The Truth About Fitness Magazines
Fitness and bodybuilding magazines, the first point of call for the innocent hard gainer looking to transform his physique.
With images of The Rock and a ‘4 week plan to be shredded this summer!’ they lure in the unknowing with promises of earth shattering workout tips and supplements that’ll send your Testosterone levels off the scales…
If you’re looking for motivation or a few additional ab exercises to add to your arsenal then perhaps the latest edition of Muscle Men Magazine is for you, but there’s 1 important point you need to remember if you plan on subscribing or gaining valuable knowledge from these publications.
It’s All About Content, Content, Content
Just like Women’s Weekly and all other magazines in existence, fitness and bodybuilding magazines have a publishing schedule – they’ve got to deliver X number of articles, workout tips and supplement advertisements each and every month.
This is where many misconceptions such as the ‘changing your workout routine every 3 – 6 weeks to shock the body into new growth’ and the ‘you need to consume many different sources of protein otherwise your body will stop processing it’ come from.
There’s only so much to say about performing the major compound movements such as the squat, bench press, deadlift and overhead press.
Beginner routines such as StrongLifts 5×5 or BLS are calculated, precise routines that do not require weekly or monthly alternations of exercises… that’s why fitness and bodybuilding magazines won’t discuss them.
They want to give you the new routine that X actor used in Y movie, they want to play on your lethargic nature and give you a fat blasting routine to have chizeled abs by the time the sun sets tomorrow evening.
If they told you all you needed to do was perform basic compound movements several times a week and count their calories to build an exceptional physique they’d be out of business! The reader wouldn’t come back the following month wanting and demanding more, hoping to learn that ‘new trick’ that’ll give them the edge over the other suckers in the gym.
There’s Only So Much That Works
When it comes to the big three – lifting, dieting and supplementation I recommend you focus on the 80:20 and forget the gimmicky workout plans, diets of the month and re-hashed fat burner supplements.
Here’s what actually matters (that these magazines will never tell you….)
Focus on compounds
The squat, the deadlift, the bench press and the overhead press will transform your physique.
Mastering the form of these 4 exercises, along with a few accessory basic arm and core exercises are you need to build a well proportioned, strong and functional physique.
Kettlebell one-legged deadlifts and resistance band overhead squats are examples of convoluted exercises spun off the original basic lifts that quite frankly aren’t worth your time if your primary goal is to build muscle and strength.
Single digit rep range
Studies have proven the 4 – 6 repetition range to be the most effective range for natural gym-goers to build both muscle mass and strength. Too often this low rep range is dismissed due to the misconception of it being primarily for strength, with no size gains. I have not lifted outside of this rep range for the past 2 years and I’ve continued to build muscle – myth debunked.
There’s no need to alternate weekly between low, medium and high repetition workouts like the fitness magazines want you to believe.
Apply progressive overload
Strength and muscle mass are both a result of ongoing progressive overload.
The term progressive overload simply means to constantly ensure your muscles fibers are being subject to a larger load or an increase in tension on the muscle, essentially placing more stress on the muscle resulting in an increase in both muscular size and strength.
The most basic method of applying progressive overload to your muscles for size and strength gains is to increase the weight you’re lifting. As an example, if you’re aiming for the 4- 6 rep range for 3 sets and you’ve been consistently hitting 6, 6, 5 for your last 3 sets increasing the weight, even though you’re reps will more than likely drop down to 5, 5, 4 is a sufficient form of progressive overload to keep your strength and size on the rise.
The thing I repeat the most on Ignore Limits is without a doubt the importance of training in the lower rep ranges. If you’ve been spending day after day performing 10 repetitions by default on each and all of your sets then you’re going to be doing your muscles a massive favour by decreasing your rep range down to 4 – 6. Lifting a suitable weight for 4 – 6 repetitions (which should be 80 – 85%) of your 1 rep maximum will blast your strength and size to new levels.
Several years ago when I hit a plateau on my shoulder press I tried everything I could think of to get past it, it seemed as if I’d never get past the 55lb mark on those dumbbells.
The solution? Because I didn’t have a spotter I couldn’t lift any heavier so I opted to increase my volume my reducing the rep range slightly while increasing the number of sets (resulting in an increased number of heavy reps per workout).
A calorie is a calorie. There’s no such thing as a ‘food burning food’ or a ‘food to gain muscle mass’.
The foods you’re consuming aren’t as important (from a bodybuilding perspective, not a health perspective) as the number of calories and the breakdown of macronutrients they contain.
Eating a candy bar isn’t going to make you fat if you’ve allowed enough leeway in your caloric intake for the day, while on the other end of the spectrum if you’re consuming copious amounts of chicken, brown rice and brocolli it is possible you’re start to stack on fat as you’ll be exceeding the number of calories your body needs.
An increase in muscle mass isn’t the result of a certain food or a certain exercise, it’s the result of a caloric surplus.
A decrease in stored body fat isn’t the result of a certain food or cardio exercise, it’s the result of a caloric deficit.
I cannot stress the importance of this particular point enough, fitness magazines will attempt to persuade you that you can achieve fat loss via a supplement or a particular exercise… but at the end of the day the only way that supplement or exercise will accomplish its claim is by placing your body in a caloric deficit.
Learn to calculate and manipulate your calories with my guide here.
Meal timing (or lack thereof)
Fitness magazines and personal trainers love selling their customers this myth.
You need to eat small, regular meals in order to lose fat and speed up your metabolism (eat every 2 – 3 hours).
A few years ago if I left the house for work, or even just to go to the shops I’d pack my next couple of meals with me, merely out of the anxiousness that overcame me when there was I chance I’d miss a meal.
In hindsight, eating every 2 – 3 hours left me feeling constantly full even though the meals were small which resulted in me feeling lethargic and de-motivated at times.
There is a slight metabolic spike when eating smaller, more regular meals however studies have indicated that this is by no means enough to burn any additional calories when compared to the spike of larger, less frequent meals.
Forget the Testosterone boosters, micronized BCAA’s and intra-workout pump powders – they’re expensive, well-marketed and will net you zero results.
Focus on your health.
Zinc, fish oil, vitamin D and a multivitamin are the staples of my supplement stack and have been for the last few years.
Protein powder is primarily used to assist in reaching your macronutrient goals, as discussed with flexible dieting – 30 grams of protein from whey protein powder can substitute 30 grams of protein from chicken breast.
Yes, you can make fantastic gains without ever consuming protein powder, however if you’re like me and don’t want to carry tupperware containers everywhere or demolish 4 chicken breasts a day then whey protein powder is your friend.
Pay attention to the macronutrients (protein, carbs and fat per scoop) of the whey protein powder you’re buying and disregard the branding and audacious claims on the packaging.
Want to know more about the ins and outs of protein supplementation? Check out the article I wrote here.