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10 Tips To Avoid Being A ‘BRO’

Training in a commercial gym whilst on vacation for 10 days brought new life to my eyes and ears and highlighted how prevalent unscientific and poor training and nutritional practices still are in the fitness community. Amongst the evidenced based community, we call them the ‘bros’…

Since becoming more savvy with the scientific literature on all things hypertrophy, fat loss, training and fitness I have quickly realised how unnecessary and suboptimal many of the ‘common’ bro methods and approaches to training and diet are. Not that the ‘bros’ don’t get some, if not most of it right, but there are always better ways to go about things and optimal should be our end goal…

Here is my take on the 10 most common ‘bro’ training and nutrition strategies that I used to employ and the mistakes many other fitness enthusiasts still adopt.

1. Are you actually isolating your biceps?

Calling a bicep curl an isolation exercise is all well and good if you perform it with perfect technique. However, cheat curling every single rep is not isolating your biceps. Prioritizing technique over weight will increase the chances of you actually isolating your biceps and makes it a whole lot easier to track progression. A good/practical rule of thumb when it comes to technique execution is making sure 90% of your reps are spot on with the remaining 10% being cheat reps only if need be.

2. Shorter rest for a harder workout = more gains?

Having short rest periods in between sets in aim of making the workout harder is not the optimal way of training if you are after the best results. Short rest periods make subsequent sets harder which may reduce the total amount of volume you are completing. Keeping in mind that volume is the main driver of hypertrophy (muscle gain) I recommend staying away from anything that will reduce your chances of completing the required amount of volume you need to progress. A harder workout doesn’t mean anything if volume progression is not evident.

3. Doing cardio to burn off the fat you gained from eating a certain meal?

Performing cardio does not actually mean you are burning fat or burning off the food you just ate. Yes, in certain periods of time throughout the cardio you may be using fat as fuel however it is not an impressive amount and you must be training at the right intensity (intense cardio will most likely be using carbohydrates as fuel rather than fat). Cardio’s effect on fat loss is also entirely mediated by energy balance. It doesn’t matter how much cardio you do, if you don’t sufficiently reduce your energy (energy = calories) intake to create an energy deficit, net fat loss will not occur.

 4. Protein shake immediately after your workout to increase muscle gain?

If you eat 3-5 high protein meals spread throughout the day the dire need for a protein shake right after your workout is diminished. Chances are that your pre workout meal will create a positive protein balance in your body that persists into the recovery period of the workout…and if you didn’t eat a pre workout meal, muscle protein synthesis levels (commonly referred to as the anabolic window) are elevated far longer than the 30min post workout commonly thought so you have plenty of time to eat/drink protein. I highly recommend focusing more on total daily protein intake…a good starting point is to consume your bodyweight x 2 in grams (e.g. 70kg x 2 = 140g protein per day).

5. Shocking your muscles to new growth by changing program every week?

Changing exercises and rep schemes on a weekly basis is not going to get you the best results especially if you are an intermediate or advanced trainee. In fact, changing these variables every week doesn’t accomplish anything but providing the body with a ‘novel (new) stimulus’. Yes, a novel stimulus is needed now and then to progress, however, if you want training adaptations to occur, constancy needs to be evident. Constancy is the practice of repeating a specific stimulus to allow for a certain training adaptation to occur. Without constancy, the adaptation process will keep getting disrupted and you will find yourself spinning your wheels or in other words ‘plateau’. This usually happens when people do high reps one week and low reps the next, never giving their body a chance to adapt. Another problem you may encounter is tracking progress. How are you supposed to track progress if you do a different set of exercises each week? Not to mention the varying rep ranges. The next question I would ask is how do you know you are progressively overloading? Overall, the ‘shocking muscles’ strategy is very questionable…if it worked, there wouldn’t be so many people stuck in a plateau. Be constant with your training program for 4-8 weeks and ensure you are progressively overloading…then proceed to ‘change it up’

 6. Partial reps over full range of motion reps?

A partial range of motion may allow you to use more weight and get a better pump however it will not result in more muscle gain in the long term. A full range of motion will increase motor unit recruitment, increase your strength through the full range, increase distance of the weight being moved = more volume, make it easier to track progress and is a lot safer. Remember, a good pump doesn’t actually mean you are building more muscle and neither does using overly heavy weights that you can’t move correctly. Also remember to train to YOUR full range not somebody else.

7. Carbohydrate shake immediately post workout to replenish glycogen?

Post workout carbohydrates of any form aren’t really necessary for resistance training sessions due to two reasons;

1. Glycogen is not a completely dominant source of energy production for strength training…body also uses fats for fuel while training (higher rate for females)
2. The body has an ability to replenish glycogen on its own…by recycling produced lactate..

Did you know that in 6 hours post workout 75% of glycogen is replenished without the consumption of carbohydrates? And that 24 hours should lead to full glycogen replenishment even on a low carb diet.

Sure, the consumption of post workout carbs will rapidly restore your glycogen levels…

However, what is the point of rapid replenishment if you aren’t training until the next day?

Coming back to the first point, on average only 20-39% of muscle glycogen is depleted throughout a resistance training session…this is not a very impressive amount.

My recommendation…

If you train once a day the immediate consumption of post workout carbs doesn’t need to be prioritized, just make sure your next meal contains carbs. However, if you train twice a day the rapid replenishment of glycogen can be beneficial…this is where a post workout shake/meal becomes increasingly important. For most people: don’t waste your money on expensive sugar (carb supplements). 

8. Fasted cardio for more fat burning?

Energy balance still wins in this case. Given the same energy deficit, fat loss is the same regardless of whether you do cardio in a fasted or fed state and there would be no additional ‘fat burning’ effect that comes from fasted cardio in this case. The benefit of cardio should not be seen as fat loss but rather energy expenditure that will increase your energy deficit. In conclusion, fasted cardio doesn’t need to be prioritized if you want to lose fat.

9. Eat more protein to stay anabolic and gain more muscle?

More protein does not mean more muscle being built and yes if you eat heaps of protein and end up with a large energy surplus you will eventually gain fat. Also, preventing catabolism is impossible (for a natural). The breakdown of endogenous protein (internal protein not dietary) is normal and your goal should not be to prevent it but rather to maximise net protein balance by consuming enough protein per day. Overall, make sure you are consuming at least 1.8g of protein per kg of bodyweight per day. If you are an individual who trains properly several days a week and follows a well-designed program that is optimized towards muscle hypertrophy there is nothing wrong with bumping up your protein intake a little further.

10. Training abs everyday to get abs?

Easy one.

Yes you need to train abs just like any other muscle group however there is no need to over do it. Train abs for hypertrophy like you would for any other muscle group. Overall, the only time you will ever see your abs is if you put yourself in an energy/calorie deficit and get down to a low enough body fat…under ~12% for men and under ~20% for women…and if you really want to see your abs you need to be well under these body fat percentages.

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