What Are 13 Controversial Fitness Topics? 11 Is Shocking! 

In the world of fitness, there’s topics that stir up conversations, ignite passions, and sometimes leave us scratching our heads in confusion. 

As a certified personal trainer, I’ll discuss 13 controversial fitness topics and give you my take. Hopefully you find clarity about certain topics you have questions about. 

Brace yourself as we expand our understanding of controversial fitness topics today.

What Are 13 Controversial Fitness Topics?

These topics are divided into two categories: training and nutrition. 
Here’s what’s coming up.

Training 

Nutrition

Bottom Line

7 Controversial Training Topics

Cheat Reps 

Also known as ego lifting, sad to say that there is a lot of cheat reps going on in gyms. Note that cheat reps are not the same as partial reps!

  • Partial reps are toward the end of a set when approaching muscle failure. Partials are like squeezing the last reps out and are a good technique to get out of a plateau.
  • Cheat reps often involve heavy weight, bad form, and minimal muscular extension and contraction. Sure, it feels great to stack on the plates or grab heavy dumbbells, but is it worth it? 

Short answer. Nope. You have a higher chance of injury because of bad form, and a lower chance of properly stimulating the muscle you want to work. 

Not only that, but it does prevent you from tracking quality reps. So use good technique for your lifts! 

To be fair, there is an argument for cheating in certain exercises, like heavy bicep or barbell curls. 

Using momentum in this specific case will let you pump out more reps, and controlling the eccentric portion of the exercise will still reap benefits, like the partial reps mentioned above.

Verdict on Cheat Reps:
Thumbs down most of the time.  😑


Muscle Soreness  

Muscle soreness could be a marker that you did actually hit the muscle you wanted to work. For instance, if you had a chest day and your back is sore, something went wrong.

However, there are ideas floating around that muscle soreness equals gains, and no muscle soreness equals a crappy workout. 

That’s not true! You can have an impactful workout and be fine the next day. It could be that your muscles are used to the load and intensity you put them through. 

This brings up a good point though: what if you put your body through the grinder with a different load and intensity of workout? Does that make muscle soreness underrated? Definitely.

There are factors that positively contribute to muscle soreness without doubt. Those are: 

  • A higher volume of reps/sets than your usual  
  • A higher intensity of work, meaning less rest and more explosiveness
  • Training to failure
  • Hyper focusing on the eccentric portion of lifts
  • Training long muscle-lengths including hamstrings, quads, long head of the tricep  

Verdict on Muscle Soreness:
Thumbs up in many cases.  🙂


Bro Splits  

Bro splits are a type of training style where you train each muscle once a week. Each day consists of working one area like chest, back, shoulders, arms, or legs. 

The Bro Split is gaining even more attention because of sensation Sam Sulek. This split sounds logical, but it’s not the way to train for best results. 

  • The problem is that smaller muscles like say, rear delts or biceps, are only being trained once a week. That’s not nearly enough volume to for size or strength, especially in the larger muscle groups like back and legs.

Waiting a week between hitting a body part leaves days of potential growth on the table. Ideally, you can train muscles as soon as they recover, which can amount to twice per week with the right routine. 

To be transparent, while bro splits aren’t the best split, you should still do what you enjoy! If bro splits keep you going to the gym consistently then keep up the good work and stay consistent.

A different approach to a bro split is a push pull legs workout. These target muscles that have the same mechanics, and allow you to vary exercises while increasing volume. 

Verdict on the Bro Split:
Do better. But if this works, then do you.   🙂


Training To Failure

Training to failure is popularized because it’s the embodiment of pouring out every drop of effort into the finals reps. But it is even worth it? 

Research shows there’s not a huge difference in gains or strength if you go failure compared to if you don’t. But the same research does say that there are gains in training to failure only if: 

  • you train with low volume
  • you’re not trying hard
  • you have a smaller build 
  • you have relatively less strength 
  • you don’t train often 

There is a psychological aspect to training to failure. It could be that bodybuilders and gym goers feel a need to emotionally drain themselves. There is a release to it, I’ll admit. Some days you gotta fight those demons.

If you are training all sets to failure, then that might be overkill. 

