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“Lift Big-Get Big” Culture and the Strength Training Beliefs of Men

A new research study sought to understand the impact of the constant bombardment of media images of hyper-muscular men on the strength training beliefs of men. This study was conducted by a team of exercise physiologists and psychologists at Solent University in the United Kingdom and was also published in Europe’s Journal of Psychology. The authors state, “Men look to media to understand the ideal body image and exposure to such media also intensifies body image investment. This has been termed the ‘drive for muscularity.’ As a result, men also look to media for insights on how to achieve these ideals and this is typified by what could be termed a “lift big, get big” culture typified by recommendations to favor heavy free weight resistance training.” 
 
 
 
The fascinating conclusion to this study is that men were so entrenched in the belief that lifting heavier weights will make their muscles bigger. Even after being exposed to evidence-based strength training information (the notion that the amount of weight one lifts doesn’t matter as long as one trains to momentary muscle failure), they continued to cling to their preconceptions. Interestingly, when the new, evidence-based training information was presented along with images of hyper-muscular men, study participants tended to adopt the new information.
 
Take home message: Men (and perhaps, humans) aren’t logical when it comes to exercise. Just looking at a hyper-muscular man (versus a man with a “normal” physique) can influence open-mindedness to new training information.
Perhaps the real take home message is that if you want to educate men about strength training, you better be muscular yourself. This spells trouble for me…

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