Bodybuilding Has Lied To You

Discussion in 'Articles' started by TinyTim, Apr 3, 2015.

  1. TinyTim

    TinyTim Timothy Sprague-Dawley Top Contributor

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    Credit to Matthew Perryman,

    Over the last say five, six years, I’ve pretty well managed to wall myself off from gym culture. I do lift in a commercial gym, though I have very little contact with the people there – unless you count staring in slack-jawed amazement at some of the antics and stupidity as contact. I don’t, personally.

    Most of the people I talk to in person are real lifters of some sort or another, guys that like powerlifting and strongman and Highland games. The manly kind of sports that you can drink beer with. We don’t always agree 100% on the details, but we also know that the details don’t matter and that in every way that matters, we’re on the same page.

    Online, I’ve almost entirely stayed away from sites like (insert main amercian BB'ing website) or the beloved T-mag precisely because they encourage so much of that Bro mentality – that faux-macho wannabe outlook that relies on being ‘edgy’ and ‘hardcore’ and ‘latching on to the nuts of this year’s popular guru’.

    Since taking myself out of all that, I’ve developed what I can only describe as selective amnesia, because I’ve genuinely been surprised at some of the stupid that’s out there – and it’s layered, complex stupid. This can range from the mostly harmless repetition of Bro-mantras like the beloved ’shock the body to keep it guessing’, right on up to full on ‘I still weigh 60kg and can’t put on weight but let me tell you how to do things’.

    I’ve discussed the abstract concept of stupidity before, and it’s an interesting thing. Stupidity isn’t just the absence of intelligence or information; it’s the active rejection of learning that works by convincing the stupid person that s/he doesn’t need to learn in the first place. Of course stupid and ignorant are relative terms, but I’m of the firm belief that most anybody can be coached or trained in the gym if they’re given enough guidance.

    One thing that’s always struck me about the guys that are ’stuck’ – can’t get over 75kg, bench won’t go past 90kg – is their own lack of self-awareness. It should be simple to understand that, if your current behaviors aren’t moving you towards your goals, then you’re going to have to change your behaviors.

    If what you’re doing isn’t working, you’re going to have to do something else.

    This is such a staggeringly simple concept that I just can’t believe people don’t get it. But it happens every single damn day. If you go to any of the big busy forums online, you’ll see one question asked more than anything else: “why can’t I gain weight?” This question will come in different flavors and styles, but it always remains.

    You see it in any commercial gym. Next time you’re in such a place, have a look at how many skinny-looking guys are walking around in the weights area. If you come back in a year, assuming they haven’t quit, none of them will look any different.

    I drew up a flowchart outline to give a quick rundown of the thought process that these guys go through:
    1. Recognize that I’m underweight, out of shape, and weak. Make a commitment to be at the gym five days a week.
    2. Read a magazine with a big muscular guy on the cover. Find his workout.
    3. Do the workout from the magazine, as long as it’s for: chest, shoulders, arms, or back. Skip legs because you run a lot.
    4. Gain a little weight because of beginner gains. Don’t change your diet to increase protein or calorie intake.
    5. Stall out because you’re not eating enough and because you insist on doing bodybuilder’s routine. Body weight levels off around 70-75kg and bench is stuck somewhere between 60-80kg.
    6. Decide that you’re ‘cutting’ now, since you want abs for summer. If you’re really determined to get big, skip 6 and go to 7.
    7. Ask the big guy in the gym for some steroids. Go on a cycle of even though you’ve been lifting for a year and have no idea how to eat or train.
    8. Get ‘good gains’ on your cycle, which is really just water-bloat and not gains at all, but you believe it’s gains because the scale goes up and all the other idiots tell you it’s gains.
    9. Come off cycle and lose all your gains the water weight. Strength and stamina in the gym go back to **** because the only reason you could sustain your workout was because of the juice.
    10. Go back to 7. If you’re now depressed and ‘over it,’ go back to 6.
    11. That about sums it up I think. I’d guess that most every guy at your gym, with only a few exceptions that will be obvious, is stuck somewhere in this flowchart. Beginners seem to repeat steps 1-5 without fail, and guys that have more than a year or so under their belts are either bouncing between that or ‘cutting for the beach’. A few more will go on to repeat the endless loop of steroid cycling without any real muscle gains to speak of.

