By Scott Gunter STACK.com
By now we’ve all heard of the words “gnar” and “gains,” and we incorporate the word “swole” into everything from “Swoldier Nation” and “Swolemate” to flexing as we spell it out in our Alpha-Bits cereal. The best pre-workout is the one that requires an AED and “tastes like pure house music,” while the best post-workout meal is a pre-workout . . . to get you pumped for your post-workout workout.
I’m speaking, of course, about Bro Science, the comedic lifting methodology led by YouTube character Dom Mazzetti and BroSciencelife.co. His sketches intentionally disregard exercise science and satirize some of the unfortunate but prevalent cultural “truisms” in the lifting and fitness industry.
So, let’s put the science back in the “Bro:”
Bro-ism 1: “Calf Raises are about as good for growing your calves as actually raising calves.”
Why it’s wrong: Calf Raises are certainly beneficial for growing your calves if you are a bodybuilder or physique competitor, and they can take a more isolated approach after developing a sound foundation; but they may not be the best exercise for athletes. We are all familiar with the stiffness and pumped feeling associated with Calf Raise burnout. This can limit athletic mobility and fails to train the same triple extension pattern (hips, knees, ankles) prevalent in sprinting and most anaerobic sports.
Instead, you should focus more on plyometric activities like Ankle Hops, Jumping Rope or Depth Jumps to improve your ankle strength and power production. If you have a history of ankle injuries, 4-way strengthening is necessary to address all muscles around the ankle, not just the gastroc and soleus trained during Calf Raise variations.
Bro-ism 2: “Doing Weighted Pull-ups is like saying I’m too strong for my own body.”
Why it’s wrong: When done in the right context, Weighted Pull-Ups are an excellent tool for improving functional pulling and grip strength. They also help develop your strength-to-mass ratio (SMR), which improves your lean functional mass for enhanced on-field performance. That said, there are situations where you can actually be “too strong for your own body.” We see this all the time in adolescent boys presenting with avulsion fractures. In this situation, the muscle contracts quickly with a force greater than the bones can handle, and the bony attachment at the origin or insertion of the muscle pulls away slightly. This is also common at the ASIS (hip flexor attachment site) of middle school to high school aged soccer players and football kickers, as the rectus femoris quickly contracts on impact with the ball.
Have young athletes master bodyweight exercises and functional movement patterns first, before loading them up with everything that can be picked up and put down.
Bro-ism 3: “I don’t have weekdays on my calendar, only strong days.”
Why it’s wrong: Notice how you never hear someone say their splits are “bi’s and tri’s 7 days a week.” The fact is the body doesn’t recover fully overnight, and rest days are just as important as work days in your training program.
Training the same body part every single day is like trying to use molten steel to build a skyscraper before allowing it to cool and harden. Although it’s an incredibly strong material, it is simply not functional in a weakened state. The best programs include a deloading period after the third or fourth week for exactly this reason.
You don’t have to make each weekday a weak day by sitting on the couch and eating potato chips, but you can adjust your workload by lowering the total volume and addressing mobility. This will allow you to make dramatic progress during your next training week.
Bro-ism 4: “Fitness is 98 percent lighting. The other 2 percent is the sun effect on Instagram.”
Why it’s wrong: Fitness should be zero percent of either of these things. The Internet is a wonderful thing. It allows information to travel at record speeds and be shared across all platforms accessible to consumers. The problem is the quality of much of this information. Anyone who knows how to spell the word “g-y-m” can go onto Instagram and post a flexing picture with all kinds of filters enhancing their muscles, so they look like the Adonis of the fitness industry, convincing the general public that they are an expert in the field despite having little real-world experience and no education or certifications to back it.
Filter through this by looking for educational backgrounds in exercise science, physiology, biomechanics or sports medicine with certifications from reputable organizations like NSCA and NASM. Look at their years of experience in the field and previous clientele before committing to a 12-session package with Joe Schmo, who looks like he could also benefit from some coaching.
Bro-ism 5: “Nothing prepares you for a lift like violent stretching and shoulder impingement.”
Why it’s wrong: Nothing sends you to the sideline faster than violent stretching and shoulder impingement. Ballistic stretching was tossed off the cliff of bad fitness gimmicks years ago, because it simply doesn’t make sense to rapidly stretch a cold muscle beyond its limits. Instead, consider dynamic stretching that acclimates the body to game speed in a progressive and functional format, or muscle activation and warm-up sets to prepare for heavier lifts.
Instead of deliberately facilitating shoulder impingement, consider scapula and shoulder stability exercises on recovery days or between sets to develop stability where you need it and achieve greater performance in your upper body lifting exercises.
Bro-ism 6: “Lift the weight before gravity has a chance to make it heavy.”
Why it’s wrong: Jerking into the weight is like sticking your tongue to a frozen lamp post and sprinting away at full speed. Take deadlifting, for example: You want to feel the weight of the bar before accelerating it upward, otherwise you sacrifice momentum, experience braking forces mid-lift and risk injury due to a jarring motion of the muscles, which can affect the back and posterior chain. This can be applied to most lifts in terms of injury risk, but another important fact is brought to mind: The purpose of weightlifting is to see results, and if you are relying on upward momentum for the majority of a lift, you are decreasing the total time under tension. You’d have to dramatically increase your time in the gym to adequately stimulate your sought after “gains.” By the time you reach this point, however, you will most likely have a concussion and/or a bilateral rotator cuff tear.