Science Fiction: Bodybuilding Myths!

I have to admit this article is a lot of me venting. Why? Well, it bothers me to be in a profession where people try to use pseudo science and personal experience to promote a training method as true scientific fact...

I have to admit this article is a lot of me venting. Why? Well, it bothers me to be in a profession where people try to use pseudo science and personal experience to promote a training method as true scientific fact. The truth is there are constant changes and advances being made in the field of conditioning. We know few things that we consider fact and anecdotal evidence is only appropriate when you look at the population used and the number of people tested. What I hope to accomplish through this article is to reduce my frustration and provide some education to those that are trying to make it in this field, either as a trainer, coach, or person that enjoys making themselves better.

The Workouts of Pro Bodybuilders are the Best

Just looking at the impressive physique of a gentleman like Ronnie Coleman and it may seem like common sense to follow his workout routine. If you goal is to become huge and ripped why not right? WRONG!!! Number one, all professional bodybuilders are on a lot of drugs, let us not pretend otherwise. Yes, other sports also are guilty of using drugs to enhance performance, but possibly no other sport is so dependent on the use of drugs than bodybuilding. Drugs allow you to train more often because of one's increased ability to recover, but they also speed up normal physiological processes that normally would not occur, i.e. increased hormonal levels. Not only do bodybuilders take an ENORMOUS amount of drugs; they are also known to inject various substances into their bodies to give selected body parts and enhanced look. I personally do not have a problem with the use of drugs to improve one's quality of life, but I do not approve of the abuse of drugs.

Many bodybuilders also have personal trainers of their own. Most of the bodybuilders do not have an extensive background in biomechanics, kinesiology, or the various sports sciences. This does not mean everything, but without understanding how the body works, how can one pretend to be an expert in improving its functions. How would you also like to know that many of the articles in the popular muscle magazines are ghost written! Yep, many times the staff writers of a certain magazine will simply get the approval of a certain bodybuilder to use their name in an article they write. So, sometimes you will not even be reading an article that was actually written by your favorite bodybuilder. At the same time I have to admit there are some very knowledgeable bodybuilders like Milos Scarcev. The take home message is realize the above and become very critical when deciding what training methodologies you are going to employ.

There is a Perfect Workout

How many people are constantly searching for the perfect workout that will get them all the gains they have been looking for? Many different associations will claim their system is all you will need. However, the truth is even the best planned and sensible training program will only work for a limited time. The reason for this occurrence is the body is a very smart organism. The body will go through a process known as accommodation. This means the body adapts to the training program and becomes more efficient at performing the workout and the stimulus decreases. That is a great reason plateaus occur. As Strength Coach, Charles Poliquin, says, "a workout is only as good as the time it takes for your body to adapt to it." So, understanding principles such as volume, intensity, density, recovery, and periodization will keep the educated trainer on the right path and the follower plateauing continuously.

Sculpt, Tone, Shape, Define

These are all bogus bodybuilding terms. One can not shape, nor sculpt a muscle. A muscle's shape is predetermined by genetics. The origin and insertion points of a muscle determine how the muscle is going to be shaped, this is why some people have a bicep that reaches all the way to the forearm and some have a bicep that looks like it ends an inch short. Tone is also a commonly misused word. This word refers to the state of a muscle contraction. The true word is tonus and far more involved than what people use it for. The body can do four simple things... gain or lose muscle and gain or lose fat. Realizing that should help people more clearly define their goals.

This Exercise Will Put on 50 pounds of Mass

Okay, this is an obvious sarcastic statement, but how many times have we seen a title like this on a book or a training article. Again, the truth can be very different. Of course there are exercises that are more efficient in increasing strength and muscle mass. These are usually compound movements (pull-ups, squats, bench press, and deadlifts). The reason these lifts are very effective and usually prioritized over isolation movements is they use more muscles at one time and because of the higher loads will stimulate more motor unit activation. The main problem with a lot of programs I see is they use too many isolation movements because someone is trying to "shape or sculpt." However, when one wants to increase a certain area they may need to increase the volume to that muscle group. One should always try to incorporate compound movements and if you are not exceeding a reasonable level of volume you can utilize some isolation exercises. I have to say though; I have seen some impressive arms built without much time devoted to direct arm work.

Supplement X is 600% more absorbable than supplement Y

I had a friend one time do the math on a product that was claiming something similar to the above statement. The result was outrageous and impossible. Many supplement companies will lie to consumers by two main methods. One is that they will make statements about their products after citing a study that may have something to do with their product. Many studies are not done on humans, so saying this supplement will increase this much muscle mass is humans because it did in chickens is very debatable. Also, supplement companies will put down rivals to make theirs seem very superior. If you are looking at two reliable supplement companies with similar products, chances are they are the same and any additional price you are paying for mystery ingredient X is a waste. I hate to say this, but the old saying, "if it sounds too good to be true then it usually is" is a pretty accurate statement when it comes to supplementation.

My hope is many people can avoid the mistakes that many others and I have made in the field. Believe it or not, this is a field with a lot more science involved than most people would like to think. Results are derived from a smart plan, organization, and determination.