10 Muscle Building Myths
While most of these myths aren't necessarily dangerous, they are indeed incorrect, and abiding by them will place plateaus on your strength training goals, impeding you from making optimal progress.
10. YOU NEED TO LIFT EVERYDAY
Putting in countless hours of hard, intense work in the gym is imperative to making muscle gains; however, rest days are equally as important, and here's why: your body needs time to rest and recuperate.
If you are truly giving it your all with the weights, you're muscles and joints need to be given time to heal and recover, which will also benefit your subsequent workouts. Working out sore muscles means you are working out at sub-par performance.
Also, taking a well-rested day off from the gym also serves as a safety net from becoming "burned out" mentally. So, when it's your rest day, don't feel guilty. Kick your feet back, get some protein, and watch weightlifting videos on YouTube.
9. IF YOU AREN'T LIFTING HEAVY, YOU AREN'T GOING TO BUILD MUSCLE SIZE
One of the biggest misconceptions we hear tossed around the gym is that you've got to lift heavy and that light weights are for gym noobs. This couldn't be further from the truth.
Lifting 30% of your 1-rep maximum until failure has been shown to result in similar anabolic signaling within molecules to lifting with a higher volume for lower repetitions. Also, significant increases in muscle fiber are achievable from lifting lighter weight for high repetitions.1
Lighter weights are also easier on your joints and ligaments and may also facilitate better form during your workout. So, if your ego allows, drop down a few pounds and do some sets until failure for big muscle gains.
8. USING THE SMITH MACHINE IS POINTLESS
The belief that squatting with the smith machine or using the smith machine to do chest presses should be avoided is a popular myth propagated from bro culture. However, avoiding the smith machine may be keeping you from breaking through lifting plateaus.
Building strength and achieving a desirable physique are probably the 2 most popular goals of a majority of lifters. The smith machine serves as a great way to help you focus on the primary muscles you are working out.
The smith machine takes the balancing and stabilizing factor out of the workout, which is why competitive power lifters tend to avoid the machine, but that doesn't mean the average gym goer and bodybuilder should avoid it.
Unless you are training for a competitive lifting competition, you should throw the smith machine into your workouts when necessary to help you focus on primary muscle activation to increase hypertrophy.
7. YOU CAN ONLY BUILD IMPRESSIVE MUSCLE MASS IN THE GYM
We can't lie, the gym is one of the best places to build muscle mass, with free weights, barbells, and machines. But, the gym isn't the only place you can put on a great amount of muscle, which is why this myth is false.
There are plenty of body-weight exercise that you can perform at home that will definitely help you build muscle and strength. Unless you can manipulate the weight in an exercise, the secret to building muscle mass is in the amount of reps you perform.
Here are some examples of amazing body weight exercises and variations you can do at home that don't require any free weights or dumbbells:
- Handstand Push-Ups
- Incline Push-Ups
- Diamond Push-Ups
- One-Legged Squats
Try a muscle-building HIIT exercise by mixing up some of these suggestions and you'll break a sweat and get a nice pump.
6. FIND THE BIGGEST PERSON IN THE GYM AND COPY THEIR WORKOUT
Imitation is the greatest form of flattery, but not the best idea when it comes to deciding on a workout plan.
Those with greater muscle size and strength than you will also most likely be able to obtain and sustain a higher workout intensity. Their high-volume workout may appear to be the key to unlocking your muscle gains, but its important to realize that just because someone is huge, ripped, and shredded from head to toe, doesn't mean their workout is suitable for you.
That person may have years of experience lifting and has built their physique up over a long period of time. You can't replicate those years by just copying them now.
You also don't know if they are using some type of performance enhancing drugs to improve their workout intensity. They might also simply have different workout goals: whether they are trying to build muscle or whether they are just trying to maintain their physique.
The point is, it's not bad to get ideas from pro bodybuilders and other lifters, but we don't recommend attempting to match their workout set for set, rep for rep.
Listen to your own body, record your progress, and then modify your workouts as you go and you will stay on the road to building a better physique.
5. PAIN IS GAIN
I think we've all heard a similar phrase before. Getting a great pump is an excellent way to gorge the muscle with blood and create an anabolic environment for muscle growth, but that doesn't mean that if you feel pain, you are growing.
