You’re going about your business in the gym. Then a jacked dude saunters over and decides to share some of his glorious wisdom. And because he’s jacked, you believe what he says.
In actuality, he was spewing some good ole’ fashioned broscience—anecdotal information that sounds credible but is not backed up by actual science. Often this kind of info is harmless. But if you’re not careful, bad broscience can ruin your workouts.
Below we share seven common broscience tips you might hear in the gym and why these tips are misleading.
Broscience Myth 1: Lifting Slow Makes You Slow
“One of the worst tips I hear is ‘train slow, be slow,'” says Tony Bonvechio, strength coach at Cressey Sports Performance. “They think that if you lift heavy and the bar moves slowly, then you’ll lose your ability to move quickly or jump.” Problem is, this rules out max strength training, which is absolutely critical to an athlete’s development.
Strength is the foundation of athletic movements. You need to lift heavy to build max strength, and sometimes the bar moves slowly during this type of training. “Learning to put maximal force into a heavy weight is one of the best ways to get fast and explosive,” Bonvechio says. “It’s hard to develop that aspect of athleticism using light weights all the time.” That’s why exercises such as heavy Trap Bar Deadlifts are among the best moves for increasing speed.
Bonvechio explains that as long as you try to move whatever weight you’re using as fast as possible, you enhance the rate of force production, which is the key to power. Again, the bar might move relatively slowly if you use a heavy weight, but that’s OK if you lift with intent to move the weight quickly.
Broscience Myth 2: If the bar ain’t bending, you’re just pretending
It’s pretty cool when you can use a weight heavy enough to bend the bar. We don’t doubt that.
But bending the bar is not a benchmark for success. Just because you can’t use a weight that bends that bar doesn’t mean you’re not challenging your muscles. Success is defined by your own individual progress, not bending a barbell.
If you look at the vast majority of folks who are bending the bar, often their form is horrible. If they did the move correctly, odds are they won’t be able to use a weight that causes the bar to bend. If you fall into this trap and get hurt using a weight that’s too heavy, you’ll be pretending to work out while your opponents are getting stronger.
Broscience Myth 3: You need to drink a protein shake immediately after a workout
No workout is complete without a protein shake immediately after, right? It’s even been said that unless you down a protein shake right after your training session, you have wasted your entire workout.
“The whole idea that you have to have a protein shake within 12 seconds of completing your last set is pretty brosciency. The human body is pretty resilient, and millions of years of evolution have allotted us the ability accomplish some pretty cool things,” says Tony Gentilcore, strength coach and owner of tonygentilcore.com. “If we lost all our gains because of failing to take advantage of this so-called anabolic window, we would have been done for a long time ago. Or, at least everyone’s biceps and pecs would be woefully underdeveloped.”
Instead, Gentilcore recommends eating a sufficient amount of calories between workout sessions. Although pre- and post-workout nutrition can optimize your gains, not having enough energy in your system is more likely to lead to poor workout gains.
Broscience Myth 4: More protein is better
Protein serves as the building blocks for muscles. The thought is that if you eat more protein, you’ll build more muscle. We’ve even heard of people eating upward of 500 grams of protein every day, just with the goal of getting swolled up.
First, you need to actually train to build muscle. Eating protein without a training program won’t do much good. Second, your body cannot absorb more than 20 grams of protein at a time. So stuffing your face with 10 chicken breasts and a protein shake is essentially a waste of money.
Instead, eat about 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight (the exact number depends on your goal) as part of a comprehensive diet and training program.
Broscience Myth 5: Longer workouts are better
Ben Boudro, strength coach at Xceleration Sports (Auburn Hills, Michigan), was once told that he should train at least 2 1/2 hours every day if he wanted to get big. The longer the workouts, the greater the results.
In retrospect, Boudro says, “That was terrible advice. Personally, my workouts are 45-55 minutes max. I don’t do a set and then sit around and talk about it. I have a set plan every time I enter the weight room. I get that plan done and I get out.”
The general guideline is to strength train for between 60 and 90 minutes for sustainable results. If you work out for too long, your body may start using muscle instead of carbohydrate and fat as a source of energy. Also, the stress from excessively long training sessions is one of the primary causes of overtraining.
Broscience Myth 6: Lifting will make you stiff and immobile
Walk into a gym and you’re guaranteed to see at least one guy who looks like he can’t move his upper body. We’re sure he can lift a lot of weight, but he is the opposite of athletic.
“One of the things I deal with at the collegiate level are athletes who say they cannot train heavy because they will get tight,” states Stephen Gamma, a strength coach and athletic trainer.
But fear not, lifting heavy won’t make you stiff and immobile.
To get to that big and bulky point, you need to ignore several strength and conditioning principles. Guys like that likely only do exercises that build their mirror muscles, in particular their chest, shoulders and arms. They don’t perform exercises through a full range of motion. And for certain, they don’t do mobility work because that’s a waste of time, right?
Gamma says, “I explain to my athletes that training heavy is an effective and necessary component of athletic performance enhancement, as long as they incorporate their tissue mobilization techniques (e.g., foam roll, massage stick) and movement preparation work like rolling patterns, tall and half-kneeling chop/lift patterns.”
Broscience Myth 7: Fighting through pain is OK
“As someone schooled in physical therapy and rehabilitation, the idea of training through a painful movement is unjustifiable,” asserts John Rusin, a strength coach and physical therapist.
The number 1 goal of a strength training program is to prevent injury. One injury sustained in the weight room is one too many. It’s simply not worth putting yourself at risk when you’re training, especially when your goal is to play a sport. You need to be healthy to do that.
Rusin believes it’s smarter to modify your workouts and focus on rehabbing to eliminate the issue causing pain than to push through it, which could ultimately cause a serious injury.
“Using intelligent modifications of a particular lift to make it pain-free will do more for your training stimulus than leaving yourself broken down, aching and hurt after every training session,” says Rusin. But he adds that it’s OK to feel muscular pain during an exercise from working that muscle group. He says, “There is a difference between muscular pain, like the feeling you get with a set of high-rep Back Squats that torch your metabolic system, and joint or non-contractile tissue pain that is most commonly associated with sharp and radiating pain. Know the difference to progress.”