I used to think the question “are bodybuilders stupid” was itself… a stupid inquiry. After all, implicit within the question is a possible cause-effect assumption that’s ridiculous. If statistical analysis could demonstrate its answer in the positive, then either a big percentage of low-intellect people are drawn to body improvement or building our bodies makes us stupid. It would obviously be one or the other. Since many non-bodybuilding types who ask the question “are bodybuilders stupid” rarely clarify their own thinking beyond that of an associative observation, they occasionally demonstrate their own lack of critical thinking skill when assuming and hinting of a possible link between strenuous exercise and below-average brain power. Exercise of any kind typically increases circulation, including that to the brain. Although that in itself doesn’t prove a cause-effect relationship suggesting bodybuilding makes us smarter, a basic understanding of physiology should have us wince at any suggestion that weight training directly leads to IQ drainage.
But… as I said, I USED to think “are bodybuilders stupid” was a stupid question. I’ve since sometimes questioned the assumed stupidity of that question. And since my second thoughts don’t stem from a nominalized, final judgment about us bodybuilders, I acknowledge it with the sincerest belief that we can build our minds as assuredly as our bodies. Maybe too many of us stopped doing that after becoming uber-physical types.
Where’s my evidence that the “are bodybuilders stupid” question has some legitimacy?
Surprisingly, right within the claims, practices, beliefs, contradictions, and just downright uncritically thought-out assertions of bodybuilding content itself. While keeping a sense of humor, let’s go over some of what I’m referring to right now.
“Are Bodybuilders Stupid?” Maybe… when the claims we make within bodybuilding are a bit idiotic
I saw something recently on the website of a bodybuilding “expert” that almost floored me. He’d posted an article claiming to reveal the optimal range of repetitions for gaining muscle. Within the article, he said he’d found the best range of repetitions to be between 8 and 12. He arrived at this number range after concluding from personal experience that the range of 6 to 8 reps was too low. What was his reasoning behind this? (Brace yourself):
He’d found himself prone to using sloppy exercise form when going heavy enough to use 6 to 8 repetitions.
Okay… pardon me, but wouldn’t the logical remedy be to slightly reduce the weight load until he could use proper form for the 6 to 8 repetition range? After all, it’s all relative; the weights are “heavy” relative to the strength of the muscles AND to the exercise form used.
Above all, how did he reason that his exercise form is an indictment of lower repetition ranges? I have no friggin’ idea. But what I predict is that if he ever instructs a trainee who has even a modicum of common sense, that trainee might guiltily harbor the question…
“Are bodybuilders stupid?”
Alright, you’re not convinced that the hypothetical trainee might have a legit question? How about this one: Since we’re on the topic of relativity, let’s analyze an oft-repeated reason that a typical bodybuilder recommends bench pressing over flye movements for building pectorals. Here’s the repeated (ad nauseum) reason:
“We need to use the heaviest weights possible in order to build muscle mass.”
Wait a minute… wouldn’t the concept of ‘heavy’ be relative to how many muscles are invoked and at what angle those muscles are stressed by an exercise? When we do bench presses, we’re using our triceps and deltoids along with our pectorals. No matter how well we tweak our form to better target the pecs, we’re still using three muscle groups to move the weight. Thus, the amount of resistance that’s stressing the pectorals is RELATIVE to the amount that would stress them on an isolation exercise like dumbbell flyes.
By pointing this out, I’m not saying that bench presses aren’t a valuable compound movement; they certainly are. I’m merely highlighting that common sense can demonstrate the erroneousness of four misconceptions:
- That heavier weight used in bench pressing makes this exercise a comparative “mass builder.”
- That lighter weight used in flye movements makes them “shaping exercises.”
- Only compound movements build substantial muscle size.
- Isolation movements won’t build muscle size.
Just as an example: If a person can do strict bench pressing with 185 lbs. for 6 maximum repetitions, then that particular weight is ‘heavy’ for that individual on the bench press. If the same person can perform strict incline dumbbell flyes with 40-lbs. dumbbells for a maximum of 6 repetitions, then THAT particular weight is ‘heavy’ for them on incline dumbbell flyes. A workout with the flyes would be a heavy workout at that weight. The weight is HEAVY relative to the isolation of the pectorals based on the angle and direction that the muscle is being stressed.
Bottom line: If we don’t want the “are bodybuilders stupid” question thrown at us, let’s at least be sure we don’t have nonsensical reasoning applied to practices in our own favorite sport or pastime.
Are Bodybuilders Stupid? “Do as I say… but don’t look too closely at what I do”
Adjacent to the gym where I train there’s a bodybuilding supplement store with a big-screen television inside. The TV will often be playing videos of pro bodybuilders doing their workout demos while dispensing snippets of instruction. While recently taking a few moments to view a segment of one of these videos, I noticed a blatant contradiction by a pro bodybuilder that would have any thinking person asking the question:
How could any viewer not ask this question when this particular pro (I won’t mention names) touts himself as a “thinking man’s bodybuilder?” In all fairness: his instruction in optimal exercise form is fantastic. But his lack of forethought in other areas is… well… disappointing. Let me explain.
This bodybuilder is, apparently, a big proponent of the time under tension theory. Judging by the short segment I saw, he’s willing to nearly scold any trainee who thinks workout weight takes precedent over the all-important “time under tension.” The ‘time under tension’ he prescribes is made to sound extremely important within all relevant contexts: the exercise repetitions and exercise sets, as well as the entire bodybuilding workouts.
