Bodybuilding: Its True Nature!

From reading theory after theory, you most probably have many questions about the 'sport' and your place within it. You may be, understandably, confused.
If you are new to the world of bodybuilding and fitness, you have probably already concluded that many theories and ideas exist about how to transform your body into the "ideal" form. From reading theory after theory, you most probably have many questions about the "sport" and your place within it. You may be, understandably, confused.

Many people who begin a physical activity regimen that includes bodybuilding fail to ask themselves "what exactly is bodybuilding anyway?" Sadly, most that do ask the question, reply "well its common sense. You go to the gym and lift weights."

One thing should be clear from having observed friends, family and co-workers: Common sense is not so common! The sad reality is that most people simply act with little or no conscious knowledge of why they behave the way they do. They operate according to the law of accident. In the quest to acquire wealth and power, instead of going to school and getting an education and then starting a career, many will just "hope they win the lottery."

These people hope that everything will "fall on their head" and work out. They operate according to the law of accident. Many bodybuilders operate according to this law also. They just "hope" they will get big or strong.

As a beginner years ago I, naturally, had many questions. These questions were:

  • Do I have what it takes?
  • Can I do it?
  • Will I ever get huge?
  • Is there any hope for me, without taking steroids, to get as big as the pro's?

Although my questions were not limited to the four listed, most of them, when simplified, were embodied and conceptualized by the questions above. Although not at first apparent, the very nature of these types of questions presents difficulty. This shall become clear later.

In bodybuilding circles there are differing views on virtually every aspect of health and nutrition. Eat more protein to get big, eat less fat, eat more fat, bodybuilding is a sport, bodybuilding is not a sport, bodybuilding is an art, bodybuilding is a science, give it your "all", be "tough", etc, ad infinitum. It is clear how one can become confused from the onset. Because of the vast amount of misinformation, mis-knowledge and rhetoric "out-there" it is often difficult to sift through the nonsense to find the "stuff" that works.

I examined, proved and outlined in detail many problems affecting obese segments of the population. In the analysis of philosophy provided, the conclusion was that a conflict existed between the philosophy of the masses and science. For purposes of illustration, and to demonstrate relevance, we shall examine the types of questions asked by the masses and the scientific community, and shall examine the ramifications of the underlying thought processes as they apply to a career in bodybuilding.

-> Your Philosophy:

As with any subject, your psycho-epistemology determines your worldview. Simply defined, epistemology studies man's method of cognition (Rand, 1974).

In the article cited above, it was demonstrated that the two schools of philosophical thought are Kantianism (also known as Mysticism) and Science (Aristotelian Philosophy). Whatever school of thought you subscribe to will determine your world-view. Mysticism emphasizes inward reflection and teaches that the outer world is an illusion. It also states that the senses cannot give an accurate picture of reality as it exists.

In his book Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant asked, "Can we really know anything?" In asking this question, Kant set out, not to discover an answer, but to invalidate the senses of man. Therefore, with this school of thought, inner experience and reflection are emphasized. Not surprisingly, then, questions of the type of the above are the result.


Can I do it?
Do I have what it takes?

With the Aristotelian school of thought, the opposite is true. Logic and science are stressed. Procedure is paramount. Empirical observation, induction and deduction are stressed. Logical conclusions from logical, specific questions are the product. The physical world and its laws are king.

As mentioned, newcomers ask themselves questions like the four listed. The difficulty lies not in the desire to obtain answers, but in the method of questioning. The questions are neither specific nor logical according to the circumstance. Questions such as the ones above emphasize a mystical approach to a physical situation.

The first step to becoming a successful bodybuilder is to change the way you think about the activity. This reform in your logical reasoning will result in a change in the resulting questions you ask with respect to the activity. Recognizing that bodybuilding is a physical endeavor, questions regarding ones character or super-human like qualities seem totally out of place. They are. The questions one has about a physical endeavor ought to apply to that subject and no other.

To illustrate, consider the following questions:

  • What is required to stimulate muscle growth?
  • What is required to produce muscular response to exercise?
  • What specific exercises are required to stimulate certain parts of the body?

Very quickly, one can observe the contrast in mindset presented between these two sets of questions. The first set of questions are based not on science, but on mysticism and internal reflection. Internal reflection does little to affect biological response. It does not concern the protoplasm or mitochondria in your body whether or not you possess some unknowable, undefined inner quality. The parts of your body function according to their genetic sequence.

When one adopts the mystical approach to training it is easy to see how quickly one links self-esteem and personal worth to the attainment of ones goals. As soon as results do not materialize, the "logical conclusion" of the illogical premise is that the person lacks some quality necessary to produce muscle. They are, therefore, doomed to failure.

With the scientific approach to bodybuilding, personal worth and character are not the subjects of consideration. With science, personal qualities and personality are of no consequence to the physiological functioning of the body. The focus of the inquiry is: "do these methodical procedures work to obtain the desired response?"

