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Metis and Bodybuilders (astralcodexten.substack.com)
81 points by feross 3 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 89 comments





>Traditional bro wisdom holds short rest periods of 1-3 minutes are optimal for bodybuilding.

The papers cited don't contradict "traditional bro wisdom". If anything, the time window given by "bro wisdom" is too long.

But there are additional factors at play. If a workout takes too long and doesn't fit into someone's schedule, week after week, year after year, they won't work out.

A person resting for 1 minute won't see as much growth as someone resting for 2.5 minutes. But they will see more growth than the person who skips workouts or just quit because they have a life and things to do.

So giving people a broad range to work with may not be 'optimal' but may result in more people being more successful.

What is the difference in muscle gain between 1 minute an 3 anyway? Does it make up for missed workouts and time off?


Absolutely, this is a practicality matter. Further, while the evidence on rest periods is mediocre, the evidence on increasing work volume leading to greater hypertrophy is crystal clear. If you have an hour to workout, more reps is clearly going to win out for muscle hypertrophy over resting 5 min between sets and completing only 9 sets or less in a workout. Muscle hypertrophy (as opposed to strength) follows a clear dose response relationship. More volume is better. More sitting around during training sessions equals lower volume. It is asinine to assume total work volume will be equated if rest periods are very long. Cool for studies, but in reality, you use what time you have to lift and then you leave. Therefore smaller rest periods than an outrageously long 5 min will basically always lead to greater total work performed as you will perform more reps x weight in your allocated time slot.

If sets and reps are equated, sure resting longer is more effective. In fact, if you are equating reps and sets in a study, the longer rest group will have higher volume, defined by sum of reps x weight, as the lower rest period group will lift lighter because of increased fatigue. I find it hard to believe many bodybuilders would disagree with that statement.

However, in real life, sets and reps will not be equated. You use what time you have and maximizing volume wins (reps x weight, assuming the weight is reasonably difficult).

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6303131/

In an ideal world for bodybuilders, perhaps they’d sit at the gym for 2.5 hours to complete a workout, but people have lives outside of lifting weights. Even pros.

Finally, the author seems to really think bodybuilders are by and large clueless “bros”. While this might be true for some, I think the average bodybuilder consumes far more academic literature than people involved in almost any other activity outside of academia. Bodybuilders are on average fairly well read and up to date on the scientific consensus thanks to people like Mike Israetel, Jeff Nippard, Brad Schoenfeld, Brett Contreras, Lyle McDonald, and Layne Norton to list just a few.


> the evidence on increasing volume leading to greater hypertrophy is crystal clear.

To a point. It also depends on your level of experience and age.

Systemic volume also needs to be accounted for. Generally speaking 10-20 sets per muscle per week. This can be from one session or spread out over multiple sessions.

I'm 38, have been lifting weights for 20 years (do not and never have used anabolic steroids of other performance enhancing drugs). if I try to do 20 sets per muscle group over the course of a week I will run my body into the ground.

Schoenfeld, the lead author on your link has research on these topics. His Instagram is a good aggregator of his work.

https://www.instagram.com/bradschoenfeldphd


Agreed, the evidence points to a diminishing returns effect on increasing volume leading to an asymptote. More is better (absent injury)... but the benefit of each additional set starts to really flatline somewhere beyond 20 sets.

I believe another publication is coming soon from Schoenfeld on this matter.

My point is just that to perform even 10 sets per muscle group, unless you want to live in the gym, 5 min rest periods are not really an option. Almost no one has the time to be optimal, so just cramming as much volume in as you can handle is the ideal for most.

I also follow Schoenfeld. He does excellent work.


On the opposite side of the spectrum, for the sake of fitting workouts into my schedule, I sometimes do them at a very slow pace over the course of a few hours or sometimes even a whole day. I have my little gym setup right next to my desk in my office, so I'll just go over and do a set or two when I need a quick break or the tests are running or whatever (it beats wasting time on Twitter or HN).

This sometimes means resting for a few minutes between sets, sometimes fifteen minutes, and sometimes an hour or more. The results at the end of the day don't seem very different at all in terms of how I feel physically or the rate of improvement compared to doing more efficient workouts with the "right" amount of rest. So I'm inclined to agree with you that just getting the volume in one way or another is by far the most important thing, at least until someone is quite advanced.