    Why does this loop keep happening, and why do so many, almost 100%, get stuck in it? There are two fundamental reasons:

    1) You don’t know how to eat. Popular bodybuilding wisdom encourages low-calorie diets of ‘clean’ foods, usually chicken and broccoli. That’s all fine and dandy, but it doesn’t add muscle to skinny bodies.

    2) You don’t know how to train. Popular bodybuilding and ‘general fitness’ wisdom encourages you to split your training into 3-6 days a week, with each session devoted to one body part. That’s all fine and dandy, but it’s kinda missing the point.

    These are hard truths, but you have to accept them. If you’re a skinny kid, the worst thing you can do is listen to what’s in the magazines and listen to what gym-culture tells you to do.

    Gym-culture says you need to split up your body and focus on each muscle group to grow. That’s a load of horse****, because for every guy you see that’s big or strong and uses that system, the majority of guys following it fail completely and spectacularly. And then instead of thinking ‘gee, maybe I should re-think this strategy,’ they either give up or start popping steroids like candy.

    Then they grow, mainly because of water retention; and then once they come off, they lose all their gains water. That’s a productive strategy.

    If you want the best gains, you need to focus on training regularly and training to get strong. Strength is size. Remember that. Repeat it. Say it out loud. Strength is size.
  2. TinyTim

    TinyTim Timothy Sprague-Dawley Top Contributor

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    If you’re a big guy that uses body-part splits, by all means keep at it. If you enjoy it and think it’s productive, I’m not going to say you’re wrong. If you’re a skinny kid that’s hit a plateau, I’m telling you there’s a better way to do things.

    The bodybuilding paradigm goes back to the 1970s and 1980s, stretching back to Joe Weider’s philosophy on pumping up the muscle with endless volume. This only got worse in the 80s when everybody was on the juice and could grow on the super-high volume splits that are still with us today.

    A bodybuilding session will have something like 4-5 exercises per muscle group, with the premise being that you must hammer and grind and ultimately defeat the muscle by bludgeoning it with set after set. That’s not strength training; that’s endurance exercise. It may work for you as a beginner, but the biggest effect this training has is 1) inflaming your muscles and pumping them up right after the workout; and 2) bloating them up by increasing the amount of water, glycogen, and other goodies stored in there.

    Needless to say, if you don’t have muscle to pump in the first place, this isn’t going to work very well. Leave the volume-training to big guys with a strength foundation.

    Muscles respond most favorably to heavy, high-tension movements; and no, you do not have to work every muscle directly for them to grow. This is because muscle groups overlap and fill many of the same roles. Yes, this means that once you’ve worked the hell out of your bench press, your triceps probably don’t need that much work.

    Bodybuilding has so poisoned the well that most people don’t even realize that they can train with any other system. If someone wants to grow, then they default to the five-day body-part split. I’m telling you right now: any ‘bodybuilding’ training should be secondary to your basic strength training; and only then if you’re really convinced you need it. If you’re 75kg and bitching that you can’t get any bigger, you probably don’t need it.

    What you need instead if a basic program that focuses on getting stronger. ‘I don’t want to be a powerlifter,’ you say. ‘I want to build a good physique with mass and symmetry.’ The funny part is that most people that say that have no idea what it even means as it comes out of their mouths.

    Strength is size. If you want ‘mass’, you need to get stronger with the big lifts. If you want ’symmetry’, well, you need to talk to your parents. Anything else is a function of leanness. To many would-be bodybuilders just don’t realize this, and they stay both small and weak as a result. At least until they go on the sauce.

    If you’ve already got a decent base of strength from years of training, you might benefit from this lighter bodybuilding stuff. You might even want to play with the split routines for a change of pace. You just have no business following that kind of routine when you don’t have that foundation to build on.