Pain while lifting is often times a sign of injury. Battling the pain of a muscle pump is one thing, but ignoring joint, bone, and muscle pain for the sake of a "go big or go home" mentality is a sure fire way to put your health at risk. Don't lift if you are in pain or if the lift causes you to be in pain.
4. LONGER CARDIO MEANS MORE FAT BURNING
To all those treadmill warriors out there, congratulations on your determination and focus. Now for the, perhaps, shocking news: you don't need to run for extensive amounts of time to shed weight. In fact, time factor in cardio is pretty irrelevant. What matters most is intensity.
High-intensity intermittent exercise (HIIE) has been shown to result in fat loss and improved aerobic fitness, and for those that don't have a lot of time to work out high-intensity intermittent training is the perfect solution.2
Keep in mind, you can mix anaerobic and aerobic exercises together to create the ultimate HIIT workout. Check out our video guide on high-intensity interval training for ideas.
3. BEST FAT BURNING WORKOUT FOR MEN
Static stretching (holding a stretch to an elongated position for an extended period of time) doesn't benefit weight lifting. On the contrary, static stretching may hinder your maximal muscle performance by decreasing stability.3
What you should be doing to warm up for your workout are dynamic warm-up exercises. These exercises warm up the muscles that will be used in your workout.
For example, if you are going to be squatting in the squat rack and feel that you are a little stiff and rigid, perform some weightless squats. Do as many as you feel necessary to get your legs and core warmed up.
Or if you are going to be doing bench press, start with a lower weight and rep the bar slowly to activate your primary and secondary muscles. Do as many reps as necessary until you feel properly warmed up.
2. YOU CAN TARGET FAT LOSS
The belief that you can target areas of fat on your body (stomach, thigh, arm, etc) by doing certain exercises is unfounded and, unfortunately, false.
Research reveals fat loss during exercise is generalized, rather than occurring in only one specific spot. This is because triglycerides, a term for the fat in fat cells, need to be broken down into free fatty acids and glycerol and enter into the blood stream before they can be used as fuel during exercise. And this process occurs all over the body, and not specifically from the limb or area you are working out.4
So, if you have a winter coat from holiday treats and desserts, know that doing an unlimited amount of crunches won't melt away that stomach fat, even if your abdominals are burning.
Throw in some high-intensity interval training and weight lifting for overall fat loss, and coupled with ab training, your washboard abs will come in harder than ever.
1. ALL BODYBUILDERS ARE HEALTHY
Just because pro bodybuilders have amazing physiques and crazy striations doesn't mean that they are the embodiment of exceptional health.
Most professional bodybuilders, while being genetically inclined to achieve greater muscle mass and definition than the average lifter, are usually on some type of performance enhancing drugs which allow them to work out extremely hard, surpassing the average and even above average intensities most gym goers experience to build muscle.
Extreme cutting phases that pro bodybuilders undergo to get stage ready can often times be very grueling and deleterious to the body and the endocrine system. The low level of body fat percentage that bodybuilders go onstage with is not sustainable.
Depleted nutrition and low body fat aid bodybuilders' physiques to bring out symmetry, definition, and accentuate muscles, but stage condition taxes the body and makes it difficult to function.
DON'T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU HEAR
The gym and internet can be great places to learn about breakthrough workout tips and advice.
Unfortunately, a lot of these great advances in nutrition and exercise become mixed with personal preference and opinion by those who mean well, but probably haven't done any research on their own.
We suggest sticking to clinical studies available online and learning how to understand them. If you hear a new workout technique or nutritional breakthrough discussed on an anonymous forum or message board, don't just take their word for it. Go look it up and read about it!
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU
- Nicholas A. Burd et al. "Low-load High Volume Resistance Exercise Stimulates Muscle Protein Synthesis More Than High-Load Volume Resistance Exercise In Young Men." PLos One 5(8): e12033. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0012033.
- Stephen H. Boutcher. “High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise and Fat LossHigh-Intensity Intermittent Exercise and Fat Loss.” J Obes. 2011; 2011: 868305.
- Simic L, Sarabon N, Markovic G. “Does pre-exercise static stretching inhibit maximal muscular performance? A meta-analytical review.” Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2013 Mar;23(2):131-48.
- Elena Perry. “Targeted Fat Loss: Myth or Reality?” Yale Scientific.