Why not just switch body parts?

I always do my push exercises separated by my pull exercises, and rarely rest more than a minute. Super time efficient.


Interferes with the pump & mind-muscle connection, and makes it more likely that you're limited by your cardio (or neural fatigue, or secondary muscles) as opposed to the target muscles.

Also improves your cardio tho.

This is pretty weird. Most sources that he uses for what BB:ers think are threads from bodybuilding.com (not a lot of pros spend a lot of time writing posts on there) and some place called outlift.com (never heard of that in my lifting life). This is like listening in on 1st year CS students to figure out what professional software engineers think.

If you really wanted to know what BB:ers think about rest time, why not see what they've said themselves? It's not like BB:ers don't talk about what they do and why they do it.

Just as an aside: strongerbyscience.com has pretty good articles (owner has MSc in exercise science and at least one guy has a Phd in this stuff, sources are extensively cited).


Well, the pros historically tend to leave out the, ah, pharmaceutical side of the equation when they write about "what they do".

That's changing quite a bit, but agreed.

The talking yes but not the pharmaceutical side.

> Well, the pros historically tend to leave out the, ah, pharmaceutical side of the equation when they write about "what they do".

There are tested competitions.

I'll admit that that doesn't guarantee that no one uses banned substances there, but the finalists are generally quite a bit smaller than those in the untested competitions, so at the very least they're substantially cutting back.


the sentiment regarding steroid use is becoming less negative and stigmatic. A lot of older pros talk about it openly now (ex Dorian Yates) and a lot of current modern pros are openly disclosing their routines. Sponsors are becoming more tolerant of this as it's now as the honesty is now seen as cool and attracts an audience.

worse than that the stuff in magazines and such is often entirely fabricated

> This is pretty weird. Most sources that he uses for what BB:ers think are threads from bodybuilding.com

Agreed. This article feels a bit like a strawman: They picked the worst possible sources to use for what bodybuilders think.

Bodybuilding.com is a joke even in the fitness communities. It's an easy target, but no one should be using it as a canonical source for anything.


I think the author is assessing what the average bodybuilder (i.e. not a pro, someone interested in lifting weights to look good) thinks about rest times. And on this question, it seems like the average belief has caught up (or agrees with) what the most recent scientific studies are showing.

The author has no idea what the average bodybuilder thinks. How laughable would it be if I, as a bodybuilder, grabbed a handful of comments from assorted /r/cscareerquestions threads to demonstrate what the average programmer thinks about some topic in software engineering?

Even worse, BB.com is a traditional forum with no voting system; there's no way to validate whether the opinions expressed are held by most bodybuilders or just the musings of a slightly-informed bro.


With programming, the average programmer is a paid professional. With weightlifting, even specialized to bodybuilding, the average participant is lifting for recreational reasons. I imagine the fraction of people who've competed at the amateur level in bodybuilding is a minority of the total people discussing the subject. So it depends on whether the author is interested in gauging opinion among the minority of competitive bodybuilders or among people just a little more dedicated to lifting weights than usual. The article reads as if the author wants to somehow survey opinions among the "bros."

There have been more local bodybuilding sites and magazines since the 90s where professionals post too. It's more of a cargo cult mentality. Sample size of one genetic freak on steroids and growth hormones got huge on this program so it must be generally applicable.

There's a definitional problem here too. Unless you are actively competing you are a lifter, or something else. You only get to call yourself a bodybuilder if you go on stage.

”Online fitness advice. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.”

The amount of contradictory advice slung online in regards to fitness is immense. (Same as it ever was, the old muscle magazines were bad, too.) Lots and lots of “evidence” amalgamated from rumors, second-hand sources, that old guy at the gym, and teeny tiny studies that have never been replicated.

As you go on a fitness journey (it hurt to type that), you go through decision paralysis, overbearing overconfidence that you know what’s up, and you end up with humility that boils down to “iron ain’t gonna move itself”.


