Anatomy of Muscle-Building Hype

Reporting that doesn't cut the mustard.I see this kind of stuff all the time but I can’t resist talking about this example because it has so many elements of the half-science that underpins most of the nutritional supplement world. This link will take you to an article in the British newspaper, Daily Mail, that talks about how an ingredient in mustard (homobrassinolide) was discovered to build muscle.

The headline says fitness “fanatics” should “reach for the mustard and not spinach” if they want to look like Popeye (i.e. muscular). The article talks about how the homobrassinolide was given to the rats and that it resulted in higher protein synthesis and increased muscle mass compared to the control rats.

The popular conclusion might well be that slapping some extra mustard on your sandwich will help you pack on some extra muscle.

Now take look at this article published by Britain’s National Health Service, a government agency, which takes a slightly drier and more penetrating look at the specifics of the study. Key points include:
a) the study never tested mustard, it tested homobrassinolide found in mustard seeds
b) the concentration of homobrassinolide in mustard is nowhere near what it is in seeds
c) there is no evidence the rat’s protein synthesis or muscle gain would also occur in humans
d) nobody knows the long term effects and safety of humans ingesting concentrated homobrassinolide

What are you left with? A meaningless bit of information about rats and seeds, insofar as you and your health are concerned. And since the study was partially funded by the nutritional supplement industry, can it be long before we see “Bodybuilder’s Mustard” hawked in magazines and online? If you take this one example and multiply it by 1,000 you approach the reality of the maze of false claims and semi-science that permeates health and fitness marketing.

Neither article mentioned the most important fact; muscle only grows when it is stimulated to grow by working the muscle at or near it’s highest output.

Want to build more muscle than the rats did? It’s easy – lift a really, really heavy weight in the gym. Rest, so your muscles have time to grow and make you a bit stronger. Then go back to the gym and lift a slightly heavier weight. Rinse and repeat. That’s not as easy as eating a nice ham sandwich with a dollop of mustard – but it’s been working for over a million years.

 

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15 Responses to Anatomy of Muscle-Building Hype

  1. Michael at #

    Pete,
    I have been following you for a couple of years now and been doing the SC program and admittedly meeting your proclamation that an average male can be benching 500+ and leg press >1500 etc… my best bench was 565 so far and leg press is 1880. the question i have for you is what are your current stats for each of the 10 core exercises?

  2. Thanks, Michael. In general, I don’t like to divulge personal information of any kind so I don’t make a habit of it. I’ll be 53 soon and I can’t do quite as much as when I was in my late 30’s and developing PF and SCT. I travel constantly (I live in 3-5 countries per year and travel once I get there) and am at the mercy of gyms where I just accept using the full stack on every machine and have to add volume in place of missing intensity. I’ve shrugged 1,000 lbs, done a pulldown with 900, benched 675 and leg pressed a Toyota, although my best leg press was probably 1,500 lbs with one leg at a time. There are people reading this who can better every one of those lifts so please don’t view them as extraordinary.

  3. Rama at #

    Hi Pete, again after hearing the fact that you live in several different countries a year….how was the reaction of the guys there that see you do almost no movement but heavy weights? Outside of the States do you frequently get people constantly asking what the hell are you doing or do they mostly just look and ignore what you are doing?

  4. I get the same looks most people get. But I happen to be a big person 6′ 3″, 65″ shoulders, etc, and I suppose that’s why I don’t hear people telling me SCT won’t make me big or powerful. Which also is not logical – because for all they know it’s my first day trying SCT. If I was 5′ 1″ and 110 lbs I’d hear constant opinions about my training. Let’s just say gyms are not my favorite places – and that’s the #1 thing that makes me different from all the other trainers and ‘experts’ in the field – they want to be in the gym as often as possible and I want to be out of the gym as often as possible.

  5. macectoman at #

    Thank you for passing this on to the highly gullible–I am no exception–bodybuilding/strength training community. Furthermore,although I see the humor, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to find “MegaAnabolic Mustard” coming soon to a musclemag and supplement store “near you.”

  6. Michael at #

    Thanks Pete, I under stand where you are coming from with the age thing I will be 54 in Jan. and probably am stronger now than I have ever been. I am continuing to push the limits of my ability with each workout…maybe in a couple of years I can catch up with you…LOL although I’m a bit smaller than you at 5’7″ currently tipping the scale at about 150@19% BF. I want to stay active and fit as long as I can, both in and out of the gym.

  7. Keep up the good work!

  8. Neale at #

    Hi Peter
    I used your power factor training to recover from breaking my back. I was off work for about 11 years and 3 years after starting your program my back was strong enough to return to work as an interstate truck driver. So thanks for sharing your program.

    I am now training to become a personal trainer, is it ok to use your power factor program to train my clients? Also how do I get hold of the new power factor information? You were giving it away to people on facebook or similar, I am not on these sites and refuse to join. Can I still get hold of this new info?

    Thanks

    Neale

  9. Hi Neale! Congratulation on the full recovery. Good work.
    1. You can use PF to train people, but please don’t imply to them that you are certified by me or have special training on PF techniques.
    2. Anything mentioned on my Facebook or Twitter is available at this blog.
    3. The newest Power Factor products are on these pages:
    http://www.precisiontraining.com/products/power-factor-workout/
    http://www.precisiontraining.com/products/arm-specialization-workout/
    http://www.precisiontraining.com/products/power-factor-abdominal-specialization-workout/

  10. Stevie at #

    When i done my workout on my SCT machine 2day i used rest periods from a conventional program i have.

    Shoulders – rest 90secs
    Lats – rest 90secs
    Shoulders – rest 90secs
    Lats – rest 90secs
    Shoulders – rest 90secs
    Lats

    on my 2nd lift on each exercise i managed to lift more weight, and on my 3rd lifts i managed to maintain roughly the same muscular output.

    Because of the longer rest periods this would calculate to a lower maximum weight lifted per minute, am i right? But on the 2nd and 3rd try i managed to lift more weight than the 1st therefore i must have used more muscle fibers.

    I done this before and the same happend and i think its due to the fact that after the 1st lift my muscles are warmer and my CNS is more fired up and calls upon more muscle fibers.

    Just wundering wat ur thoughts are on this?

    Stevie

  11. Brian at #

    Hi Pete,
    Just a quick note. My martial arts instructor got me started with PF training around the 2nd week of August. I wanted to share with you that my chest workout started out a 155lbs. I just finished this same exercise Wed Oct 12 after a 2 week recovery period. I’m really blown away. I am at 210lbs. All my PF training segments now require 2 week recovery period. I feel so much stronger and have such a sense of well being about me. I am so excited.

  12. Some people are like that. I think it’s a minority but there are many people who can lift more on a second or third attempt. Once you know that you should do whatever you need to do to lift your maximum on every exercise.

  13. While I agree with your sentiment that this may be blown out of proportion and could be used for selling supposed shortcuts, I also see ads on here that state “One Easy Trick That Will Change The Way You Work Out Forever”.

    That leaves a bitter taste to the otherwise correct message in this article, especially when the line between advertisements and editorial content is not easily drawn.

  14. petesisco at #

    I hear you. Except it is one easy trick and it will change the way you workout forever. At least it should in a person who wants to be rational. (But I do wish dry facts sold as well as hype. Sadly, they never do.)

  15. Matt at #

    I’m like this too, I really notice it when doing my peaks on my legs. It’s entirely predictable for me. My first “all out” rep is never my strongest. My second rep is king. My third attempt drops off and becomes like the first rep. That’s how I know that I reached my absolute max and anymore reps are reduced intensity (some form of fuel is missing or not available to the muscle fibres).