The biggest bodybuilding lies. Part I

The public has been fed with lies from the bodybuilders ever since this discipline was created. It used to be a secret, the best competitors were afraid of sharing their knowledge of “building mass”. But within the years, there was the evolution – hiding, e.g. the fact of using pharmaceuticals, is based on marketing strategy – saying out loud that one uses doping could ruin the sales of supplements and nutritions, which are advertised with the names and shapes of the professionals. For example, Arnold Schwarzenegger, admitted to having used AAS and it did not interfere the sales of nutritions and supplements. The same thing happened to Dorian Yates – who mentioned using steroids many times.

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Lie no. 1: “you will look like a bodybuilder without pharmaceuticals, but it will take longer time”

It's the kind of story, like “everybody's equal, but...” How many competitors of the Schwarzenegger or Yates level do you know? How many individuals who do bench press with 335 kg without a T-shirt, like the Russian Sarychev do you know? How many competitors, who do deadlift with 395kg without a costume, like the Russian Belyaev weighing 90kg, do you recognise? Even after more than ten years of work, you will not look like a professional. Why? Because bodybuilders have a unique genotype, which lets them achieve unnatural hypertrophy of muscle mass. There are many theories about it, one of them suggests mutation, the change in genes which code myostatin – it is a factor, which regulates the increase of muscle mass in a negative way (Myostatin (MSTN, GDF8) is a polypeptide belonging to the superfamily of growth differentiation factors β (GDF8β)).”[1] Other theory mentions specific adaptation of fibres to resistance training (satellite cells). As if that was not enough, the exceptionally skilled competitors use the anabolic-androgenic steroids, insulin, growth hormone (rhGH), thyroid hormone, SARM products, growth hormone-releasing peptides, or beta-mimetics (e.g. clenbuterol). I'm sure this short list is not complete with all the products and methods used by the bodybuilders. [2]

Besides, the bodybuilders, like Arnold, used at most 2g of various products a week. Dorian Yates, at the beginning of the 1990s used over 3.2g a week (additionally rhGH, he also used insulin). Of course, Dorian admitted to having used only about 1g of testosterone and 500 mg of nandrolone/boldenone a week and 50 mg of metandienone a day – which seems improbable).


Conclusion? A person without any genetic predispositions may sacrifice even tens of years of training and will never even get close to the circumferences, the quality of muscles and strength of the professional bodybuilders. Even using high doses of pharmaceuticals does not guarantee success. The pills and vials, so far, are not able to replace hard work and genetics.

Lie no. 2: “the more you train, the bigger you grow”

Unfortunately, the body does not work this way. The biggest loss in muscle mass increase is caused by frequent and intensive training of a particular muscle group. Full recovery after a hard session may even take 5-7 days, after moderate-intensity training it's 2-3 days. Excessive training causes the increase of inflammation in the body, decrease of the level of testosterone, GH and increase of the amount of cortisol. Additionally, the response from the adrenergic system decreases – the amount of available β2 receptors decreases, even by 37%. It is of large importance for the physical efficiency of the competitor, because these receptors are responsible for the tempo of heart beat, increased lipolysis – burning the subcutaneous and visceral fat (increased concentration of the free fatty acids), increased fraction of HDL cholesterol, stronger conversion of T4 and T3 (body fat reduction), widening the blood vessels, or glycogenolysis in muscles and liver (the income of glucose freed from glycogen, the source of energy for muscles to work) [6]. Clenbuterol, salbutamol or ephedrine influence these receptors (the first two substances selectively, ephedrine non-selectively).

The scientists also checked the thesis about overtraining in a very painful way. Fry, Schilling, Weiss and Chiu, in 2006 [5], invited 16 well-trained sports people to the experiment. They divided them into two groups: the control group – did resistance training 2 x a week using the “Tru Squat” machine. The “overtrained” group did an intensive training in 10 sets with the load of 100% of the maximal load on the same machine. They did those 10 sets with 1 repetition of a squat each day for two weeks!


  • Power decreased by 36%

  • strength decreased by 5% (before 159.3 +/- 10.1 kg, after = 151.4 +/- 9.9 kg)

  • the volunteers could not undertake the normal training even 8 weeks after finishing the experiment! And “overtraining” is supposed to not exist!

The next experiment gave similar effects – this time Nottle and Nosaka (2007) checked how a 40-minute run on a treadmill with 7% slope will influence the competitors' results.

It turned out that:

  • strength decreased by 15% in exercises: seated extending the legs and leg curl on a special machine. The measurements were taken from 30 minutes to 24 hours after finishing the workout.

  • The peak power was less by 5% during the Wingate test,

  • muscle soreness was felt even up to 72 hours after finishing the workout,

  • the level of creatine kinase (recovery marker) was raised even 120 hours after finishing the work!

Conclusion? Recovery is a part of training. Too frequent and intensive training decreases the gains, physical efficiency, ability of building body fat (the regulation of the amount of the andregenic receptors, increase of the amount of cortisol, decrease of the amount of adrenaline and noradrenaline) and it may lead to injuries.

Lie no. 3: “you need to eat such a big amount of protein, that you will never supply it from food”

Unfortunately, in many studies it turned out that, apart form decreasing the amount of body fat in the group which supplied 4.4 g or 3.4 g of protein per 1 kg of body mass – there was similar increase of muscles as in case of the supply of 1.8 or 2.3 g of protein in the control group. [3, 4]

How much is 4.4 g of protein? It's a lot – for a person weighing 100 kg it's about 440 g of protein. To make myself clear, 100 g of chicken breast without skin contains about 21.8 g of protein, that means, that 440 g of protein can be found in over 2 kilograms of chicken!

Conclusion? You don't have to supply gigantic amount of protein, it has negligible influence on the muscle mass increase.

Lie no. 4: “you don't have to be strong to be huge”

Even the weakest bodybuilders, compared to average people, are strong. A friend of mine, a bodybuilder with great shape, who has never used any resistance training, had no difficulty in lifting 240 kg in deadlift, and he went far beyond 160 kg in squats. On the other side there are the bodybuilders, such as Morgan Aste, weighing 160 kg, who lifts 6 x 250 kg in bench press (without the T-shirt), or carries 180 kg per hand in Farmer's walk. Also, e.g. Svend Karlsen, who used 270 kg of load to squats (front squats) and 480 kg (on Smith's machine, Karlsen's squats)is worth attention.

Conclusion? Increasing the working load is the fastest and the best way of forcing muscles to harder work, it causes higher intra-muscle tension and increases strength growth. The beginners may grow using light weights (>50% of maximal load), but it's a short-term fun. After few months of regular workouts there are some problems.

Sources: Habel Angelika, Mroczkowski Sławomir. Wpływ polimorfizmu genu miostatyny na rozwój mięśni = Influence of myostatin gene polymorphism on the muscle development Journal of Health Sciences. 2014;4(9):67-72. ISSN 1429-9623 / 2300-665X 2. 3. The effects of consuming a high protein diet (4.4 g/kg/d) on body composition in resistance-trained individuals 4. A high protein diet (3.4 g/kg/d) combined with a heavy resistance training program improves body composition in healthy trained men and women – a follow-up investigation 5. β2-Adrenergic receptor downregulation and performance decrements during high-intensity resistance exercise overtraining 6. Beta2-mimetyki