Bodybuilders are often labelled “big dumb meatheads”, but this new research should end that myth.

The Dumb Bodybuilder Stereotype Must Die

Written by Russ Howe PTI, and most recently updated 1 day ago.

5 min read

I was recently approached in the gym by a concerned parent who was worried that letting his teenage son lift weights might affect his intelligence.


Sometimes I can’t even with you guys.

The root of his concerns was the fact that bodybuilders have a reputation for being… well… big dumb meatheads!

Obviously I reassured this parent that his worries were unfounded.

Introducing your teenage son or teenage daughter to lifting weights and getting regular cardio is among the very best things you can do for them, because there are so many health benefits ranging from the endorphin release, to mental health improvements, and of course the fitness-related upgrades on top of that.

And check this out; a recent study from The University of Texas discovered that young people who lift weights three times per week have a higher GPU (grade point average) than non-lifting students. So much for big dumb meatheads, right? This is coupled with interesting research published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society which predicts that over 135 million people will be suffering from dementia by 2050. The researchers in this trial concluded that partaking in regular weight training is among the best strategies for boosting your brain power and offsetting the development of dementia. (1, 2)

Dr Yorgi Mavros

So why do musclebound guys (and girls) get such a bad rap?

I believe this stereotype was born in the 1980s, when these guys would often portray big silly characters on the movie screen. These characters were so larger than life that they managed to break the fourth wall and transcended into reality, giving people the false impression that building muscle makes you dumb. Of course, when we take a closer look at some of the individuals who are often stereotyped the most, we can see how ridiculous it really is.

Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger

Ah-nuld is the first person people mention when making these type of accusations, because he’s a easy target.

However, he may sound like a big clunky robot, but he also became a real estate millionaire before 30, then built what is arguably the greatess bodybuilding physique of all time, and then the most famous actor in the world during the 1980s and 1990s. He’s also done a heck of a lot more for charity than he’s given credit for, and now owns one of the top 10 fitness podcasts in the USA.

But sure, big dumb robot voice.

Sylvester Stallone
  • Sylvester Stallone

Sly comes a close second to Arnold in terms of how much “big dumb” stereotyping he receives.

This is often because of the way he speaks, which can sound slurred at times, but this is actually nothing to do with Stallone’s intelligence. It was caused when doctors had a minor mishap with a pair of tweezers during his birth.

In terms of his brain power, Sly has 160 IQ (yep same as Albert Einstein), but his biggest triumph is his Hollywood origin story. If you haven’t heard the crazy tale of how he wrote the first Rocky movie, give yourself ten minutes and watch this, you’ll have huge respect for the man. Stallone has also been incredibly smart with his training over the years. He’s constantly on the cusp of new developments in the fitness world, and has made several adjustments to his own training which have enabled him to stay in amazing shape when most of his contemporaries have faded away.

Dolph Lundgren
  • Dolph Lundgren

Dolph was a victim of his breakthrough acting role as much as his own good looks.

Portraying the robotic Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, it’s easy to see why most people made the same mistake they made with Arnold Schwarzenegger and labelled him a big, clunky meathead. His celeb relationship with Grace Jones and all those cheesy modelling shots also did little to change the public’s opinion that there was nothing under the surface.

Shame on people.

Dolph Lundgren is fluent in seven languages, holds masters degrees in both chemistry and chemical engineering, and was offered a scholarship to MIT in 1984 (immediately before Rocky IV). He also has a 3rd Dan black belt in Kyokushin karate, and won the European Karate Championships at 23 years old. So the scary thing about Dolph is that he could kick your ass all over the place, and then explain how and why.

The Rock Dwayne Johnson
  • The Rock

The Rock is the definition of hard work and smart business acumen.

His 7 Bucks Productions got its name from the fact that he moved back home to his parents house with just $7 in his bank account at 23 years old, with a failed attempt at an NFL career behind him.

In the years that followed, The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) was able to win over the tough crowds of WWE, then transition into acting by following the blueprint laid before him by Arnold Schwarzenegger, and then surpass everybody else on this list with his savvy business moves which have seen him launch clothing lines, energy drinks, pre-workout supplements, bottles of tequila, and budget skin care products.

The fact that he runs all of his social media accounts himself, and is able to charge $1 million per post is insane.

  1. 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).
  2. 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).

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I’m Russ. I’ve been a personal trainer since 2002, and I own

My job is to simplify fitness for my readers.

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