Fair enough! But… after all that fuss about ‘time under tension’, he proceeded to instruct a trainee in doing (of all things)… ‘Alternating Dumbbell Curls.’ We’ve all seen this exercise. It’s the one in which a bodybuilder alternates between curling a left-handed dumbbell with curling a right-handed dumbbell. The practice obviously creates a substantial rest/pause for each respective bicep while the other one is doing its curl. Never mind that few people in bodybuilding do enough thinking to even ask why this exercise is permissible for biceps and rarely used for other muscle groups. But since we’re on the topic, let’s ask the question: If alternating reps are effective, why don’t we see the following exercises?
- Alternating calf raise?
- Alternating bent-over dumbbell rows?
- Alternating leg presses?
- Alternating dumbbell bench pressing?
- Alternating dumbbell ‘skull-crushers?’
… You get the point; why don’t we just take a rest-pause between every rep by doing alternating… everything?
Okay… back on point: How can a bodybuilding expert instruct people in the incredible importance of in-set ‘time under tension’ and follow that by instructing/overseeing a trainee in doing alternating dumbbell curls? Suddenly, the time under tension didn’t matter anymore? Or are we bodybuilders too often inviting the question…
“Are bodybuilders stupid?”
“Are Bodybuilders Stupid?” Maybe… when natural bodybuilders follow the advice of pro bodybuilders
Natural bodybuilders might be more deserved of the “are bodybuilders stupid” question when they follow the advice of pro bodybuilders than at any other time. We who are life-time naturals are acting stupidly any time… and I do mean ANY… time we follow the workout schemes and schedules of steroid-using pro bodybuilders. If you doubt me on this, I invite you to ponder a question:
When was the last time you witnessed a pro bodybuilder making steady, noticeable gains while “off the juice?”
I’ve trained in Southern California gyms for over two decades and I’ve never seen that. The reason is revealed by any honest glance at a pro bodybuilder’s typical schedule. These guys can never really be off steroids and other bodybuilding drugs for very long. Moreover, the months out of a year when they’re “off cycle” are spent trying to get their endocrine systems back to a semblance of normalcy. During that time, it’s not hard to notice that their muscles atrophy significantly. I’ve seen many as they struggle just to maintain what they’ve got until the next pre-contest drug cycle. Then… voila, they’re back “on cycle” – gaining muscle unnaturally for the next competition.
This scenario appears to go unnoticed by some online natural bodybuilding gurus. Some of them will willingly team up with professional bodybuilders on instructional videos. As if joint marketing is more important to them than leaning and sharing sound natural bodybuilding principles, they’ll meekly submit to a sycophantic relationship in which the pro bodybuilder is “teaching” and the natural bodybuilder is lapping it all up like it’s the pinnacle of bodybuilding information. While I’ll acknowledge some terrific information in the area of exercise form and technique dispensed by some pro bodybuilders, experience has taught me that their training routine advice amounts to a long-term waste of time and energy.
I won’t mince words: Many of these pro bodybuilders never get a clue themselves. And how could this not sustain the “are bodybuilders stupid” question? They’re personally experiencing the physiological difference between training with drugs and training without them. But watching them closely only reveals that many of them typically make no (or very little) change to their training techniques when they’re not “cycling.”
Does anyone have a muscle confusion program to sell them?
“Are Bodybuilders Stupid”… or is Internet bodybuilding marketing getting REALLY stupid?
I won’t mince words here either: Internet bodybuilding and fitness marketing has begun to appear like one big mess of a ponsi scheme.
Let me share an experience as an example. I just did a search on a key bodybuilding word and ended up on a page that poses as an article. It only poses as an article; it’s really a shill review.
What do I mean by “shill review?”
I mean the author is pretending to provide an objective review for an information product by an online bodybuilding guru. However, the so-called review is hardly objective because the “article author” is nothing other than an affiliate marketer who aims to get a percentage off the product’s sale.
There’s nothing wrong with that… right?
Not at all. But things are a little out of hand when the article author and online bodybuilding guru both position themselves as being against the “rip-off supplement companies”… but then take a cut of advertising dollars from these companies when the company’s supplement ads appear on the guru’s or article writer’s websites. Within the margins of the article page on which I’d landed, I saw ads for Force Factor, a product promoted with outrageous claims of dubious credibility (to put it mildly). These are the kinds of confusing, mixed messages that muddle an industry when too many of its participants are seeking a quick buck… from anywhere.
So let’s not just be smart bodybuilders; let’s be smart (and ethical) about spreading our bodybuilding and fitness philosophies.
“Are Bodybuilders Stupid?” No… but we need to be ‘extra smart’ to override a stereotype
It wouldn’t be difficult to bring up more idiotic sayings, contradictions, assumptions, and even some non-sequiturs repeated within the bodybuilding and fitness industries. Just to cite a simple one: Why do we constantly refer to building “lean muscle mass”… or even “quality muscle mass?” It’s acknowledged in one breath that fat and muscle are two different tissues. Then trainers will tell their clients about the benefits of building “lean muscle mass.” But if muscle and fat are two different things, then how could muscle mass be anything but lean? I won’t even venture a guess at what people in our industry mean when referring to “quality muscle mass.” Is there a type of muscle that lacks quality? If so, what measures would one take to make sure they get the quality type?
This might all seem like nitpicking. But it could be a bit of necessary nitpicking; more legitimacy to our industry might be borne out of overcoming a long-held stereotype about bodybuilders. And overcoming that stereotype might call on us to think more intelligently than the habitual and noncritical thinking that many of us engage in for too much of our days.