MUSCLE BUILDING MYTHS

 

Like so many things in life, fitness, weight loss, and muscle building are surrounded by myths, misinformation, and outright lies. What’s worse is that now thanks to the internet and social media, everyone has a platform where they can spread this false information at the touch of a button. In many cases, these myths will have no impact or effect on your progress. In other cases, they could end up costing you a lot of time and energy and could even lead to injury or illness. 

Here are some common muscle-building myths that everyone who lifts weights needs to know. 

FAT TURNS TO MUSCLE AND VICE VERSA

Fat and muscle are two very different things. Fat, also known as adipose tissue, is essentially stored energy. On the other hand, muscle is made up of bundles of parallel fibres and is contractile, elastic, and extensible. In terms of similarity, they are like oil and water, and one cannot turn into the other.  

However, it can appear that this myth has a ring of truth to it. If you train hard and watch what you eat, your fat stores will decrease while your muscles get bigger. Conversely, if you stop training and eat an excess of calories, your muscles will shrink, and your fat stores will increase.

Fat hasn’t turned into muscle, and muscle hasn’t turned into fat. All that has happened is the ratio between your fat stores and muscle mass has changed. Your body is an amazing machine, but alchemy is not one of its abilities!

BIG MUSCLE MAKE YOU SLOW AND CLUMSY

Many people believe that having big muscles can make you “muscle bound”. They go onto say that big muscles make you slow and clumsy. This myth used to be so prevalent that a lot of coaches would “ban” strength training from their athletes’ schedules and any athletes who wanted to lift weights had to do so in secret. 

The truth is that increased strength can have a huge benefit for almost all people and will boost all types of performance – including speed and endurance. The stronger you are, the less effort you’ll need to use to accomplish most physical activities, and that includes things like running, jumping, kicking, and throwing. Less effort means less fatigue plus improved performance when you put in maximal effort. 

In an everyday life context, increased strength and endurance can translate to an easier and more enjoyable time doing the most menial things because it takes less effort. Things like playing with the kids/nieces and nephews, walking the dog, cleaning chores, opening jars, rearranging furniture - Do you see where we’re going with this?

As to becoming muscle bound, big muscles could impair mobility and flexibility, but only if you don’t balance your strength training program with adequate mobility work. Working your muscles and joints through their full range of motion will offset the potential muscle shortening effect of strength training. Not convinced? Gymnasts are very muscular and very flexible. The same is true of Olympic weightlifters, professional dancers and martial artists. Good job no-one told them big muscles would make them muscle bound and clumsy! 

 

BODY PART SPLITS ARE THE BEST WAY TO BUILD MUSCLE

Body part splits involve training different muscle groups on different days. For example: 

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Chest

Back

Shoulders

Legs

Arms

Rest

Rest

While this kind of split can work for advanced exercisers who have the ability (and the time) to work their muscles in a single training session, most exercisers will find that they don’t need seven days between workouts for the same muscle group. In fact, they probably recover in only 3-4 days. 

For many people, a body part split may actually be an inefficient way to reach your goals. A vast majority of exercisers would potentially get better muscle-building results from training each muscle group twice per week. This means no detraining between workouts, adequate recovery time, and subsequently, faster progress. For example:

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Lower body 

Upper body 

Rest 

Lower body 

Rest 

Upper body

Rest

Use different exercises for each lower body and upper body workout to avoid boredom and provide your muscles with the variation they need for maximum growth. Training each muscle group twice a week will increase both training volume and intensity. For example: 

Monday

Tuesday

Thursday

Saturday

Lower body: 


Squats 

Leg curls

Leg press

Lunges 

Seated calf raise 

Upper body: 


Bench press

Seated row

Incline bench press

Chest supported row

EZ bar skull crushers 

EZ bar bicep curls 

Lower body: 


Deadlifts 

Leg extensions 

Romanian deadlift

Step-ups 

Standing calf raise 

Upper body:


Shoulder press

Pull-ups 

Dips 

Lat pulldown 

Dumbbell biceps curls

Cable triceps pushdowns  


Workouts can also be split into more specific groups which work complementary synergistic muscles as seen with the video below

Three sets of ten is the best set/rep scheme for muscle building 

Many years ago, a respected sports scientist did a study on muscle building and discovered that doing three progressively heavier sets of 10 reps produced muscle growth. However, no other set/rep schemes were tested! Word of the effectiveness of three sets of ten soon spread, and it was adopted all around the world as THE best way to build muscle. Talk about only getting half the story! 

While three sets of ten can work, so too will: 

  • 3 sets of 12 

  • 4 sets of 8

  • 5 sets of 5

  • 6 sets of 4

  • 8 sets of 3

Your body needs variety for continued muscle growth. Diversity in your set and rep scheme, as well as the exercises in your workout, will make sure your training stays fresh and productive. If you keep on doing the same old thing over and over, and that includes your split, set and rep scheme, and choice of exercises, your body will soon adapt, and your progress will grind to a halt. 


Low reps to build muscle, high reps to get lean

A lot of exercisers believe that where low reps are best for building muscle, high reps are better for fat loss. The reality is that nutrition and calorie expenditure are the most important aspect for fat loss, while a variety of rep schemes are necessary for maximizing muscle size. 

If you eat less, your body will burn fat for fuel no matter what rep range you use. In fact, to preserve muscle during your diet, heavier weights and low reps are best. High reps with light weights could actually lead to muscle loss. Use a range of set and rep schemes to continually challenge your muscles and keep your workouts interesting and productive. Adjust your diet according to your goal. 

Don’t undermine your progress by falling for these myths. Instead, use scientifically proven principles to guide your training. A lot of myths sound like the truth but, if you dig a little deeper and do some research, you’ll soon find that very few of them hold any water, and most are nothing but wishful thinking, bro science, and hearsay.