8 Muscle Building Myths Busted
If your primary goal isn’t fat loss, then it’s pretty safe to say it’s going to be muscle building.
But do you know what you really need to do to get there or are you endlessly confused by conflicting information?
Today we’ll bust 8 of the biggest muscle building myths to show you what you should and shouldn’t do when it comes to packing on the pounds.
Weight Training Will Make Women ‘Bulky’
This is probably one of the worst offenders, it’s completely unfounded and has led many women astray.
I want to make it abundantly clear that lifting weights without consideration for effective programming and nutrition will not make anyone ‘bulky’ or muscular, man or women.
It takes consistent effort and dedication to build muscle.
It’s nothing something that will happen by accident or after just a handful of workouts.
The truth is there are numerous benefits that women (and men) can get from lifting weights regularly.
- Injury prevention (1)
- Increase bone density (2)
- Increases resting metabolic rate (3)
- Builds muscle and strength
- Improve posture
- Stress reduction and mood improvement
Rest Is Not That Important
Too many people underestimate the importance of rest and recovery, mistakenly thinking that more time in the gym = more progress.
When the reality is that a lot of your progress happens when you rest and allow your body to complete several important processes;
- Repair/rebuild muscle tissue damage from working out
- Restore muscle glycogen stores to provide energy for your next workout
- Psychological recovery after a tough training session
- Recovery from general fatigue associated with exercise and working out
Allowing your body to do this means it will begin to adapt to the stresses of exercise which in turn means you will get bigger and stronger.
The best way to help your body complete these actions is to stay hydrated, get adequate sleep and eat appropriately for your goal.
Neglecting to give your body the time it needs to adapt and repair itself after training will result in a noticeable deterioration in your energy levels, performance and results.
Hardgainers Can’t Gain Muscle
It’s kind of like saying overweight people can’t lose weight…it’s ridiculous.
Sure, some people find it more difficult to lose weight, whether its mental, physical or both they just seem to struggle more than most to effect a change.
The same goes for “hard gainers”, it’s not that they CAN’T build muscle it’s more that they have a harder time doing it.
It’s true genetics play a role, (4) which is why some people can look at a barbell, eat a mere 2000 calories and be ‘jacked’ in no time, “hard gainers” on the other hand may have to eat up to 4000 calories or more just to see a change on the scale.
However, if you combine an effective eating plan with a progressive and well-structured training plan there is no reason why a “hardgainer” can’t gain muscle.
If You Miss A Training Session You’ll Lose All Your Gains
We’ve all been there, training 3+ times a week in the gym and things are going great.
Then out of nowhere work gets unexpectedly busy and you find you can only get to the gym once or twice a week.
Panic sets in and you start thinking that you’ll regress on all your lifts and your hard-earned gains will diminish…
But is this actually the truth or an unfounded fear?
Let’s look at what the science says.
- A study conducted by Graves et al (5) found that reducing training frequency from 2 – 3 times a week down to either 2, 1 or 0 times a week resulted in 70% strength loss in those who train 0 times but no loss in strength for those training once or twice a week.
- Another study (6) looked at the retention of strength at reduced training frequencies and also found that 1 session a week was sufficient in maintaining strength in trainees.
- Finally, a study (7) comparing strength in 2 groups of untrained women who either performed one or two weekly sets of leg press found that results were “statistically similar”.
There you have it.
You can easily maintain your strength with a reduced training frequency, so if you need to drop down to training 1 or 2 days a week for a while don’t sweat it.
You Can Isolate the Upper Chest
This is a common one, often touted wrongly in the name of prioritising the incline bench press over the flat bench press.
Now I’m not bashing the incline press, in fact, I love the incline press, it’s my go-to chest exercise but not because it can isolate the upper chest.
The truth is you can’t isolate the upper chest, both chest muscles (pec major and minor) work in tandem, it’s not physically possible for you to work one without working the other.
However, by using the incline press you can emphasise the upper chest much more than if you were doing flat presses only.
You Can’t Build Muscle If You’re Over 50
As we age we begin to lose skeletal muscle mass and strength, this process is called sarcopenia (8).
It’s because of this process that some people will have you believe you cannot gain muscle as you get older.
However, research (9) shows the positive effects of resistance training in men 50 and older.
Sure, it may be slower than when you’re in your 20s and your response and recovery will not be as good but if you adhere to the principle of progressive overload, follow a well-constructed workout programme and eat appropriately for your goal you can and will build muscle and strength.
Squatting Is Bad For The Knees
Some people consider them the king of the lower body, others swear that they’ll ruin you and then, of course, there are some people in the middle, but what’s the actual answer?
The truth is squats are a fantastic exercise for building muscle and strength in the lower body but if you perform them with bad form and a weight that’s too heavy for you they can cause knee problems.
However, if you work with the correct weight for your ability and focus on good form and control throughout the movement you can squat pain-free and without any risk to the knees.
This is backed by a research[i] study that concluded that “the squat does not compromise knee stability and can enhance stability if performed correctly” and another study (10) that found squatting had no negative effect on knee stability in high-level powerlifters and weightlifters.
However, if you simply cannot get on board with squats for whatever reason that’s ok, there are plenty of alternatives you can use to train your legs.
[i] Knee biomechanics of the dynamic squat, Rafael F. Escamilla, Michael W. Krzyzewski Human Performance Laboratory, Division of Orthopaedic Surgery, Duke University Medical Centre, Durham, NC 27710
The More You Eat The More Muscle You'll Build
Sometimes I feel like wherever you look, someone is telling you how you can build 10 lbs of muscle in a month or promising you that ‘this one exercise’ is the secret to packing on muscle mass in minimal time.
If this were true, then everyone would be walking around with great muscle development.
The reality is after a point you won’t gain any additional muscle mass from eating more but you will gain a lot more fat.
To minimise fat gain whilst still being able to build the optimal amount of muscle you should aim to eat in a small caloric surplus of 10% with the aim to gain 0.25 – 0.5 lb per week for a total of 1 -2 lbs of muscle gained per month.
By doing this you can expect to gain weight at a ratio 1:1 for muscle and fat gain.
When you adopt this approach to muscle gain you can work on building muscle for a lot longer without unnecessary fat accumulation.
There is no shortcut on the road to building muscle, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible.
By avoiding things 8 muscle building myths;
- Weight training will make women ‘bulky’
- Rest is not that important
- Hardgainers can’t gain muscle
- If you miss a training session, you’ll lose all your gains
- You can isolate the upper chest
- You can’t build muscle if you’re over 50
- Squatting is bad for the knees
- The more you eat the more muscle you’ll build
You can set yourself on the right track to building muscle the right way.