I recently started my first membership at a commercial gym. As part of the enrollment package I got four free personal trainer consultations. I figured what the hell and they set me up with someone.
First off is a discussion of my training history. He goes on about he was 135 lbs and is now 175 lbs of lean muscle. Which is either a lie or indicative of steroids. He poo poos my habit of working out fasted despite ample evidence that it is not detrimental for performance and has demonstrated health benefits and maybe even better improving for building muscle/fitness. Furthermore he goes on about eating every two and a half to three hours. This has been thoroughly debunked as unimportant and in fact may retard progression as there is a refractory period between periods of heightened muscle protein synthesis from eating. Thus the recommendation is to get 20-30g of protein no more than every four hours.
With this demonstration of his broscience credentials we moved on to testing my fitness levels. Now the day before I had done upper body exercises and related this information to him. Unfortunately, he is of the common personal training philosophy that you should go to failure always. This is of course a terrible idea as it is extremely taxing on your Central Nervous System. Needless to say, I was very sore after hitting upper body two days in a row. He was also fairly negligent of lower body strength.
All of this confirmed my suspicions that personal trainers are a waste of money. Most aren’t particularly knowledgeable about the subject, their only credential usually not being a fat slob. Even if they were, there really isn’t much about the subject of training that we know for sure. I have summarized a lot of it on this blog. The results they always get are mostly from training newbs who would get stronger just looking at a dumbbell. I could never be a personal trainer because I would just give my clients a two page pamphlet and let them go at it. The only advantage of a personal trainer is that you now have someone to yell at you for slacking. If you need that motivation then feel free to fork over the cash for a personal trainer.
Despite this paucity of real information, the fitness industry acts like there are secrets to building muscle and looking good that only their priesthood can reveal and sell you. They back this message up with impossibly lean and hairless fitness models for you to aspire to be. However said fitness models are all on drugs. The vast majority of supplements do nothing and the two that do something (whey protein and creatine) probably provide only marginal improvements over the long-term (hard to say as I haven’t seen a study on it) above eating a well balanced diet with a solid grounding of protein.
Nor is there some secret routine that will get you ripped. Look around at the gym at all the fit but not huge guys. Do you think it is because they are doing it wrong? Well, OK, there are many dunderheads at the gym, but you just wont get that big as a natural lifter. The bottomline is that your body doesn’t like to carry around muscle. From a survival standpoint it wants the least amount of muscle it needs to survive and would much prefer to store energy as fat. We train to convince our bodies it needs muscle, but it is fighting us all the way. There is no secret exercise selection that will overcome this fact and make us HUGE. In fact, the accumulating evidence suggests that the form of stimulus is really not that important. Varying the number of sets/repetitions all seems to end up with similar results if it ends up being taxing. You just need to provide a stimulus and your body is ready to adapt.
Yet the fitness industry is huge and growing and always trying to sell the next magic bullet for health. It preys on our vanity and ignorance. Unfortunately, this seems to be the source of a lot of economic activity today. I see caffeinated water being advertised as zero calories and other junk, as if coffee isn’t exactly the same and carries other useful health benefits (-10% all cause mortality). Or energy drinks which put a bunch of crap into what is for all intents a caffeine supplement. Just walk around your supermarket and really analyze the healthspeak they employ now and you will see it is all empty and often tautological. I saw a ramen noodle commercial claiming it was a healthful meal for your family despite mostly being refined carbs (probably the one true nutritional evil). A better educated populace would recognize the vacuousness of all these claims and hopefully not be suckered into them.