    Now what about diet? This is the other pillar of gaining muscle and body-weight, and it’s just as much of a spectacular failure for most people.

    The gym-culture says to eat every 2-3 hours to ‘keep the metabolic fires burning’. Right. The diet itself revolves around lean meats (almost always chicken), green veggies (almost always broccoli), and ‘clean carbs’ with oats being the number one contender.

    Okay look, that’s fine if you’re already big and trying to maintain some degree of leanness. If you’re a little dude, just give it a rest. Seriously. I don’t care about your damn abs if you’re bitching about being stuck at 70kg for the last year.

    Shut up and go eat a cheeseburger.

    There’s nothing wrong with eating lean meats and ‘clean carbs’ later on, once you’ve actually gotten strong and added some muscle. I want you to try eating enough to grow with that diet, though. Smaller guys will probably need to push 4000 kcals per day to grow. That’s a lot of chicken and broccoli and oats. Really dedicated guys can do it, but I’m telling you it’s pointless macho bull****. There are easier ways.

    Ways like pizza.

    If you want a solid plan to grow without turning into a total fatass, a strategy to which I can relate, then set your daily calorie intake to around 18 times your body weight in pounds as a starting point. Set protein to at least 1 gram per lb first. Put carbs at maybe 2-2.5 times body weight, depending on your preference, and then make up the remainder from fat. The actual type of food doesn’t matter so much; if you can fit in cheeseburgers, fit them in. Cheeseburgers want to be eaten. Just remember that the numbers come first.

    As to how many meals to eat, if you’re bulking you never want to be hungry. That sounds like one of those hard-liner absolutist statements, but there is truth to it. I’d make it a point to at least get protein every few hours to keep amino acid levels high.

    Depending on how sloppy you want to get, you may find that you want to eat more than this. That’s fine too. Just remember that to be realistic, it’s probably not the best of ideas to add 50 lbs of fat in order to bump your squat 10 lbs. I’m all for bulking, but experience has taught me that bulking out of control is counterproductive. If you’re going to do it, do it right – make sure you’re actually adding strength and adding muscle.
    Beklet, Dtlv, TheProducer and 8 others like this.
  3. Dig

    Dig Mod & Powerlifting Expert Moderator

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    Like the message- to add size add strength and eat enough food. So simple but beating the log book each week is fcking hard work, it's easier to point out *insert shit hot bber here* says strength doesnt matter and to follow a strict rep tempo and TUT training (forgetting adding reps increases TUT anyway) for best results. Throw in some phrases like the fs(hi)t-7 and if it wasnt sold before it is now.

    Some big guys will say they now dont aim for strength gains as much as playing with tempo's, volume etc. Chances are though they did at some point or are strong by default of actually training hard for years. Always going to get a few who grow like weeds coasting through their training life as well but few and far between.

    Adding weight/reps each session is far harder than a ton of half arsed sets. Just as compounds are harder than pissing around with cables on a bosu ball.

    The TUT thing winds me up a bit- if skinny and weak having trained for a decent period of time then chances are not pushing hard enough in gym....solution....count out how many seconds you take on each phase of the rep on each set. Doesnt go hand in hand with training intensity that is a fact unless have a partner to do all the counting out loud for tempo, but even then dont be a pussy just get stronger ffs!
    Biff, rick89, TheProducer and 14 others like this.
  4. Tommy6

    Tommy6 Top Contributor

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    @Dig what rep ranges would you suggest for beating the log book? All of them? Lol.
  5. Nytol

    Nytol Competitor

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    That is an absolutely brilliant piece of writing!!!

    I'd make it a sticky with dancing gold stars each side, in fact I'd make reading it a requirement of joining the forum :D

    And Neil you have hit the nail on the head with your comments, beating a log book is hard work both physically and mentally, it can cause a degree of anxiety going to the gym knowing you have to get that extra rep, especially on hard stuff like squats or DL.