This seems like a notion lots of people have, but I'm not sure it's true. What is the evidence that online fitness is any more fraught with contradictory advice than, say, online finance, or online self-help?

it's not so much that it's contradictory, but rather dishonest. One example is that a lot of athletes hawking supplements are actually taking exogenous hormones and androgenic anabolic steroids and fail to mention this.

Also, it's in the interest of the online fitness community to make their advice as complex and complicated as possible as is re-entrenches their "expert" position while the truth tends to be much simpler, as your parent comment alluded to


Cliffs: Contrary to broscience, longer rest periods between sets (3-5 minutes) are more effective at building muscle than shorter rest periods (30 seconds to 2 minutes).

As someone who has been engaged in weightlifting for almost 30 years, this is no surprise. It probably has little to do with the rest period itself and more to do with the intensity of exercise. You simply can't train with weights in the 5RM-10RM range, going to failure or a rep or two shy of failure, and only rest 30 seconds or 1 minute between sets. Such short rest periods will force you to use much lighter weights and stop way short of failure.


> It probably has little to do with the rest period itself and more to do with the intensity of exercise.

It's my impression that the actual point of the article is that even though bodybuilding as a community is perceived and perceives itself as being driven by scientific research, it is still almost completely anecdote driven, even when there are scientific findings readily available that fly in the face of or more accurately explain things than anecdote.

It's interesting that you've illustrated this so perfectly. In the article it provides the research findings as to why longer rest periods are beneficial, yet you've still provided your anecdotal impressions as to why it would be the case.

I'm not trying to get at you or put you on blast; I really do find this interesting.


Most "scientific studies" in this area are worthless as they use untrained college age males and only follow them for 1-3 months. Virtually any sort of training will produce significant gains in these subjects and the variance will usually be due more to outside factors than the training regimen itself.

As for the "why", this is obvious to anyone who actually trains with heavy weights. Perform 8 reps of an exercise to failure. Rest 30 seconds. Repeat. I guarantee you will not be able to perform anywhere near 8 reps on the second set, you might not even be able to perform 4. OTOH, rest 4 minutes and you very likely will be able to perform 7 if not 8 reps.

Again, I totally get your point about broscience vs actual science, but this is one of those instances where I'm not sure the "30 seconds between sets" even rises to the level of broscience. You read about it in meathead magazines and some may even claim to adhere to it to demonstrate how manly they are, but if you go to the gym and watch serious lifters lifting heavy weights, you will not find them only resting 30 seconds between sets.


> even though bodybuilding as a community is perceived and perceives itself as being driven by scientific research, it is still almost completely anecdote driven,

Well I mean, it IS driven by scientific research, just not research into exercise physiology as much as organic chemistry


I would also be curious if exercise type needs to be included in this. For example calf raises vs squats. I find that for calf raises since they are so targeted I'm able to recover very quickly, but for squats I typically need to wait that 3-5 minutes

> As someone who has been engaged in weightlifting for almost 30 years, this is no surprise.

Agreed. I was honestly surprised to learn that some people were promoting rest periods as low as 30 seconds for building muscle. It's been common knowledge that super short rest intervals are not helpful for as long as I've been around.

Any weightlifter can tell you that super short rest intervals will limit volume, which is detrimental to muscle growth.

The article feels a bit like a strawman attack on fitness forums or bodybuilder stereotypes.


> Agreed. I was honestly surprised to learn that some people were promoting rest periods as low as 30 seconds for building muscle.

I'll remind everyone that Jeff Cavaliere, YouTube fitness darling beloved by people who don't lift very hard, programmed 1-10 sets of 10 squats @70-80% 1RM with 1 minute rest between sets: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7fICF_O5esc&t=174s

Non-lifters: this is basically impossible for anyone with a decent level of strength. If I attempted this, I'd be getting peeled out of the squat rack after the 2nd set.


> programmed 1-10 sets of 10 squats @70-80% 1RM with 1 minute rest between sets

10 sets of 10 @ 80% of 1 rep max doesn't make any sense. Nobody can do 100x as many reps as their 1 rep max, unless they've grossly underestimated their 1RM.

There is a place for high volume workouts with short rest periods if someone is training for certain specific fitness goals, but it's not optimal for pure muscle building.


