Don't Make This BroScience Training Mistake

Those guys trained hard and often. They had time on their sides, with the relatively low stress college lifestyle and unlimited access to healthy foods. Yet they did not change substantially over two years.

I gained plenty of knowledge in the classroom during my undergraduate years at Slippery Rock University. The lesson I remember the most took place on and around campus.

Image of SRU Barbell Club circa 1998
I survived was perfectly content for four years there without a car, preferring to ride my mountain bike. With 7500 others my age, plus some cool faculty, where else did I need to go? I discovered that my life skills were considerably delayed in some ways. But I could easily make up for it with endurance and discipline and much needed grace from On High.

The Slippery Rock Barbell Club was a learning environment of the highest caliber. The tin warehouse located a stones throw from campus was quite literally JAMMED full of grimy top-notch weight training equipment. You could easily trip on a jug of protein or a 150 lb dumbell. With no set hours, rules (taken seriously), or cardio equipment, it was paradise for hardcore meat heads and anyone who grew weary of the SRU Russell Wright Fitness Center.

I witnessed many extreme feats of strength, machismo, and plain weirdness at the Barbell Club. I quickly realized that I would never fit into the bodybuilding subculture. 
A jumbled mess of powder coated iron.

During my junior and senior years I fell into the habit of training after class in the early afternoon. Many ex athletes did likewise, which resulted in knowing a typical cast of characters. The alphas of the barbell club showed up around 4:00, close to when I was finishing. They were locals, a bit older than any of the students, huge and lean. I only knew them by their nicknames, names like Diange, Big T, and Klip. They did their steroids in a small alley between the loading dock and a row of trees. They yelled a lot and intentionally bloodied their shins during deadlifts.

There was another group of guys, below the alphas, former wrestlers and football players, who would be at the Barbell Club nearly every day that I was there. They were training and talking when I walked in and when I left. I would go to my dorm, clean up and meet some friends at the dining hall when I would see them get in line behind me.

I'm fairly sure that this group trained with the typical Bro-Split that all of us did back in the day. Leg day was Wednesday, after "chest" on Monday and "back" on Tuesday. Squats involved wrapping their knees for 5 minutes, squatting a moderate weight for one, maybe two reps, unwrapping their knees and talking about the previous set for 3 minutes, and repeating the process for 40 minutes before a similar ritual on the leg press, leg extension and leg curl machines.

With the rare combination of access to an all-you-can-eat dining hall, PhD level expertise in bro-science, and twenty year-old gusto, this group of young men put on a fantastically grotesque display of training and eating eating. Walking back to my dorm after dinner, I would see them through the glass windows of the dining hall, sitting proudly beside six or eight plates and bowls stacked on each tray.

You would think that with all that heavy training and eating, these guys would transform into mighty monster of impressiveness. No, actually you wouldn't. They were dead wrong in their approach. Now, don't get me wrong. They were bigger than the average college student. But they were definitely...mmmhhh...unremarkable. In appearance, strength, and power. Unremarkable.

I've reported plenty of my own wheel-spinning mistakes and blunders on this blog. But these guys lived in the gym and dining hall and devoted so much to achieving so little.

While their story is uncertain, I highly suspect that the key consideration they missed was a holistic appreciation of human physiology, especially in regards to RECOVERY.

In their minds the equation to life success and happiness was:
More training + more intensity + more eating = more size, strength, and awesomeness.

In reality, progress looks something like this nonlinear equation:
.5XTraining(recovery) +.25Intensity(recovery) + 1.2 moderate eating(recovery) = Xawesomeness    Where X=your particular version of awesomeness because you really can't have it due to genetic limitation, unless you take steroids.

At some point, more training only serves to tear the body down. The perfect nutritional balance cannot make up for grossly over training. Likewise, a perfect training program cannot atone for missing the mark with the diet.

You don't have to train six days per week and stack bowls and plates in order to look and perform good. For the novice strength athlete, nearly anything works for a while. But very soon, you will need to work hard and smart in order to save much wasted time and effort.

How many days per week should you train in order to realize your desired results?
What exercises and how many sets and reps should take place during each session?
How do you move toward optimal recovery, between too much and too little?
These are all easily answered, but they vary between individuals and the seasons of their life.

Some will figure training out long way, on their own. Others will turn to Youtube or the most convenient personal trainers and bros. Still others will seek the help of the most experienced and qualified professionals who have walked the road before them.

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