The first time I told an uncle I wanted to start lifting weights, he said:
“Bodybuilders are stupid!
Don’t want to end up like Sylvester Stallone, do you? He can barely even talk! Or what about Arnold Schwarzenegger… that muscle head sounds about as intelligent as a rock!”
This was the same uncle who’d spent his entire life working a job he hated and just generally being a d**k about life.
Thankfully, I didn’t listen.
But in the last couple of decades I’ve spent working in the fitness industry, running sessions on gym floors around the UK, I’ve noticed this trend wasn’t exclusive to my uncle.
Bodybuilders are often labelled stupid. Stereotyped as big dumb muscle heads with no intelligence.
And it’s not true.
It’s hard work to learn how to keep your body in top shape all year round, or to craft a physique so flawless you wind up gracing a stage or magazine cover.
So today I’m going to fight the corner of the ‘muscle head’ with both science and common sense.
Let’s start with the science.
A 2001 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research discovered that students who took part in intense weight training sessions at the University of Texas achieved a significantly higher GPA (grade point average) than those who didn’t. (1)
This has since been followed up with very interesting research published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
With over 135 million people expected to be suffering with dementia by 2050, this particular study set out to test the cognitive improvements associated with resistance training in people over the age of 55.
The trial concluded that regular weight training actually improved function in the brain! (2)
Head researcher Dr. Yogi Mavros had this to say:
“What we found in this study is that the improvements in cognitive function were related to the gains in muscle strength.
The stronger people became, the greater the benefit for their brain.”– Dr Yogi Mavros
So there you have it! Not only is it a bulls**t myth that all bodybuilders are dumb, but in fact the opposite has been shown.
One look around pop culture also shows up numerous examples of famous physiques often mislabeled for their looks…
“Arnold Schwarzenegger! He sounds like a dumb robot!”
Yeah. A dumb robot who not only built the greatest bodybuilding physique of all time, but also became a self-made millionaire before he was 30 (thanks to his real estate know-how), and has since gone on to establish worldwide fame via his many action movies.
Arnold has also done a lot more for charity than he’s given credit for.
But… yes… big dumb robot voice.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
“Just a pretty meathead who was in the right place at the right time!”
He may be the world’s most famous celebrity right now, but right place right time?
We all know his production company, 7 Bucks Productions, got its name. The Rock moved back home to his parents house aged 23, a failed attempt at an NFL career behind him, just $7 in his pocket and no real idea where to go from there.
The rest is history.
He had to put in some serious work to get fans onside in WWE, after debuting to a very poor response before going on to become one of the best in the business. When he transitioned to acting, that awesome tenacity was utilized once more to push his way up the Hollywood ranks with over a decade of being, as he puts it, “the hardest worker in the room.”
That’s thanks in part to possibly the best use of social media displayed by any celebrity, period.
It’s easy for someone to say, “Oh, he probably has people do everything for him!”. However, it’s a well known fact that he actually runs his social media himself, and it’s such a marketing powerhouse he is able to charge $1 million for advertising posts.
The Rock signed a long-term partnership with Under Armour in 2016, a brand he supported way since his early WWE days, and got to work on creating a clothing range which has become the company’s best-selling line in their 23 year history.
At some point we need to start ruling out luck and respecting hard-a** work.
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Big response to our NEW #WillFindsAWay campaign. My first global campaign with @underarmour where we weren’t selling a product, but rather selling an IDEA. Not the idea of being “the best” at something or “winning world championships and gold medals”, but rather the idea of embracing your failures and using your hard times to push you forward. It’s a risky sell because in today’s market it’s not sexy and doesn’t have the “championship sizzle” athletic apparel companies look for. The “embrace your failures” philosophy doesn’t work for everybody, but it works for me and I’m sharing it with you. This picture was taken a few days before me – and my quads 😂 – were cut from the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL. I wasn’t good enough and sent back home to Florida. I left home when I was 18 and promised my family I’d make something of myself. Now 5yrs later at 23, I’m moving right back in with my parents, a failed football player with just $7bucks in my pocket. Dream over. Fell into my second bout with depression, but eventually my will was stronger than my emotional pain. I made a plan and put my two hands to work. My initial plan was to just pull myself up out of this sludge and shit and realize that I ain’t throwing in the fucking towel. Step by step, day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year.. things got better. My will found a way. Yours will too. I know it’s not easy sharing stories on a public forum, especially if you’re going thru the shit, but it may help you and it certainly may help other people out there as well. So if you’re up for it, comment below with your #WillFindsAWay story. And clearly I had zero WILL when it came to not wearing these absurdly short ass banana smuggler shorts in practice. WTF 😂🤦🏽♂️
“The only thing worse than that jerk’s acting is his intelligence!”
The frightening thing about Dolph is that he could kick your a** and explain the science behind how he did it.
He holds masters degrees in chemistry and chemical engineering, earned at the Royal Institute of Technology (Stockholm) and the University of Sydney, and was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to MIT in 1984. His acting career kicked off almost immediately after.
Dolph also speaks 7 languages fluently, and holds a 3rd Dan black belt in Kyokushin karate, winning the European championship at 23.
“Yo, Adrian! That dumb meathead can’t even speak properly!”
Perhaps I’ve saved the easiest target until last.
Syvlester Stallone’s slurred speech often sees him unfairly labelled as dumb. In fact, this is due to an accident which occurred during his birth and has nothing to do with his intelligence.
Sly has an IQ of 160.
Let that sink in. Rocky has the same IQ as Albert Einstein.
But the real success story of Stallone comes from his backstory. He’s the real life version of the character he plays in many of his movies (down-on-his-luck normal guy, up against all odds).
If you haven’t heard the crazy story of how the first movie in the Rocky franchise was made, set aside ten minutes and watch this.
The grit and determination we’ve become so accustomed to seeing in his movies is replicate by what he went through in real life to get his movie made the way he wanted it, turning down lucrative deals at a time when he was financially broke, to hold out for the deal that made sense.
Sly has also been incredibly smart with his training over the years, making small changes to enable him to keep pushing his body to the limit when most other people his age can’t even stand up straight.
As you can see, the myth that bodybuilders are stupid is just that… a myth!
Just because someone lifts weights doesn’t automatically turn them into a hulking sack of muscles with no brain cells.
The science (and plenty of real world examples) actually show the opposite to be true!
Trust me, stupid is everywhere and it doesn’t care what you look like. I once watched a dude walk into an plain glass window three times because he though it was an automatic door. That guy didn’t lift.
Then again, maybe if he had, the window wouldn’t have went 3 and 0.
If you’ve enjoyed this article on the stereotype of bodybuilders being stupid muscle heads, hop on my free email list below for ongoing tips straight outta my gym!
- Keating, X. D., et al. Association Of Weekly Strength Exercise Frequency And Academic Performance Among Students At A Large University In The United States. J Strength Cond Res. (2013)
- Mavros, Y., et al. Mediation of Cognitive Function Improvements by Strength Gains After Resistance Training in Older Adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment: Outcomes of the Study of Mental and Resistance Training. J Am Geriatrics Soc. (2016)