> Nobody can do 100x as many reps as their 1 rep max, unless they've grossly underestimated their 1RM.

I mean, I could certainly do 100 singles at 80% 1RM, but I get your point. Jeff's program is atrociously bad.


I mean, as someone who got into lifting ~3yrs ago, I was told (and read online) to rest for ~3 minutes for strength training and 1 minute for hypertrophy. In fact, I had been training that way until yesterday when I read this article, so I don't think it is quite a strawman.

The first study cited was work equated, meaning the shorter break group did additional sets. This seems to contradict your hypothesis.

See my comment above. Additional sets are irrelevant if you have to lower the weights to a fraction of what you'd otherwise lift in order to maintain short rest intervals. You physically can't repeat your first set performance on 30 seconds rest.

I thought the article referred to the Métis people, one of three indigenous cultures mentioned in the Canadian Constitution. It took a few ticks to realize that it was using "metis" in another meaning.

In Greek mythology, Metis is Athena's mother. As an descriptor, it means cunning.

And in this context (I think inspired by James Scott's Seeing Like A State), it refers to local knowledge that isn't necessarily obvious to outsiders. Think of something like "you have to build in retry logic because that API tends to fail every fifth time."

I had a copy of D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths as a kid. My favorite illustration was the full page shot of Athena busting out of Zeus's head in all her armored glory.

I have read a lot of Metis history, and this passage struck me as oddly appropriate, although unintentionally so: "the practical wisdom that comes from being a tight-knit community sharing a common goal, watching each other succeed or fail, and passing down lore to the next generation."

Same, I was hoping to find an article about some kind of little known bodybuilding metis subculture

I have a huge interest in documenting muscle growth and fat burning. I've been working out since I was 14 years old (on and off again). The most fit I ever got was back in 2015 (the company I was working for was declaring bankruptcy and I had a lot of free time in my hands). During this time I would cook my own meals, eat every 2 hours, workout at a gym and on the street (street workout - calisthenics). I was able to get a 6 pack and some muscles, but I failed to collect data about my process. Ever since then, I dream about getting fat (which I did during the pandemic) and then start the whole thing again, this time, collecting data. I do have a lot of "bro" Knowledge (you get this for free when you go to the gym regularly) but I would love the get the science also.

You've already proven you can do it.. why are you prioritizing "collecting data" over producing results?

I say this as someone who did the same thing in a similar time frame. Lost 50 lbs, set state records for strength, had lean muscle mass.

I will say that revisiting that accomplishment, for me, is burdened because it wouldn't be "new". Newbie energy, especially with results, is really strong. I'd be re-visiting some of those tactics at an older age, with slightly different life circumstances. I was single before -- and being hardcore when you're single can seem easier than when you have the distractions of a partner.


Yeah, probably I wouldn't be able to do the proper science, because I'd be testing something once with just one subject (me). But I'd love to know if those gym knowledge holds up.

The 1-3 minutes comes from a lot of places.

I find it -really- amusing that people forget that weightlifting is an olympic sport. There have been -plenty- of studies on it. The main issue tends to be that the russian protocols don't necessarily work for 'natural' athletes.

Shorter rest periods are used for conditioning, not muscle growth.

You can be a lazy slob and wait 3-5 minutes between each set. But you'll be at the gym forever.

What these studies always completely fail to grasp is:

If I have 2hrs to do my workout, and I take 5 minutes between sets, how much work am I going to do? What if I just took 1 minute between sets?

What if it's close to competition time? Do I want to be huffing and puffing on stage? can I waste time with cardio or should I cut rest time down between sets?

There's a lot of variables and not all of them are equating to optimal muscle growth.


If you focus on the big three - squats, deads, and bench press - and you only do one of those per day at the gym, then it only takes an hour total. Time under load is about 20 minutes, and the rest is rest.

I read books or even take my laptop if it’s quiet enough to work (pre COVID).

Of course they say you should do nothing in breaks except think about your without, but that is only for the special people who are absolutely committed (and obsessed).

Those long breaks allow you to regain a lot of capacity and enable bigger increases up to the pinnacle in the last set where you set your new 1RM or come close.


