This generation we’re in is called the Information Age and nowhere is this more evident than in the gym.
No one who works out in public will ever be lacking in advice and tips, now euphemistically and sometimes sarcastically called “Broscience,” from the people around them. No matter which machine you’re using, which protocol you’re following or what your goals are, there will usually be several people anxious to tell you how to do it better.
Despite the bad rep that Broscience is getting, it’s not all bad. In fact, quite a lot of it will be useful to you and a good bit of the Broscience of 2011 fueled the scientific research of 2012 and so on. The key is to understand how to tell the difference between Broscience that will work for you and the Broscience that should be politely acknowledged and then ignored.
More than one scientific study has been inspired by some tidbit of Broscience and then proclaimed it accurate. Very often, coaches and trainers bring some form of Broscience to the research community to be tested and these studies often learn to some important breakthroughs in physiology.
Also, a good deal of the Broscience that floats through the bodybuilding community does so because it works. Just as a good spotter or mentor can help you with proper form, mentors and informal coaches can be invaluable in helping less-experienced athletes understand and utilize unfamiliar protocols, speed up their results and even work out more safely.
Unfortunately, there’s also a lot of misinformation spread in the name of Broscience. While a very experienced athlete who does their research may know some great protocols and strategies, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they know what’s best for you. Experience level, overall fitness and individual goals all have to be factored into the effectiveness potential of any advice you may be given. Supersets may be a great strategy for Bob, but a potential disaster for Joe, who just started training a month ago.
How to Tell the Difference
In order to evaluate whatever Broscience has been given you, you need to ask yourself some questions.
Is it working for other people like you? Is this advice working for people at similar fitness levels, similar levels of experience and with similar genetics? Or, is it working for guys that have been lifting for five years, who compete regularly or who have much larger body structure?
Think of it this way: sprinting up a flight of stadium stairs is definitely an extremely effective workout, but it’s only effective for people who have the fitness level and lung capacity to do it and if your goal is to build your biceps, it’s really not applicable to you, is it?
Does it jibe with scientific research? Even if the advice you’re given hasn’t been researched in the scientific community yet, it still needs to conform to what we do know about muscle structure and performance, hormone responses or neuromuscular activity (as examples).
A particular tip may sound good, but if it conflicts with what you know to be true about performance or growth in general, it’s probably best to leave it alone.
Does it bring up concerns about safety? Don’t let peer pressure or a desire to be like the guy next to you keep you from behaving with some common sense. If you know you’re not up to that intensity level, that volume, that load, then don’t do it. No, you won’t “grow into it.” No, it might not be okay just to do it this one time to save face/try it on/test it out.
Don’t be tempted to take a shortcut to someplace you have no business being yet, or to take supplements you don’t need just because someone else swears by them. If your caffeine tolerance is zero, you don’t need that stimulant-based fat burner that’s so popular with the ripped guy across the gym.
How trustworthy is your source? Don’t take driving tips from someone who doesn’t have a license and don’t take Broscience as real science when it comes from a less than reliable source, either.
The guy who’s been working out a month longer than you have, who is constantly healing up from an injury or who is making less progress than you are is not the guy to trust for advice.
Look closely at the source before you try the advice. Is he/she well-respected by other athletes and coaches? Yes, they look great, but are they healthy? How long have they been training? Do they encourage you to try their advice but use caution? Do they explain why this piece of Broscience applies to you and the scientific reasons for its effectiveness? Is the advice delivered in a low-key helpful way or does the guy giving it sound like a cult member or used car salesman? Do they actually use this protocol/strategy themselves?
There’s nothing wrong with Broscience in and of itself. Some of it has spawned some of the most important recent findings in physiology. But even accurate Broscience needs to be appropriate for you, your body, your goals and your training level, so examine it carefully before you try it on for size.