Right now it is popular to hate on “Broscience”.
I mean seriously, every single blogger and their dog is writing, commenting, tweeting, snapping, about how Broscience sucks and anyone who follows Broscience sucks.
Well I am going to hit you real hard over the head with something.
Literally every single successful training program and diet to date originated in Broscience.
Let that detonate in your brain for a second. . .
Before the rage of “evidence based practice” people got jacked. Not just kind of jacked but like JACKED.
They did it without PubMed, without exercise science degrees, and without knowing the exact mechanisms of muscle hypetrophy, fat loss, etc. They did it with Broscience. . . real, hardcore, in the trenches, Broscience.
That means all the gnashing of teeth and smashing of keyboards the past few years is really misguided and not super helpful. In fact, it may actual set back some advances.
Don’t believe me? I get your skepticism but let’s take an honest assessment of what Broscience, when done well, actually is. It is, in essence, the scientific method.
The Scientific Method
Let me illustrate with the following example where the scientific method gets applied by Broscience.
Step 1: Make an observation
Broscience is rooted in observation in anecdotes. That is a fancy way of communicating the following:
Step 2: Make a hypothesis on said observation
You then need to figure out a way to prove if that observation is true or just a random coincidence. This requires you to turn your observation into a testable idea by formulating a hypothesis.
Formal Hypothesis: “Increasing training volume leads to more muscle hypertrophy”*
Technically, hypothesis are usually stated in the negative as statistical hypothesis testing is designed to reject or fail to reject a null hypothesis (you can’t really prove a hypothesis correct as per Karl Popper) so for formality sake we should state it as, “Increasing training volume leads to more muscle hypertrophy”.
Step 3: Test the hypothesis through experiment
Now here is the point where Broscience often breaks down. True experiment and discerning the exact causality of something requires a lot of careful experimental control.
For example, one might start bench pressing twice a week instead of once a week, while adding creatine monohydrate and upping calories a bit. Then when they see muscle gains, they conclude that it was the extra day per week that drove the changes and volume was the key to it all.
Well it could also be an issue of frequency. Maybe benching once a week with more volume (i.e. doubling the number of sets) would give the same results?
Maybe it was the creatine? Maybe it was the extra calories?
In order to really make the conclusion that it was the added volume you would have to control for total volume, exact food intake, supplements, sleep, training age, muscle hydration status (for the measurement part), etc.
This is where Broscience starts to miss the mark a bit. It can’t tightly control everything.
I stressed the bit part for the following reason.
Here is what we can conclude at this point:
- Benching twice a week instead of once a week, taking creatine, and increasing calories gets your pecs swole.
- We don’t really know exactly what of that combination was the biggest factor.
Now for some reason we have a big push right now to focus on number 2. But let’s be real, number 1 is where the practical application lies for a lot of us. In PRACTICAL terms, we have uncovered a way to get bigger pecs and gets you more stares at the beach.
Broscience is essentially the equivalent of pre-enlightenment science where they kind of had things figured out but lacked the rigor they needed. They had figured out a lot of stuff but just didn’t have all the nitty gritty details hammered out.
I mean heck, Rome built aqueducts and the Coliseum. Greece had inklings about atoms and democracy. So, just like we relied on early science to inform later science, we should let Broscience inform our current thinking.
The Huge Caveat
Now before you go off in a tizzy and tell me how full of it I am and how much I am missing the point, read the following few sentences.
There is a real need for science and evidence based practice in our industry. One of the main reasons is to keep the money hungry charlatans at bay. There is a lot of opportunity to make a quick buck on “Broscience” based claims. This is where the real science needs to step in.
There is another reason why the science piece is critical. Uncovering the true causes of results allows us to progress faster and further. For example, is time-under-tension really the key variable for maximizing muscle gain? If it is we should prioritize our bulk cycles on that principle, if not we should prioritize it around the main mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy.
What about fat loss? For decades we were told that there is an ideal fat burning zone. This is accurate, there are levels of exercise that maximize intra-exercise fatty acid oxidation. However, we have recently learned that the percentage of fat utilized during a given training session doesn’t translate very well to body fat loss. They are very different aspects of human physiology.
Here is the main take-away: Broscience is an excellent tool to start looking at specific ideas and is often a catalyst for research. The real science often takes us to the very edges and pushes the boundaries.
We shouldn’t outright trash Broscience, it has gotten our entire field and you where we are today. Systematic, rigorous, scientific inquiry will help us refine our knowledge and uncover the truths about some more difficult topics. We ought to welcome both with open arms and use them to balance one another.