Immanuel Kant's Contribution To Modern Bodybuilding

Maik Wiedenbach
Written By: Maik Wiedenbach
July 13th, 2012
Updated: June 13th, 2020
15.7K Reads
Immanuel Kant asked, "can I apply it universally or is it a gimmick?" Learn how to apply this maxim to your training, nutrition and supplementation.

Maik Weidenbach

Today's article is a little bit out there, but trust me, it's worth reading. We will dive deep into the foundations of rationalism and empiricism as well as European culture. Not only will you learn about one of the most important philosophical writings of all times, we will go a step further and see how it can be implemented into our bodybuilding lifestyle. On top of all that, we'll show the world that bodybuilders are really smart and can comprehend one of the greatest thinkers ever.

Let's get to it.

By looking at Immanuel Kant's picture, one wouldn't confuse him with Mr. Olympia. So what can he teach us? First and foremost, he ate the same foods all year round and didn't leave his primary residency (sounds familiar?). On top of that, he maintained a rigid schedule around work, sleep and meals which basically makes him one of us.

What about his philosophy? Glad you asked. Since we are not pursuing a PhD in philosophy but are in search of the path to hugeness I'll oversimplify a bit and only focus on his main works "The Categorical Imperative." It is best know in the following formulation: Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law. Simply stated:

Can I apply it universally or is it just a gimmick?

Basically, he was very unhappy with the moral philosophy of his time. He considered it to be too subjective and too driven by egoism, so he formulated the categorical imperative as an alternative.

What does any of this have to with bodybuilding? Quite a lot, if I may say so. If you have read any of my books or articles, you will have noticed that I am big fan of science and keeping it simple in general, so the old man from Koenigsberg fits right in.

Success in bodybuilding consists of three pillars: diet, training and recovery. If you can apply Kant's maxim to all three, you are on track to achieve a great physique.

You have to be able to look at your training and diet and be able to boil it down to a maxim that would be applicable universally. First off, do you have a goal?

Do You Have a Goal?

Is your goal clearly defined? Size? Leanness? Strength? If you can't explain the essence of your program to a three-year old in 60 seconds, its too complicated. I've trained with Olympic medal winners and I can assure you, they don't do anything mysterious, they just do the exercises better than we do.

Which brings me to my next point: are you doing the big 5?

The Big 5

Squats, deadlifts, overhead presses, rows/pull ups and the incline bench press (I laid out my feelings regarding the flat bench last week in the article, 7 Things You Must Do To Get A Bigger Chest) should be the basics of every program. If you aren't doing some variation of those lifts, something is off.

Don't let injuries hold you back. For example, If you cant do barbell squats, because of a lower back issue, try dumbbell squats. If your shoulders hurt, start doing wall slides and face pulls until you can do military presses.

Diet and Recovery

Next stop is diet. In order to keep in step with old Immanuel, the thing you should pay attention to first is caloric intake and macronutrient break down. (People lose sleep over the decision white potato vs. yams, yet they don't have the faintest idea how many carbs they take in per day.) On that note, I have a hard time to find any reason how eating only cabbage soup or grapefruits could become a universal law. Get your basics right.

In terms of recovery, partying and drinking every other night is also hardly the base for any universal bodybuilding law, so get your 8 hours a night.


Lastly, no article on size and mass would be complete with the mentioning of supplements. Here are my 5 favorites (in no particular order):

Caffeine and glutamine are a close Number 6 and 7. All of them are backed by science and can be universally applied, which can not be said for a questionable steroid replacement product with a "proprietary formula".

Also, supplements are called supplements, because they are supposed to supplement an already perfect lifestyle. If you add fish oil to your triple cheese burger, it wont do much good for you.

So whenever you are trying a new program or diet, give it the Immanuel test: what is the maxim of this? Can I apply it universally or is it just a gimmick?

Simplicity has created some of the greatest physiques on earth. Don't let yourself get confused.