If you’re really trying during workouts, and are an intermediate to advanced lifter, then training to failure has no serious advantage.

Verdict on Training To Failure:
Keep it up for your own lifting pleasure, but it can be overkill with no serious gains.   🙂


Mind-Muscle Connection 

Take a seat because this one might come as a shock. 

If you have a good progression and the right technique, then mind muscle connection becomes important. But it’s not the most important thing. 

What matters more than mind muscle connection is pushing yourself in the workout. Lifting heavier loads over time, or training with more intensity over time, is more important. 

As I mentioned above, having a really good progression of exercises, a proper training routine, and the right technique plays a lot more in your favor. While mind muscle connection is an important component in training, it’s often overhyped. 

Verdict on Mind-Muscle Connection:
Good, but there are more important things. 🙂


Pumps 

A muscle pump is when the muscle being trained gets full of blood and feels like it’s massive and going to burst.  

A pump is a good indicator if you’re training the target muscle effectively. It’s an enjoyable feeling and if you’ve never had it then you’re missing out.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve trained lateral delts and not felt a thing. It feels like a waste. On the other hand, I’ve had other sessions where I feel an insane pump and feel like a giant with boulder shoulders. 

Verdict on Pumps:
Two thumbs up  🙂


Cold Showers 

Cold showers have become a huge go-to trend from professional athletes to everyday people. You can find a number of videos of cold plunges often as part of 75 hard.

  • Cold showers or plunges are literally breath taking and invigorating at the same time. Participants of cold showers boast of its ability to improve your mood, energy, and recovery. 
  • Is it fact or fiction? There is shock value to your nervous system with cold showers. That’s what causes the shallow breath and the awake feeling. 

But news flash, you can get the same nervous system shock from training hard! Putting your body under heavy loads also activates the nervous system for the same effect. 

To add to the shock, there is a 2019 study that shows that colder showers actually reduce hypertrophy. Meaning, repeated cold showers stunt muscle-fiber growth after resistance training. 

Verdict on Cold Showers:
A bit overhyped with little scientific evidence of benefits, besides great testimonials from people who take cold showers.  🙂


6 Controversial Nutrition Topics

Dirty Bulking 

Dirty bulking is a lifter’s dream. I mean, you can eat anything you want, pig out, and enjoy life. It’s fun to have cheat days every day and the amazing strength gains are a plus. 

But is it worth it? No, it’s not.

Dirty bulking can lead to a lot more fat gain than muscle gain. It’s also not easy to burn off either. You’ll get stretch marks, and once you lose weight there can be loose skin. Not something you want to aspire towards I’m sure. 

There is a science-based approach to bulking though. Check out my 5 Step Smart Guide To Bulking.

Verdict on Dirty Bulking:
Thumbs down. Not a smart fitness enthusiast bulking choice. 😑


Natural Testosterone Boosters  

Sorry to burst your bubble, but there’s no such thing as natural testosterone boosters. Understand that the market is super saturated with products and supplements that claim to do this. 

Natural testosterone boosters are not scientifically proven just yet. It’s legit a money grab and too many men take the bait. 

For example, there are over-the-counter herbal elixirs on the market that advertise as natural testosterone boosters. But again, there is no evidence that taking said elixir would have significant or noticeable changes in muscle mass. 

  • If herbal supplements could boost testosterone, then as a consumer you should ask, how? 
  • The way your body works is, if it detects an increase in serum testosterone, it will down regulate its own testosterone production. 
  • Meaning that an herbal elixir cannot “naturally” increase testosterone. 

A boost in testosterone production has to be done pharmacologically. That would not be natural then. It would be drug induced testosterone production. AKA: anabolic steroids or TRT.

Verdict on Natural Testosterone Boosters:
Thumbs down. Want a simple way to boost your testosterone? Take testosterone!  😑


1 Gram Of Protein Per 1 Pound Of Bodyweight 

How do you know if you’re getting enough protein intake for muscle growth? Well, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) states it should be .5 to .8 grams per pound of body weight.

One gram of protein per pound of bodyweight is close enough, and sounds better to the fitness industry. I’ve heard many online fitness experts say this is the true, but is it factual? 

