Nothing has been more distortive to muscle building information than the low profile prevalence of steroid use. What else can explain the vast amount of lousy and even useless training techniques for natural trainers that have become the prevailing wisdom in the bodybuilding industry? There’s an ongoing discord between fantasy and reality in what constitutes an effective natural muscle gaining routine. That discord is most likely attributable to the obvious yet often unaddressed contrast between the physiology of a steroid user and that of a non-user.
This contrast is the only explanation for bodybuilding’s longtime miring in misinformation; a muddling that’s often resulted in almost humorously contradictory recommendations and advice.
Here’s a list of strange observations I’ve made over the years that I think can be linked, either directly or indirectly, to some of that misinformation:
o In 1988, I attended a bodybuilding seminar put on by one of the top Mr. Olympia contenders of the time. When asked by an audience member about a specific workout routine, the pro bodybuilder answered that the workout schedule in question would be worthless for putting on muscle mass. Within a month, I saw that exact workout/recovery schedule being recommended in a bodybuilding magazine by the then-Mr. Olympia.
o In the ’90s, that same Mr. Olympia had a morning workout television program for mainstream fitness. During an episode, I heard him talk to Geraldo Riviera about the evils of “anabolics” (code-word for steroids). He was apparently trying to dissuade youngsters from using them. Yet he admitted within other mediums that he used them regularly (of course he used them; he was a pro bodybuilder).
o During the aforementioned seminar in 1988, that Mr. Olympia contender told the audience that when he began bodybuilding, he was able to put on “ten solid pounds of muscle per year”. He went on to reveal that in his advanced stages in the sport, he was lucky to add “two pounds of muscle a year”. These words were from an elite professional bodybuilder who admitted to regular steroid use. Yet we’re treated to claims of gaining “twenty pounds of muscle in twelve weeks” from average Joe’s on the Internet. (no wonder I don’t see pictures with these claims).
o In the late eighties, there was a bodybuilding book that claimed you could gain 30 pounds of muscle in six weeks from doing “super squats” and drinking a lot of milk. That book should have been titled ‘How to become an over-trained gasbag within a month and a half’.
o I’ve actually heard a top professional bodybuilder say he didn’t believe in over-training; only “under eating and under sleeping”. So, even though our bodies are designed to burn and renew a finite amount of energy each day, just stuffing them with more food than they can process and sleeping until we’re drooling on our pillows will compensate for excessive muscle teardown? A very misleading statement.
o In the early ’90s, a bodybuilding guru was espousing an extremely high calorie diet for gaining muscle. I think he was the guy who started the “no such thing as over-training – just under-eating and under-sleeping” nonsense. Anyway, in order to make sure we could all take in our recommended 10,000 calories a day, he’d sell MCT oil to everyone. Just dowse some on your meals and add a whopping 120 calories per tablespoon so you can be in an “anabolic state”. The funny thing was that he recommended doing aerobic exercise each day to burn excess calories. Now let’s see, I think I’ll spend money on extra calories so I can try to burn them off each day before I turn into Jabba the Hut. Yeah… that makes a lot of sense. Yet there were write-ups about this guy in magazines as if he were a genius.
o I read an old interview of Arnold Schwarzenegger in which he estimated that anabolic steroids only gave bodybuilders like him a five percent edge over what they’d accomplish without them. Did he expect readers to believe that? Why would anyone risk their health for such a meager boost? If that were true, couldn’t he find a way to make up that little five percent in a less destructive manner?
o Back when the andro thing was big, a bodybuilder who worked in a supplement store tried to talk me into buying some. He said he gained five pounds of muscle in three weeks from using it. I knew he wanted to get super big, so I immediately wondered why he wasn’t continuing to cycle it so that he could gain umpteen pounds for the year. I told him “I’m not impressed; I can gain or lose five pounds of water weight in a single day”. Within a few months, he did a steroid cycle. I wondered what happened to his belief in andro.
o A competitive, steroid-built bodybuilder who works out at my gym sidelines as a personal fitness trainer. I witnessed him simultaneously train two people on a leg workout that had those unfortunate clients wobbling for the door as if he’d turned their underpinnings into wet noodles. He’d coaxed them to perform set after set of forced reps on a leg press machine. They were shaking their heads in disbelief as he wore an expression of self-indulged smugness. I guess he forgot to tell them they’d need to make secret trips to Mexico in order to recover from such a “workout”.
Some of these are kind of humorous, but not that last one. I’ve seen too many people hand over their hard-earned money for instruction in natural bodybuilding from those who don’t build their own bodies naturally. That’s money being paid oftentimes to merely feed the ego of someone that probably knows less about your body than you do. In the case I described above, he sure doesn’t know enough about bodybuilding to realize that the simplistic “harder you train – the more you gain” mantra most often leads to wasted time and disappointment.
My advice to natural bodybuilders: Seek unorthodox methods for making muscle gains. The routines that keep getting regurgitated in mainstream bodybuilding and fitness magazines are usually not the most conducive to long-term muscle gains.