Bodybuilding is a religion; not a science. The origins of the volume-based training techniques of Arnold Swartzenegger through to modern day pro’s is actually based on the lifestyle of 20th century circus gypsies (yes, seriously)! Contemporary bodybuilding is in no way constructed intelligently and objectively for optimal muscular development. So its no surprise that bodybuilding concepts share more rational similarities with voodoo than science.
Here is an overview of the popular bodybuilding 10 commandments, written in plain english to make better sense of what is being said:
- Train to be as weak as possible by making light weights ‘feel’ heavy. Doing so will grow masses of contractile tissue (muscle) that generates zero contractile force because muscle has no relationship to strength.
- Focus on lifting weights so slowly and beautifully that angels weep and the muscle fairy rewards you with beautiful muscles.
- Never, EVER lift weights that could be considered heavy by anybody! Doing so will make you incapable of growing muscle! Plus, you will grow massive hip bones, you will get fat and you absolutely will be severely injured! Nobody who ever lifted a heavy weight ever grew muscle and every person who lifts heavy is immediately and irreparably injured. Do not lift heavy. EVER!
- Muscles grow for no functional purpose and therefore respond best to being ‘flexed’ superficially and purposelessly. For more muscle just do more flexing.
- The determining factor for muscle growth is blood pooling in the muscle temporarily (called a ‘pump’). It doesnt matter that blood passes through your muscles all day, every day, constantly. It is the few minutes that it pools in the muscle that magically “force feeds” the muscle for its functionally useless growth of contractile tissue that doesn’t contract
- If you pull on a piece of string but you hold your elbows in different positions you can choose where the string breaks. Similarly, muscles are strands of fibres connected at their ends so you can place stress on one part of the strand without affecting the other parts, thereby making part of the strand grow while the rest stays the same. You can even get the muscle to move its attachment to a different point in your body. Think of your limbs as magic wands and the subtle differences in how you wave them will cause different magic!
- Quoting scientific studies – even if you quote incorrectly or they don’t exist – has the effect of casting a spell on the universe to make your statement true. No matter how ludicrous an action might seem, simply justify it by quoting a study and it will be true. The only exception is lifting heavy weights which will only ever make you muscularly tiny, fat and injured.
- Giving any action an acronym or different name casts a spell on the universe to make the outcome different. For example, when you call endurance training ‘cardio’, it helps make you massive and ripped rather than just a bad endurance athlete with wasted muscles. If you do not have the discipline to follow an effective diet, just call your laziness ‘Intermittent Fasting (or IF) or ‘IIFYM’ or ‘Flexible Dieting’ and suddenly you’ll make the same progress as if you’d followed a structured diet. The only exception is lifting heavy weights which will only ever make you muscularly tiny, fat and injured.
- While you train, constantly visualise how you want your body to look with your muscles attached in different places to a differently proportioned skeleton to what you have. Doing so invokes the power of ‘The Emperors New Clothes’ and will cast a spell that causes everyone in the world to see you with a completely changed skeleton and muscle shapes.
- Training intensity is measured by how many hours per day you apparently spend at the gym. It doesnt matter what you do when you are there. Just be there a lot and then exaggerate to as many people as possible about how hard you train based on how much time you spent there. The muscle fairy will hear about your intensity and grant you more muscle that doesn’t contract.
- BONUS COMMANDMENT: the muscle fairy is hugely impressed by the amount of money you spend on supplements. Don’t worry about diet – you can cast a spell by quoting a scientific study that shows food isn’t necessary. But the amount of money you spend on supplements is powerful. And, like with training intensity, be sure to tell everybody an exaggerated amount so that word makes it back to the muscle fairy.
While the above is intended to be humorous, it is still actually true. Using different words, what I have written above is exactly what contemporary bodybuilding ‘wisdom’ boils down to. The advice is ABSURD and about as backward as any training advice could be! Few people will ever develop the physique they are capable of following standard bodybuilding advice and what they do build will take an order of magnitude more work and more time.
Really the truth about weight training for muscle gain is very simple. Like most goals, the best way to formulate a plan of attack is consider the end point and then work backwards. And the only thing we know with certainty about our end-goal of training for more muscle is:
If you have significantly more muscle TISSUE (ie not just muscles inflated with water) then you MUST be significantly stronger on the most basic, fundamental exercises (ie squat, deadlift, presses)!
Muscle is extremely efficient. You don’t need to gain much muscle for a significant increase in strength. To gain so much muscle that it fills out your clothes and can be seen in the mirror you are going to be tremendously stronger. Think 50+kg more on your big barbell exercises to be muscularly larger enough to be noticeable. Think 200+kg on your major lifts to go from nothing to World class. So if you are no stronger, or barely stronger, then you CANNOT have significantly more muscle tissue. Therefore:
training to FAIL to get stronger is training to FAIL to grow muscle!
Given that training to not get strong means certain failure for growing muscle, it makes sense to train for strength. There is no other measurably relevant variable to train for. And its as simple as that!