The 10th man story

Working as an exercise professional I noticed too many discrepancies between theory and practice – the more I saw, and the more I realised how frustrating this had to be for practitioners and clients. Moving into academia I got to examine those theory and practice disconnects and introduced them into my teaching. I like to believe that I was a good critical thinker – trouble was I sensed that I was coming across as negative and antagonising my students and others.

One lazy afternoon, I happened to watch World War-Z. I’m not really into zombies but the 10th man story in World War-Z really resonated with me. For those that don’t know, in the movie the 10th man principle was a deliberate strategy used by the leaders in Israel to try and prevent ‘mob-think’. It was kind of an insurance policy to help them avoid getting carried away or deceived by a particular idea. In a group of 10 individuals, the duty of the designated 10th man is to find fault with any idea, no matter how attractive that idea may appear or how appealing the logic. I introduced the 10th man concept into my teaching and was surprised by the change in student attitudes. Trying to teach reflection and critical thinking hadn’t been easy, but the 10th man smoothed the way and seemed to be the one thing that my students remembered well from lectures.

There’s a whole lot of conjecture, misconception and misinformation in exercise and strength and conditioning, so I’m going to float the 10th man and explore a few things through this blog. I’m not for a moment trying to suggest that what I’m saying is right and everyone else is wrong. What I want to get across is the idea that – Hey, here is something that everyone seems to agree on – but maybe there is an alternate way of looking at it. Maybe all is not as it seems! Hopefully there is something here for you – please let me know – agree, disagree – just comment.

p.s. I realise that 10th man is not at all politically correct – however I’m going to stick with it for ease, but know that when I use 10th man I absolutely acknowledge that anyone can be the 10th person.

p.p.s. Anything I reference in these blogs, I can provide a full reference for – if I don’t reference something that you are interested in just email me on