> If you focus on the big three - squats, deads, and bench press - and you only do one of those per day at the gym,

This describes basically no modern or historical bodybuilding programming.


Google "the big three weight lifting" to find lots of modern guidance which suggests those as the primary exercises to build overall strenght.

I'd recommend you Google "Dunning-Kruger curve".

I’ve found flash card apps are really good for long rests. Doesn’t suck your attention out of the room like email/news/social/texting, but easier to pick up and put down than a book. I also guess there’s a benefit to learning in that state.

My own key variable, as it turns out, is "time between deciding to lift and grasping weight". Which means that keeping an adjustable dumbbell by my bed and using it a few times a week is close to optimal. While having the gym is nice for the additional equipment, this plan means that I don't have to think about making time for the gym since I can just do some more around bedtime or wakeup. Load, reps and sets are far less important than the factor of being able to add more volume whenever I want.

And that does reflect lifestyle goals - I am not going for a competition physique, and the gym isn't my social club. I am just aiming for a little bit of progress year over year, and scientifically optimal muscle growth would actually get in the way of other plans. I was in the habit of tracking it all pre-pandemic, but now I just do Ali counts - "I only start counting when it starts hurting."


You could pair exercises to save some time.

See RRR: https://www.reddit.com/r/bodyweightfitness/wiki/kb/recommend...


I've wondered whether you could spend the rest time for one muscle group by doing an exercise for a different muscle group. Is that a no-no, or is it not done for practical reasons (the logistics of jumping back and forth between machines)?

It's possible, and very effective if you want to save time, but it comes at a (very slight) hit to actual muscle growth, since it's likely you'll end up limited by your cardio as opposed to the muscles themselves. If your goal is to build muscle, a set brought to failure by anything other than the target muscle is ineffective.

You're describing supersets.

Remember that it’s your brain driving the coordinated electrical signals (and maintaining steadily increasing strength of those signals) which makes the muscles do the work.

Your brain needs recovery time.


This seems sarcastic or wildly inaccurate.

To clarify, two things.

The brain does not directly drive the muscles. It does not have copper running to them, providing a charge. Instead, cell after cell transmits the signal, from brain to muscle, each cell providing its own charge. The brain expends more energy thinking about abstract ideas, than telling a muscle to move.

Second thing, healthy, fit people run for hours, bike for hours, without issue. As a teenager, I'd work on a farm for 10 hours, picking fruit, throwing bales of hay, digging, on and on without tire.

Yet just continually walking, uses more "brain telling muscles what to do", than any single heavy lift plus even perhaps 10 seconds of break.

Realistically, writing cursive with a pen, typing fast, should use as much brain energy, for fine, detailed control requires many different muscles all being used at once, hence more signaling.


It's not really, central nervous system exhaustion needs to be managed with strength training. And it takes quite a bit of concentration to lift properly, a short mental break is really useful.

I added more details while you were writing this I think.

Your nerves don't care how heavy something is. Fine muscle control is just as intensive as anything to the nerves. Talking uses waaaay more nerve and muscle control than lifting heavy weight.

Breaks are required so that the blood can carry away waste, and replenish glucose and oxygen. That's all.


I'm someone who's been seriously active in powerlifting for years and I was getting ready to argue, but you seem to be correct. Not only was I not able to find research supporting CNS fatigue, Menno Henselmans himself(quoted in the article) agrees https://mennohenselmans.com/cns-fatigue/.

What I have anecdotally observed is that regularly lifting closely to your maximum (particularly at higher levels) will inevitably lead to accumulated fatigue. Whatever the root cause of that fatigue is (whether muscoskeletal, endocrine or nervous) is a factor that does lead to degraded performance over time.

The literature is lacking in longer-term studies, so I'm curious to see whether my anecdotal experience is pure confirmation bias or there is a mechanism behind it.


I don't think it seems to be that clear cut, but the consensus does seem to show it's not a huge driver. More anecdotally though, to my original point, I really do need some brain rest in addition to just muscle fatigue between hard lifts.

The point is that the brain is the essential point of initiation of muscle movement, and it is an essential part of the sensory feedback loop which then leads to muscular adjustments.

