. If you were to ask people whether they want to choose the most efficient or the fastest way, they tend to tend to go for the second."

You have said a couple of times that the word discipline is no longer fashionable these days, that it is an outdated term. Is that related to this?

"What I want to say is that you can certainly speak of a broader behavioural change in society. Whether that is partly due to covid, or social media is up for debate, but you only have to walk into the supermarket to see that people behaves differently Discipline is behaviour and every now and then behaviour needs a correction And that correction I don't see happening right now. Maybe because we just don't feel like putting the time and energy into it right now, but I just don’t see it. 

For example, it is very easy to give your child a tablet or telephone because that will keep them quiet for the next two hours, but of course it has nothing to do with parenting. We always opt for the easiest way instead of making an effort to enforce some sort of positive change. Instead, we always blame the child for not having any discipline. Would you be up for, if you have sat at work all day, stressed out, to also challenge your kid on a couple of things when you get home because they’re not behaving the way you told them to? A conflict, in this context, may sound heavy-handed, but what it is about is that it starts with ourselves."

The past two years have shown that when things must be sacrificed, the gyms are almost first among them, along with the hospitality industry. Can you understand that despite the risk of contamination, sports were treated so strictly?

"I can only say that I have indeed found that the most stupid decision I have ever seen in my life. How can you, as a government, in a health-threatening crisis lock up the facilities that are health-promoting? I think that during the pandemic we needed access to exercise more than ever because we were suddenly all at home. This proved to me again that leadership in stress management is incredibly important because the evidence is there, stress does crazy things to people."

It was incomprehensible to me that sport was not seen as essential, it should be the most essential thing above all. I would be a great proponent of making physical exercise a compulsory part of the educational curriculum, just like Dutch is. It would be the red thread from pre-school all the way through our daily lives until the end of university. Non-stop teaching about the importance of exercise and sports. We are always talking about how to put less pressure on healthcare. Well, this could be the start of a solution. Unfortunately, Covid has given me insight into how long the road is that we still have to go. We are so busy with material things and actually forget our health."

In that respect, the supermarket is perhaps a good reflection of our society. You only must look at what is on our shelves and in people's baskets. It really is shocking when you think that the body is our engine. You wouldn't be throwing rubbish in a Ferrari if you had one, so to speak? It's 80% junk and the other 20% is some sort of reasonable thing. Also look at high schools during recess to see what all those children just stomp in. I find it incomprehensible how poorly we take care of ourselves."

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