Oh muscle magazines. How you’ve wasted the time and money of so many people across America. Your foolish training recommendations. Your articles “written” by bodybuilders who in video interviews struggle to speak in full sentences and yet somehow write in complicated syntaxes with lots of fancy words (like syntax). Your “journalists” who work for supplement companies. Your endless rehashing of the same silly nutrition protocols. Sigh…
You know the magazines I’m talking about. Most of you probably haven’t read them, but I’m pretty sure some of you have. And some of you may have gotten of lot (inaccurate) training information from them. Don’t feel bad. I did too. Much of my passion for slaying sacred cows (usually after publicly taunting the cow for my own perverse amusement and then choking it with my bare hands while you all watch) comes from having wasted several years trying desperately to put on muscle size using ridiculous training and nutrition strategies. Ridiculous strategies include: waking up in the middle of the night to have a protein shake, eating every three hours for fear of muscle falling off my bones, epic high volume workouts, anything involving the word “blitz” or “hardcore”, etc.
At the end of the day, I can’t get too mad at muscle magazines. After all, they’re all dying a slow death right now anyway, along with a lot of the rest of print media. And it did fuel much of my passion for training and nutrition. And although a lot of the information may not have been as good as it could have been, it did give me a solid understanding of the basics of nutrition before I moved into helping others pursue their fitness goals. And since, as we all know, I love to make people healthy and hot, this was invaluable. There are definitely a lot of trainers out there that know their training stuff, but don’t know the difference between fructose and sucrose (types of sugars).
Huge in 8 weeks? Yeah fucking right. How about Huge in 5 years?
But we gotta admit fitness model gals are HOT, right?
We HAVE to admit this.
Seriously, admit it.
Whether it be out of nostalgia or morbid curiosity, I still flip through muscle magazines now and again. Interestingly enough, Muscle & Fitness is currently making itself over and has all but abandoned bodybuilding for MMA, wrestling, and sports training articles. They’ve also started having some of the BEST training experts writing articles for them (including but not limited to Mike Robertson, Mark Young, Nick Tumminello, and Charles Staley for the geeks in the audience). FLEX, the other magazine from the former publishing empire of bodybuilding impressario Joe Weider, remains the “hardcore” bodybuilding mag of the two. I put hardcore in quotes, because although it covers bodybuilding, it’s notorious for staged photos and ghost written articles by pro bodybuilders.
My favorite muscle magazine these days is Muscular Development. For those of you that want the REAL skinny on bodybuilding culture, this is the mag to check out. Most shocking to those who read the more sanitized Wieder mags is the stunning openness with which steroid use is discussed. I’m talking entire recurring monthly features about the best practices for which steroids to use and when to use them when doing a cycle. While I don’t recommend, nor personally use, steroids… at least they’re being honest. FLEX magazine would have you believe that today’s pro-bodybuilders are just genetically gifted, hard workers who eat really well. This dishonesty is what dirties the conversation, because I have to then explain to a 135 pound 5’10” guy why he can’t just follow Branch Warren’s training regime to get Branch Warren’s body.
This is Branch Warren.
“So how long you think before my legs look like this? Like 2 months? Or 3?”
(Mark washes down a bottle of aspirin with a bottle of whiskey)
The second tier muscle magazines are published by a gentleman named Robert Kennedy: Iron Man,Muscle Mag International, REPS, etc. They’re all pretty weird, offer similar training advice to the Weider mags, and generally tend to cater to an older demographic. Except for REPS. REPS is just pictures of fitness models eating fruits and vegetables and training with their shirts off. I mean, there’s some articles, but mainly it’s shirtless guys eating apples. Sometimes with girls in sports bras smiling and cutting up celery.
And as a quick clarification, I don’t consider Men’s Health or Men’s Fitness to be muscle magazines. While I think the information in those magazines is often so general and devoid of context as to be almost worthless because of space and publishing constraints, they DO get GREAT trainers to write stuff and tend to stay at the front of the best and most contemporary practices of exercise science. But they’re more men’s lifestyle magazines, and as such they’re not really geared towards bodybuilding since most dudes don’t want to be bodybuilders.
So your takeaway is this: don’t take the information in muscle magazines to heart. Gentleman, if you want to put on some muscle and you’re genetically gifted, you may do ok with some of the recommended protocols. Skinny guys looking to add some beef may do better reading Brawn orStarting Strength, or looking into the work of modern day minimalist guru, Jason Ferruggia (and in a bizarre twist of fate, Ferruggia is now on the advisory board of Muscle and Fitness). Or you can ask me if you need help. Though I’m usually hired as a fat loss expert, my deepest passion will always be beefing up skinny guys as that’s how I got into this biz (see Guerra above)!
And to be totally honest, if you actually want to compete as a bodybuilder in a show, I’m not your man. While I’m rarely accused of being modest about my knowledge base or the consistent and dramatic results my clients get, I know where my expertise lies, and I wouldn’t be qualified for the intense and often complicated process of prepping a client for a bodybuilding show. That’s a job for my buddy Maik Weidenbach of Adler Training. Check out this post about his awesome client and soon to be pro, Dolly Lazzare! Congrats to both Maik and Dolly!!
I give you Phil “The Gift” Heath, my favorite bodybuilder.
Yeah, yeah, I know you all think he looks gross.
But I think he looks friggin’ AWESOME