The ability to focus without fail is not unlimited. When you're holding more than your bodyweight on your shoulders, the demands to simply maintain balance are significant. This means a lot more than just muscles holding a static position. If you are not very focused on the sensations which indicate a change in balance somewhere, you will lose form and possibly hurt yourself.

Whatever the mechanism within the brain, the breaks are also necessary there. Of course the muscles need recovery time, but the brain does also.


Fine motor skills are, afaik, controlled by different networks than gross motor skills. They develop at different times in the brains. I don't think they can be that directly compared. Besides, I do like to take a break if I'm typing or writing a lot :)

The author seems to ignore the fact that "1m rest periods is best" and "5m rest periods maximizes hypertrophy when volume is kept constant" can both be correct when you consider that:

- Volume is EXTREMELY important - People have a finite amount of time to lift weights

The person doing 30 work sets in 60 minutes is going to get more gainz than someone doing 10 work sets in 60 minutes.


He does mention that in the article actually.

It is mentioned that volume matters, but I am saying that this conclusion is wrong:

"The bodybuilders had lots of opportunities to experiment and tinker, with lots of skin in the game, but they were still getting things pretty wrong..."

All they did was mistakenly attribute success to short rest periods when it was actually about volume.


Yep. You want to really get your mind blown, see the level of research that the community has done on anabolic compounds vs. the knowledge of the average endocrinologist.

The broscientist bodybuilders are wrong about almost everything they think they know about performance enhancing drugs. Also, to the degree endocrinologists and doctors in general don't "know" about tren, dbol or what have you, it's because overwhelmingly those drugs aren't used or even approved for use in medicine and never have been.

I have to disagree a bit. There have been plenty of laypeople who have advanced the general knowledge of anabolics for purposes of abuse. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Duchaine

But: I’d be scared if I had a doctor who know anything about tren. Trenbolone was never approved for humans. It’s for making thicc cows. In fact, if your doctor does know about tren, check the diploma on the wall, because your HMO might have actually put you with a veterinarian to save money.

(But then you might be able to score trenbolone and ketamine from that vet. Hmm. Ideas…)


It's kind of semantics but I guess it depends on the definition of "knowledge".

I happily agree bro scientist bodybuilders have advanced our knowledge of performance enhancing drugs in some ways, if nothing else by simply abusing the drugs and observing their effects on body composition, blood markers etc. But most of that knowledge was already available from the clinical trials or animal studies for the drugs anyway.

And while the bro scientist bodybuilders like to think they know a lot about what's actually going on in the body, how to combine the drugs and ancilliaries etc etc, their understanding and resulting advice is very often overly simplistic or just wrong. It's unfortunate and kind of important because it demonstrably leads to people thinking they're making informed choices knowing about the risks etc, but still end up making preventable mistakes with potentially very severe consequences for their health and lives.


> But most of that knowledge was already available from the clinical trials

Why would there be clinical studies of a drug that is never intended for human use? Clinical studies are expensive, and no drug company would do human study on a veterinary drug just to see what happens (leaving alone ethical issues with getting study subjects).

> animal studies for the drugs anyway.

Animal studies only go so far...


The drugs in question are absolutely intended and trialed for human use. It's just that they don't pass the approval process, or they did back in the 60s-80s, saw virtually no legitimate clinical use, and were discontinued.

> overwhelmingly those drugs aren't used or even approved for use in medicine and never have been

I just went to the Wikipedia pages for Dianabol and Trenbolone, and it so happens that both substances were, in fact, used in medicine, but not any more. Well, in case of Trenbolone some kind of derivative or related substance was used medicinally it seems: trenbolone hexahydrobenzylcarbonate.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metandienone https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trenbolone

Also, if you're trying to say that anabolics are too harmful for anybody to use them, you're wrong. E.g., testosterone is used for all kinds of conditions, and would be used even more if not for the "fear" of it being used off-label:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Testosterone_(medication) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Testosterone_(patch)

The other anabolics could likewise be used in a healthy manner (such that the beneficial effects outweigh the side effects) in certain cases, here's one study:

https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/86/11/5108/2849115

In general I'd say these drugs fall into the same space as many psychoactive drugs, they were presumably banned so that certain subcultures could be criminalized and stigmatized (not that this stops all the body builders and actors and police officers from getting their AAS anyway), with the excuse that they have harmful side effects. This argument is irrational and based on an appeal to emotion, it ignores that drugs (like any other technology) can be both abused and used for good.

