Credit to Matthew Perryman, AmpedTraining.com 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: Recognize that I’m underweight, out of shape, and weak. Make a commitment to be at the gym five days a week. Read a magazine with a big muscular guy on the cover. Find his workout. Do the workout from the magazine, as long as it’s for: chest, shoulders, arms, or back. Skip legs because you run a lot. Gain a little weight because of beginner gains. Don’t change your diet to increase protein or calorie intake. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. Go back to 7. If you’re now depressed and ‘over it,’ go back to 6. 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.