Exercise Science at Lehman College
Brad Schoenfeld studied business in college, but shortly after graduation, his brother bought him a gym membership. That led to a passion for weightlifting. “Once I started lifting, it changed my life,” he said.
Schoenfeld went on to become a personal trainer and gym owner, which piqued his interest in the science behind strength training. He eventually earned a Ph.D. Today he is an assistant professor at Lehman College and director of Lehman’s Human Performance Laboratory. Lehman’s exercise science program was founded in 2009 by Professor Gul Tiryaki-Sonmez with 40 or 50 students, but now boasts more than 350. A master’s degree program will begin in September 2019.
Schoenfeld has published more than 175 papers on topics ranging from sports nutrition to sarcopenia, which is age-related muscle loss. But his primary research focus is on using resistance training to improve muscle strength and hypertrophy (muscle growth). He’s written consumer books like The Max Muscle Plan, but says he’s most proud of his textbook, Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy.
In addition to collaborations with researchers around the world, Schoenfeld does many of his studies at Lehman using students as research assistants. They can earn acknowledgements on published studies, but equally important, they gain “a much better understanding as to how to critically appraise research studies to develop evidence-based conclusions,” Schoenfeld said.
Students also serve as subjects. “I virtually always am thanked by the subjects at the end of the study because they get bigger and they get stronger,” he said.
Schoenfeld says whatever motivates people to get stronger is good, whether it’s wanting to look buff, retain muscle strength as they age, or build self-esteem. He named his website Look Great Naked because so many of his gym clients told him: “I look good in my clothes, but when I’m naked…”
“If someone wants to do it for purely aesthetic reasons, why is that a bad thing? For me that’s why I originally did it,” he said. “If it’s going to make you feel better about yourself, that’s important.”