> The broscientist bodybuilders are wrong about almost everything they think they know about performance enhancing drugs.

I don't disagree, but, for the sake of the discussion, could you give an example?


Granted, Dianabol and Trenbolone were both approved for a time, but neither was ever really in meaningful widespread use for any legitimate medical purpose, which is in no small part why they are no longer approved. And there are lots of performance enhancing drugs that have straight up never been used at all or even approved for use.

As far as anabolic steroids go the only one that is in relatively widespread legitimate use is testosterone (and even then, there's no doubt some people who go on TRT don't truly need to) and maybe Anavar for very niche conditions like burn victims and people with muscle wasting etc.

As for how wrong broscientists are, some of the most obvious ones are how high they think the doses need to be, how they combine steroids from the same branch of the family tree for a "cycle", how they switch steroids halfway through a "cycle", how they think SHBG and estrogen are bad and deliberately wipe them out using ancillary drugs, how they think milk thistle and other nonsense supplements will "protect the liver", how bad their understanding of the HPTA and "PCT" is etc etc.

I'm all for people being allowed to use many drugs that are currently illegal, but I also think both for recreational and performance enhancing drugs, there's a lot of people who think they know enough about them and that they're making informed choices knowing about the risks etc, but actually don't, and end up making preventable mistakes with potentially very severe consequences for their health and lives.


As far as anabolic steroids go the only one that is in relatively widespread legitimate use is testosterone

A minor nitpick: I believe deca is actually used, sparingly, but in the real world, for legit medical purposes. Namely anemia. (Though I do know at least one friend who got a “legitimate” prescription for “hypogonadism”, because that particular clinic will do whatever you want.)

https://www.drugs.com/uk/deca-durabolin-50mg-ml-injection-le...

how they think SHBG and estrogen are bad and deliberately wipe them out using ancillary drugs

Now this, this is ubiquitous, and a terrible broscience idea. Tanking estrogen in males? Bad. Bad bad bad. Bad for the mind, bad for the heart, literally.


A lot of the bad common knowledge is being stomped out, often on YouTube ironically. MorePlatesMoreDates is one of the best channels for this brand of modern better broscience.

There's still plenty of variance in anabolic usages between competitors. There are IFBB pros taking 1/10 the dosages of others; see people like Jared Feather vs. Bostin Loyd.

And general sentiments about steroid use have changed significantly in the past few years. As a casual reader of /r/steroids, even 2-3 years ago there was way more enthusiasm towards larger blast doses in that community. Now the environment is far more conservative (though still reckless IMHO), both in dosage and compound choice. If you would have said that that community was well-informed just 3 years ago, it's hard to square that with the fact that the opinions have changed so dramatically.


Don't mistake the hubris in these communities for factually correct knowledge. These communities tend to cherry-pick whichever research provides the answers they want to hear, while dismissing everything that disagrees.

I know an endocrinologist who sees a lot of men in their 30s and 40s who never fully recovered from even short anabolic steroid cycles. The online communities tend to promote the idea that the suppressive effects of anabolic steroids can be reversed with "post cycle therapy", but the reality is that a lot of men never fully recover natural production regardless of which combination of medications they use after the steroids.


I'm sympathetic to people willing to do research with their own endocrine systems -- after all if doctors refuse to research or support you then what can you do? But agreed, there's a lot of FUD and tribal knowledge out there, for example, PCT as you've said. There are folks who have had good experiences post-PCT but it is difficult to distinguish what happened naturally vs. any effect PCT would've had.

The problem is that epistemology is still its own thing, regardless of what you're doing.

If your thing is lifting weights, you need well designed, large n, unbiased studies about that. If your thing is cooking, you need studies about cooking.

Metis seems to boil down to interest and culture. Those are certainly things that might give you some sensible priors, but in the end you know things because the mechanics of discovery are what they are.

Note that noise is a big issue. Any given bodybuilder can only follow one program at a time, and can only change so often. So someone who happens upon a working concept might never really know why it worked.


