Science Vs Broscience: Bridging the Gap

Introducing the three groups of people that provide information;

Group 1: Team Science

‘Evidence-based practice is the integration of best research evidence with expertise, integrity and values.’

Group 2: The Bro

‘The predominant brand of reasoning in bodybuilding circles where the anecdotal reports of jacked dudes are considered more credible than scientific’

Group 3: The Dogmatist

‘Going against strong evidence, cherry picking studies and results to confirm their biases’


All three groups have a mutual goal; however have a conflict in interest which creates misleading and unclear guidance for the population that they are actually trying to help.

For those who are not well immersed in the health, nutrition and fitness industry, the vast amount of opposing views and opinions on certain topics causes a minefield like approach when trying to find the right answers. – Analysis by paralysis per se

Lately, there has been a movement towards the evidence based science crowd – which is very positive and will make for far more effective and safe practice in the industry.


A Case for Team Science

Evidence based practice is essentially the application of peer reviewed research. This is where a practitioner will use the whole body of evidence to make recommendations based on a goal or desired outcome.  Research studies are designed to answer a problem objectively, and to provide evidence to solve a problem. Science does not prove a theory; it merely provides evidence and unbiased information to support a hypothesis. Therefore a great way to rule out people’s opinions, as the saying goes; the data does not lie.

I would agree that some industry funded research studies can have a methodological approach to favour a particular result, but on whole statistically significant differences have not been found between industry funded and non-industry funded studies that are associated with a positive outcome. This means that you can have some faith in the validity of studies without jumping on the ‘industry sponsored’ bandwagon.

Furthermore, having the ability to weight up the body of evidence to determine what is beneficial and what isn’t allows practitioners to help people in the most effective way possible.  For example, they won’t suggest fad diets, bad practice, offer false hope and lie or place a huge amount of emphasis on a certain approach to confirm their bias. They will have integrity and be trustworthy in nature – They are not the group of individuals who are trying to rip you off.

In contrast, an issue can arise if you become too evidence based and don’t acknowledge previous case studies, experience and anecdotes. This is where the Broscientist steps in.


A Case for the Bro

For the veteran bodybuilder or powerlifter who has mastered the trade of enhancing physiques or maximising strength, anecdotes are definitely worth taking on board as they have figured out how to do it. Through trial and error, they don’t necessarily know why it’s worked, but they know it works.  Therefore team science is now playing catch up to either provide a mechanisms as to why it works, or refining the method used. For example, did Arnold Schwarzenegger know the responsible mechanisms of action that caused the pump, or did he just know that achieving a pump whilst training worked for inducing muscle hypertrophy?

Furthermore, it’s difficult to achieve the answers to certain questions due to limited funding in that area. Since there is an obesity and health crisis, funding and attention is a higher priority in that population – Why spend lots of money and focus on designing research that makes healthy people look better? It’s always going to be far and few between. Moreover, the majority of studies that attempt to answer questions related to physique and strength enhancement are generally performed in untrained individuals, which is difficult to extrapolate the ‘newbie’ results for trained individuals. In the grand scheme of things, nutrition and exercise science is still in its infant stages, where many unanswered questions remains.

For the evidence based practitioner, it’s a case of bridging the gap between evidence based practice, anecdotes and experience.  For the Bro, it’s a case of acknowledging that a certain approach worked for them or their population, but will have its limitations and will have to be open to suggestions based on new and emerging data to avoid dogmatism.  Likewise, the evidence based guy’s should avoid falling into the trap of dismissing anecdotes that are yet to be tested.

For example, did the owner of Westside Barbell Louis Simmons wait for research papers to be published in order to coach some of the strongest powerlifters in the world? No, he did so through tried and tested methods that have been designed through years of coaching. In this case, you’ll want to hear what he has to say


A Case for the Dogmatic

To keep this short and sweet, there is never a case for dogmatism – don’t be this person!


Moving Forward

To quote Dr Brad Schoenfeld, one of the leading researchers in the field of exercise science;

‘The key to successful exercise and nutritional programming: Use research to guide; use personal experience/expertise to individualise’

Therefore, use research to see if there is validity in a certain approach, then use this to guide you whilst using past experience to hone in the finer details that will account for personal preference and individual variation. So, in my opinion, there is a place for science, and a place for broscience. Use both to direct your decision making, but avoid having a dogmatic mindset in all scenarios.


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