One gram of protein per pound of bodyweight is just a little over then what you actually need. The ACSM is right on the money with less than a gram. 

The truth is that if you eat a balanced diet, it removes the need to give hyper attention to your protein quality. Eat right and train hard and with consistency. You’ll see growth. 

Verdict on 1g protein/1 lb bodyweight:
More than you need, but easier to remember.
.5 to .8 grams is more accurate.  🙂


Diet Soda 

Diet soda has controversy surrounding its health. Is it healthy or not? 
Diet soda is not a healthy, nutrient-dense food, but it does offer a little to no calorie beverage option. 

Consuming diet soda is a viable alternative to regular soda, and can result in weight loss because of less sugar and calories.

  • While normal soda has sugar, diet soda contains sugar substitutes of aspartame, acesulfame potassium, sucralose and stevia.
  • It’s also good for satiety (felling full) and bypassing cravings from other sugary things like candy. 

Need proof? This systematic review from 2022 found that low- and no-calorie sweetened beverages were associated with small improvement in bodyweight without evidence of harm! 

Verdict on Diet Soda:
Thumbs up. It’s not a healthy food,
but rather a healthier alternative.  🙂


Taking A Break From Your Diet 

There are a lot of hard core dieters out there who don’t sway from their regiment because they don’t want fall into old habits. 

Some become really intense to the point where having extra calories is a cardinal sin. But is it to break your diet once in a while? 

Of course! You don’t want to become a slave to nutrition. Instead, it’s ok to enjoy yourself mindfully without beating yourself up. 

Fast and immediate fat loss is always trending in fitness, but what’s the rush? Take your foot off the gas once in a while and allow your body to settle from the diet fatigue. 

Individuals will try to lose a boat load of weight all at once. Maintaining the weight then becomes the new struggle. 

Don’t get caught up in the struggle. A better alternative is to lose 5-8% of your body fat with dieting (10-12 weeks), and then take a few maintenance weeks of healthy eating without strict dieting to get rid of diet fatigue. 

During this time, eat healthier to keep your current weight stable, and not to gain the weight back. You can hop back into dieting afterwards and continue the weight loss journey.

  • Need proof? This 2017 study found that a group wanting to lose weight dieted for 2 weeks, and then took 2 weeks off for 30 weeks. 
  • At the end of 30 weeks they maintained a weight loss of 17 pounds more than the group who dieted for the same amount of time without taking breaks! 

Verdict on Taking A Diet Break:
Thumbs up. But don’t bow into cravings and gain the weight back!   🙂


Eating Clean All The Time 

This one is fuzzy. It’s a bit controversial to eat clean because everyone’s definition of clean is different! 

A person on a keto diet will say that carbs are dirty. But a person on a paleo diet will say carbs are clean. See the problem here? 

For a healthier approach, include nutrient dense and smart food options in your diet (fruits and vegetables). But don’t shy away from minimal and moderate amounts of your favorites, like ice cream or double cheeseburgers.

On the other hand, clean eating can also mean that you stay away from junk food. 

  • Junk food is anything that highly-processed, usually packaged and uber delicious.
  • Junk food contains high amounts of fats, salt or sugar, and has zero to no vitamins, minerals, or fiber. 

Going on a fat loss journey will prove easier if you can get rid of junk foods in your diet. In that sense, eating clean would mean getting rid of the junk food for a while, especially if you want to get toned.

Verdict on Eating Clean All The Time:
Find the right balance. Limit junk foods, but allow yourself wiggle room in moderation.    🙂


Bottom Line

Let’s approach fitness with an open mind and not believe everything we see and hear.  

It’s of growing importance to be skeptical and do our own research about fitness topics, while finding reputable sources that provide accurate information. 

Let’s continue forward with a mind that’s curious and a heart that’s open to explore the real facts.

Looking for tips on your fitness journey? Check out these 12 steps to start working out, or dive deeper with why people go to the gym.

AUTHOR

Shalom is a content creator, musician, and a teacher at heart. As a certified personal trainer, his goal is to encourage others to lead healthier lives and to get buff in the process!

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