If your goal is to get swole (sorry couldn’t help myself), then higher rep lower weight sets with shorter rest periods is the way.

But if you want to be as strong as possible and stay in a weight category (best strength to bodyweight ratio), you do small sets of big weights with set rest periods long enough to get really bored and fidgety while you watch the clock hands move.

The Russians have known this for a long time, and so have the best performing competitive lifters.

It takes remarkably little besides a lot of food and a caveman simple lifting regime to outperform most of the pretty boys who obsess over the hype programs.


> then higher rep lower weight sets with shorter rest periods is the way

In the comment section of an article about how bodybuilders use unsupported folk wisdom, you posted completely baseless folk wisdom with no evidence.

> The Russians have known this for a long time, and so have the best performing competitive lifters.

The USSR had the best weightlifters decades ago. They don't have especially remarkable powerlifters compared to anyone in the USAPL (or untested feds) today, and they don't have especially elite weightlifters today (see: being banned from the '16 Olympics for doping sanctions).


I think weightlifting (and also nutrition) have an intersection between one's choices and the scientific literature. From what I've seen of bodybuilders on youtube, there are many that base their programs and recommendations on what they believe is scientifically optimal. In most other areas of personal decision-making, you won't find wisdom in academic literature. For instance, remodeling your kitchen or dating. You might seek out advice from various sources, but those sources probably wouldn't include academic research.

The other thing about this article is that in using forums and websites to gauge the view of the bodybuilding community, you end up sampling more dedicated people who are interested in this sort of discussion. There might be people following all sorts of weird stuff ("woo") based on what their buddies at the gym are doing.

I wonder whether there are political issues where the "literature" is ahead of where natural intuition is. For instance, the minimum wage. Microeconomic intuition says raising the minimum wage reduces the number of jobs available. I think there are lots of studies out there saying that this intuition is false. The minimum wage's effect on jobs is something fuzzier than scientific fact however, and it kind of falls outside the concept of metis too.

Also, the majority of comments here seem to be focused on the question of rest interval, but that's not the main point of the article as I see it.


"Bodybuilders" is a broad term - the top bodybuilders are definitively up to date on the science. Maybe they train with long breaks (but tell their clients (and the fitness rags) that short breaks are ok so normal people can finish the workout in a timely fashion and keep up a routine) or have a complex training (to stimulate growth from an already high level) with variables the studies didn't capture.

On the other hand an authority on bodybuilding better be shredded.


> The 3-minute rest group achieved greater muscle growth.

How much greater? Is it significant, like 50% more? Otherwise, why can't we just say "do whatever feels comfortable for you."

I think the real goal would be to do whatever keeps you happy and coming back to the gym. Long rest periods make me feel bored/annoyed, while short ones make me feel stressed.


This is interesting, but the author focuses mainly on the hormonal benefits of different rest protocols. These benefits are completely negligible when bodybuilders are pumping themselves full of exogenous steroids/hormones. I'm interested to see if a study like this could be performed on hormonally controlled test subjects

The only reliable way to find truth in fitness and bodybuilding is to experiment for yourself and find what works for you given your genetics, diet, recovery regimen, and supplementation (including use of AAS) or lack thereof.

Is it possible that what is best for bodybuilders is not what is best for average joes?

Look at the first 4 bullet points that list the studies. Two of the studies look at "recreationally trained men", one of the study looks at untrained males, and only one study looks at "well trained males". But for the well trained males, their 1RM max bench press was ~100kg and 1RM max back squat was 120 kg. I cannot even begin to fathom what male can not even bench 2 plates and would consider themselves well trained with respect to weight lifting. I do olympic lifts and power lifts, and literally the first squat I ever did in my life with a bar on my back was more than 120kg.

The general problem with bodybuilding knowledge is that literally everything in someone's life will affect the results they get. Their genetics. How their sleep is. How their stress levels are. What kind of job they do. Whether they've trained before. Whether they do other exercises. What their diet is like. All of that will have an effect regardless of what you do in the gym. So maybe someone hears slightly suboptimal advice about rest timing, because the person giving it has the rest of their life on point and appears to get good results from their suboptimal timing.




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