“Visualization for Bodybuilding”: Seeing Muscle Gaining Success before it Happens
“Weightless Workouts”: What will they do for you?

“Bodybuilding Words”: At least 5 that need to go?

Nearly every field and area of special interest has its share of jargon. Most include at least a few terms that are ambiguous or even nonsensical. Bodybuilding is certainly no exception. There are ‘bodybuilding words’ that are aptly descriptive of their corresponding items and activities, along with some that are downright humorous. But there are also those that are just plain idiotic or even misleading. Let’s look at five of the sillier bodybuilding words that I think would be better off forgotten or at least modified. In doing so, we’ll aim to clarify some misconceptions as well.

Quality Muscle”: Is there a kind of muscle that doesn’t have “quality?”

This is one of those ‘bodybuilding words’ that has me wonder in disbelief at how the person who uttered it or put it on paper could do it with a straight face. Even acknowledging that what they mean is “muscle gained without fat”, muscle’s one thing and fat is another; too much fat’s undesirable while muscle has positive characteristics – none of which vary in quality.

Bottom line: this most nonsensical of bodybuilding words needs to go.

Good Workout”: Although there’s nothing inherently wrong with someone saying they’ve had a “good workout”, the reason for this bodybuilding word’s ambiguity is typically due to a lack of goal setting and an accompanying absence of tracking one’s progress. Thus, a “good workout” is often left to simply mean a workout that required an exceptional amount of effort to complete and thus left the trainee exhausted. HiRes  

Again, nothing wrong with that; I just have a principle I share with readers of HardBody Success that I think is very important: Seek successful workouts, but don’t mistakenly think that because a successful one can be exhausting that any exhausting workout is successful.

When someone asks me how my workout went, I’ll confess to often using this most ubiquitous of bodybuilding words. However, when I say I’m “having a good workout”, it contains the personally intrinsic meaning that I’m reaching very important milestones that are easily recorded on paper. Anything less is a waste of time.

Bulk Up: This old-school of bodybuilding words is better left alone in both semantics and practice. It traditionally means to gain a lot of fat by taking in excess calories in the misguided notion that this is what’s required to build muscle fast. I’ve discovered this notion to not only be fallacious, but often counterproductive to muscle gaining.

The most important hormone for building muscle naturally is a bodybuilder’s mean testosterone level. There might be no simpler way to inadvertently reduce those levels than to morph oneself into a “bulked up” fat person. As body fat rises, so does the conversion hormone that turns testosterone into estrogen. Lower average testosterone with higher average estrogen is not a biological environment that’s conducive to muscle building.

My personal experience attests to this phenomenon. I’ve made my most consistent muscle mass gains while staying on the lean side. My advice: Dump the “bulking up” term in both verbiage and practice; your body will thank you for it.

Cheat Reps”: As compared with other rep modifying bodybuilding techniques such as forced reps, I find this one to be simply unnecessary rather than completely counterproductive. The traditional idea behind this practice is to complete a few sloppy repetitions in bad form after exhausting the muscle’s ability to perform strict reps. Thus it’s been usually used as a sort of “set-extending” technique.

The problem I’ve noticed with this is it can often lead to bad habits within the performance of more than just these final reps in a set. Many bodybuilders, especially guys, wrap their egos around how much weight they can pile on a bar during a workout. I’ve witnessed this tendency as it transforms selective cheat reps into habitual ones that creep into an ever-higher percentage of the workouts. This eventually does result in outright counter-productivity. Moreover, set intensifying techniques can easily result in overtraining.

What’s important to remember within bodybuilding workouts is the concept of relativity. For example, we need “heavy weights” to build muscle, but the weight needs to be heavy relative to the muscle performing in good form. In addition, doing four “cheat reps” with 70 pounds might be relative in difficulty to doing eight strict reps with 50 pounds. However, it’s been my observation that, all else being equal, those eight strict reps will produce better long-run results than the four cheat reps.

My best gains have come after banishing ‘cheat reps’ from both my repertoire of ‘bodybuilding words’ and my practice of bodybuilding tactics.

Empty Calories”: Okay… we’ll finish this short list by going back to the type of bodybuilding word with which we started – the downright ridiculous. While understanding the motive behind terming certain calories as “empty” (discouraging  a junk food diet), I’ll assert that a calorie is a calorie and none of them are empty.

If you have trouble agreeing with that, imagine being lost and starving in the wilderness and stumbling upon a cache of Twinkies and Ding Dongs. You certainly wouldn’t abstain from consuming them in the belief that the calories they contain are empty. They’d be full of carbohydrates that would provide you energy and help keep you alive. Despite this, many people in the world of bodybuilding like to refer to less nutritious food choices as those containing “empty calories.”

A calorie is a unit of heat equal to the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water by one degree at one atmosphere pressure. Whether a food item is considered healthy or of the junk variety, it holds energy that’s usable by the body. This energy is no less usable simply because the food item is high in sugary carbohydrates while being relatively low in vitamins and fiber.

In other words, certain foods might be unhealthily devoid of specific nutrients and packed full of the fat-depositing, artery-clogging type. But the term ‘empty calories’ is a misnomer of ‘bodybuilding words’ in an attempt to convey this. Spinach is a healthy food, but you couldn’t live on eating spinach all day any more than you could live on eating banana cream pie all day. Yet nobody would label spinach as an “empty calorie food.”

I’d dump this one with the idea that definitional accuracy preserves credibility in one’s attempt at persuading others to adopt a healthier, more “hardbody” lifestyle.

As always… feel free to leave an opinion.



I will often use the term "empty calorie", but use it in the sense of "worthless calorie", i.e., a Twinkie or soft drink. So it's not really a literal interpretation, but more of an illustrative one, for me anyway.

As for a good vs. bad workout, it's almost always about mental focus. There are occasions when I seem, in retrospect, to have not had a good mentally focused workout, thereby hurting the physical nature of the workout. However, I don't necessarily see that as a negative. I use those moments to re-calibrate my mind. Often I'll write myself a small reminder note regarding form or technique, and place it in my workout log binder. Then THOSE workouts are "good".

Lastly, I have completely given up all pretense of ego with respect to how much weight I put on a bar or pick up with a dumbbell. It's all about form and incrementally increasing weight over time. To accomplish the latter, I use adjustable arm/ankle weight that allow for as small as 1/4 lb increments. For exercises like flyes, sometimes 1/4 or 1/2 lb is all I can increase. But within a few weeks, that 1/2 lb becomes a pound or two or more.

The comments to this entry are closed.