    The TUT winds me the fuck up too, as there is always emphasis on the 'time' but never any on the 'tension'.
    TinyTim, rick89, JB and 8 others like this.
  6. TinyTim

    TinyTim Timothy Sprague-Dawley Top Contributor

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    That should be the embodiment of lifting to get bigger. Great post mate.

    Sadly, jabbing 2-3g per week for temporary water gains seems to be the route for many now.
    The number of people who "come off" for two or four weeks then post up about losing shit loads of size is nuts.

    Drug abuse vs the hardest manual work you will ever do.
    Easy winner in that battle, for most. :sad:
    rick89, Nytol, TwoCanVanDamn and 2 others like this.
  7. Dig

    Dig Mod & Powerlifting Expert Moderator

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    Yep. Mix it up. After a while find best rep ranges for your goals, eg if leg growth was my goal id go 12-20 reps for the most part as low reps dont do much for me vs higher reps. The thing is have to remember easiest way to push strength for reps up is push 1RM up so heavy heavy training still has a place even in that scenario imo.
    TinyTim and Guest like this.
  8. OldMember

    OldMember Guest


    I would show it to the countless guys I know (and a lot are friends) who stick rigidly to a bodypart split (usually upwards of 5 days a week or twice a day training) yet look exactly the same year in year out. However, I know they wouldn't take notice of it, because all you read and hear about is bodypart splits - therefore, it must be the right way.
  9. TwoCanVanDamn

    TwoCanVanDamn Account Suspended

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    So many people I know need to read this

    A lot of lads at my gym are on gear and their training is all over the place, a day dedicated to biceps only and stuff like that. They say they eat loads and when they tell me it works out at about 2000-3000 kals max. They don't believe me when I say I eat kilos of pork a day, cheese, milk, fast food. Their all on chicken and rice and wonder why they don't grow.
    I've given up trying to tell them now
    rick89, Guest1337, Porky and 5 others like this.
  10. Ash1981

    Ash1981 Gym Rat Top Contributor

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    You talking about me @Dig lol???
    JB and Dig like this.
  11. huntingground

    huntingground Kenstradamus Competitor

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    Agree 100%, see my log Matt, I was very nervous before Sunday knowing I had to hit 280 SQ.

    I would state that the lifting is the easy part, it is the mental barriers which are most difficult to beat IMO.
    TinyTim, rick89, Nytol and 2 others like this.
  12. Don

    Don Full Member

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    one thing i can´t hear or read anymore is "HIT" training. These people talk non stop about Arthur Jones,Mike Mentzer his machines and how training to failure is the only way. I train Moderate volume and have nothing against splits. Such as a 3 day one. Full Body is also good if doing 5x5 which i have also enjoyed or doing upper/lower.
  13. Antique Banzi

    Antique Banzi 200 cals over maintenance Top Contributor

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    if you are taking the time to write things down in a log book you are not training hard or concentrating enough.

    What a waste of time.
    Gifford chilford likes this.
  14. TwoCanVanDamn

    TwoCanVanDamn Account Suspended

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    I don't keep a log book because I know what my 1rm pb's and rep pb's are off the top of my head but a blanket statement like you've just made is fairly stupid and ignorant

    But then again you only posted it to get a reaction. Get a grip
  15. Gifford chilford

    Gifford chilford Top Contributor

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    Best letting them carry on with their mistakes, the skinny dellusional trainers that follow textbook advice to the letter, sit with their fkn logbooks or tablet programmes, not a drip of sweat or intensity on em, these people will never take the advice of anyone with contradicts what the textbooks/courses have programmed them to believe, its like convincing al qaeda that allah doesnt exist, its futile. I had an arguement with a 10st pencilneck about nutrition other day, 10st and arguing about calories in/calories out, carb sensitivity, you have to copy and paste studies just to get their attention, the fact that im 100kg and a fairly low bf isnt enough evidence. Let the pencils carry on i say, i actually help nobody in the gym now, you give advice, and a min later you look over and theyre doing kipping pullups instead of dead hangs that you told them to do, on the advice of a commercial pt............fuck em
    Antique Banzi likes this.