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“Read with caution”: a reply to Pickett et al
  1. D Smith1,
  2. C Wright1,
  3. S Bruce-Low1,
  4. B Hale2
  1. 1PE and Sport Science, University of Chester, Chester, UK
  2. 2Penn State University, Reading, PA, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr Smith
    PE and Sport Science, University of Chester, Chester CH1 4BJ, UK;

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In recent years, psychological issues in bodybuilding have received much research attention.1–,4 Given both the popularity of training with weights and the many interesting psychological issues surrounding this phenomenon, research on such issues is clearly warranted. We were pleased therefore to see a recent study by Pickett et al5 in this journal purporting to examine muscle dysmorphia and social physique anxiety in bodybuilders and weight trainers. Muscle dysmorphia is a multidimensional condition where individuals exhibit a distorted body image, believing themselves to be thin and puny when in fact they are large and muscular.6 The study of Pickett et al compared three groups of men: competitive bodybuilders (n  =  40), men who train regularly with weights (n  =  40), and men who do not train with weights (n  =  40). Several physiological measures (including weight, height, and body fat percentage) were taken, and participants completed several questionnaires, including the social physique anxiety scale (SPAS7) and the eating attitudes test (EAT-268). The authors concluded from their results that competitive bodybuilders are not more “muscle dysmorphic” than either non-competitive weight trainers or physically active men who do not train with weights. Although we applaud the attempt of Pickett et al to examine this important topic, we suggest caution with regard to some of their findings and conclusions because of concerns about the sample and measures used. These concerns are explained in the following paragraphs.

Methodological concerns


One of our main concerns about the study of Pickett et al is the choice of participants and the vague description of their characteristics. The study examined competitive bodybuilders, men who regularly trained with weights, and physically active men who exercised but did not train with weights. However, it is unclear whether the “weight trainers” in this study would have classified …

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  • Competing interests: none declared