The Death of Experimentation

The Incredible Hulk

by Cade Thomas

When I think back on when I first became infatuated with bodybuilding, a smile comes over my face. I had always been impressed by muscular physiques and couldn’t understand why anyone would want to be anything other than “jacked”.

Whichever cartoon character, professional wrestler, or movie star had the craziest physique was the one I rooted for. Pretty much as soon as I was knee deep in puberty I took it upon myself to head out into the garage and start throwing around my dads very modest weight set consisting of 2 dumbbell handles with a few scattered 5 lb and 10 lb plates to add, and a very intimidating pair of 35 lb dumbbells made of cement coated in brown plastic. There was also an extremely rickety universal station that had a chest press and tricep pulldown option.

I remember constructing somewhat of a “routine” but that is probably giving myself too much credit. I took all these exercises I had seen people do in videos or in person through my years and just did them all. Some curls for biceps, pushdowns for triceps, plenty of chest press, side laterals, shrugs, and the god awful beginner must…the side bends.

At first I was too embarrassed to even ask my parents to buy me a muscle magazine because of the oiled up freaks on the front, and thought that people would judge me if they knew I was curious about it. The one thing that strikes me the most about this time was just how excited I was about this new hobby I had found. I wanted to dive into it and experiment with different exercises and uncover every mystery about it piece by piece.

Although I was open to information that could speed up the learning curve, I was way more interested in just DOING it and learning from that. This enthusiasm continued through my mid to late teens when I remember spending hours a day in the school weight room. It got to the point where that was the first place people would look for me if they needed to find me, and although I had gotten fully into reading the magazines and memorizing Arnold’s Encyclopedia I was still very much experimenting on my own and basing my workouts off passion and instinct.

A few others who would flirt with bodybuilding (Not many maintained interest like myself) would make up exercises (some resulted in getting hurt) and challenge each other to bizarre rep schemes or supersets. None of it made any damn sense but it was pure fun and we grew and got stronger.

The internet has killed the chances of many people having the same kind of introduction to bodybuilding that I enjoyed so much. Although it wasn’t quite the “California dream” of moving to Venice and living the mecca lifestyle, my bodybuilding beginnings were built off having fun and I had some amazing memories getting started in the gym. Today people are obsessed with being “in the know” and will refuse to partake in anything that could possibly be rendered bro science.

It seems a lot of these kids would almost rather not work out (at least their profile pics would indicate so) than dare train in a way that is not considered en vogue or backed by recent studies. They spend more time jumping down the throats of anyone who suggests anything contrary to what the latest science might show than they do going into the gym and figuring out their own bodies.

Knowledge and science are fantastic tools for the bodybuilder but sometimes people forget that the human body is a complex thing and everyone reacts a bit differently. The complete disregard for anecdotal evidence is going to stop a lot of people from reaching their potential in the physique department.

What I think this generation will miss out on most is that passionate experimentation that I used to get lost in when I began (which wasn’t that long ago in the grand scheme of things). The respect you develop for your own body’s feedback is infinitely more valuable than the results of a study done on 50 overweight average joes, and the fact that many people feel the opposite way says a lot about the current state of the industry. 

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