When one adopts the approach to training with the mindset presented in the second set of questions, training and science merge. For purposes of understanding, the scientific method is provided. Consider the steps involved, and ponder your own training regimen and notice where improvements may be made to your own approach. The scientific method is as follows:

  1. Step 1: Observe some aspect of the universe.

An observation of some aspect of the universe is made. In this case the observation is respecting your poundage's in the gym, as well as a visual evaluation of your musculature.

    Step 2: Invent a tentative description, called a hypothesis that is consistent with what you have observed.

After you have observed the poundage's you are able to lift, and after you have also obtained a picture of your physique, you form a hypothesis. In this case, the hypothesis may be "If I do incline bench presses at a 30 degree angle, I will stimulate upper pectoral growth." Or it may be "If I am now working at 75% of my 1 repetition maximum for 12 repetitions, I will become stronger by doing 85-90% of my one repetition maximum for 4 reps." In short, you are using the hypothesis to make predictions about the predictable result or function of a circumstance.

    Step 3: Test those predictions by experiments or further observations and modify the hypothesis in the light of your results.

This step is the most important of the four steps. Having already made your prediction, you can then test the accuracy of it in light of further observations. If, in the example presented in step 2, your current regimen is calculated according to your 1 rep maximum lift, and you are presently working at 75% of that one rep maximum, if your goal is 2 repetitions at 90% of the 1RM, you will be able to accurately assess whether such a feat is possible. If you are able to exceed 2 repetitions, it is logical to conclude that your 1RM has increased and you are, therefore, stronger.

    Step 4: Repeat steps 3 and 4 until there are no discrepancies between theory and experiment and/or observation.

Having your hypothesis and your data derived from testing [from the workout], you may then compare the two by the numbers and adjust them accordingly. It may be that you cannot perform the feat of 2 reps at 90% of your 1RM. You would then adjust your hypothesis and put your revised hypothesis to test. When you are able to meet hypothesis with data you can then make a conclusion as to the true value of your 1RM.

Or, as the alternative, you can go back to "trying harder" and wondering if you "have what it takes to make it pro." The smarter philosophy and option of the two scenarios is more than obvious.


Bonus: Calculating Your 1 Rep Max

Do you want to find out how strong you are? Sure we all do. Need to know what your one rep max is for a new workout program based on percentages? It is simple! Use the following calculator and table to figure it out. Of course, this is only an estimate. Your actual one rep max could be higher or lower! (Hopefully higher!)

1 Rep Max Calculator

Weight Lifted In Pounds:

Number of Reps:



Your Approximate 1 Rep Max is


-> Why People Don't See Results:

Being a bodybuilder, it is my firm conclusion that bodybuilders and fitness athletes fail to see results from their endeavors because they:

  • Have the wrong mindset and psycho-epistemology
  • Have failed to explicitly define their objectives
  • Have failed to utilize the scientific method in their training programs

Quite obviously, the world is a physical domain. Planet Earth is composed of chemicals, compounds, nutrients and minerals. Human beings are also composed of minerals and chemicals. As a result, we are the product of the physical universe, and we are subject to its laws.

Science is the study of the physical world via the senses. Empiricism is the method by which science observes the world. Accordingly, one must utilize science and the senses to determine the functioning of the human organism.

-> Conclusion:

We, therefore, return to the question: "What is bodybuilding?" Is it simply "lifting weights", "pumping iron" and getting "pumped up"??

If, after reading this far, you are still answering that bodybuilding "Is common sense", you need to re-read this article. IF after the second reading you still cannot understand the true nature of bodybuilding, then nothing will help you.

Quite simply, bodybuilding is a subjective desire whose manifestation depends and operates upon scientific principles. Bodybuilding is, therefore, a scientific endeavor. As a bodybuilder, then, you are an applied scientist. If you fail to utilize the tools of science in your goal of building a better physique, you relegate yourself to the status of a person with some misguided notion of getting huge.

Science operates on predictable procedures and makes observations about the universe. It determines, through trial and error, the true nature and functioning of the physical existence. In so doing, it is able to predict the functioning of the physical existence with increasing accuracy.

Your results as a bodybuilder can also become predictable, but only if you utilize the methods described here. I am most confident that if you apply science to your bodybuilding endeavors, control and account for all possible variables, and you are critical and discriminative with respect to bodybuilding methodology, your physique will ascend to heights only previously imagined.

-> References:

1. Rand, A. (1974). Philosophy: who needs it. New York, NY: The Bobbs-Merrill Company.

-> Disclaimer:

The information provided in this publication is for educational and informational purposes only and does not serve as a replacement to care provided by your own personal health care team or physician. The author does not render or provide medical advice, and no individual should make any medical decisions or change their health behavior based on information provided here. Readers are encouraged to confirm the information contained herein with other sources. Readers and consumers should review the information in this publication carefully with their professional health care provider. The information in this or other publications authored by the writer is not intended to replace medical advice offered by physicians.

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Copyright © Clayton South, 2002 All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means (electronic mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of the copyright holder and author of this publication.

Thanks,