Most people have a goal in mind when they workout in the gym. But frequently our goals and our workouts can be driven by common myths that we hear at the gym. Debunking some of these common myths can help you stop wasting time and energy.
This will also prevent you from being disappointed because you are not seeing results you had in mind.
Myth No. 1
“YOU HAVE TO LIFT HEAVY TO BUILD MUSCLE.”
Lifting more weight recruits more muscle fibers and results in growth, but it’s not the only means you can use to stimulate muscle gains. “Muscle can be built in a wide variety of rep ranges,” says John Meadows, C.S.C.S., a competitive bodybuilder and physique coach (mountaindogdiet .com). “The scientific research has demonstrated that overall volume of weight is what builds muscle over time, not just how heavy the weight is.”
Lighter training allows you greater volume (sets and reps) in a given workout without taxing your joints and connective tissues. It can also allow you to establish a better “mind-muscle connection,” whereby you get a better contraction in your muscles by thinking about them working while you lift. “And for muscle groups that act on smaller joints, such as arms, shoulders, and calves,” says Meadows, “lighter weights can be more effective than heavier ones, as these areas can become thrashed with heavy loading.” Think about how much you can curl—it hasn’t increased over the years like your bench press, but if you’ve been consistent, your arms are bigger. Isolation exercises work best with lighter loads.
Myth No 2.
“IF YOU WANT MORE MUSCLE DEFINITION YOU HAVE LIFT MORE”
The truth of the matter is that building muscle is a rather complex process and a function of many physiological mechanisms, which collectively ignite our anabolic pathways. Which means variations in rep ranges, training techniques, lifting speeds, and more
As for muscle definition, this is something that results from achieving a body fat percentage of about 10% and lower (obviously the lower you get, the more definition you will display). Lifting lighter weights for high reps is certainly not going to be solely responsible for making this occur, as some people seem to wrongly believe. Only a sound nutritional regimen, coupled with consistent cardio workouts and intelligent supplementation (in conjunction with your resistance training program) can push the body to rid itself of fat through increased calorie burn and boosted metabolic rate.
Myth No. 3
“THE POST-WORKOUT WINDOW IS CRUCIAL FOR BUILDING MUSCLE.”
Over the past decade, the notion of nutrient timing has gained steam. The idea, despite conflicting research, is that consuming protein right after a weight workout (up to an hour, usually) will maximize the muscle-building effect of the session. While many experts believe there’s value to this “post-workout window” theory, most still acknowledge that the overall amount of food you eat has the greatest effect. As long as you hit the number of calories you need daily, along with the right combo of macronutrients, you’ll grow.
A meta-analysis of 23 studies published by the International Society of Sports Nutrition in 2013 found that research does not support the claim that protein consumption within one hour after training—or one hour before—is significantly beneficial for increasing strength or muscle mass. Furthermore, the researchers observed that cases, where protein taken around workout time, did yield a positive effect were due to an overall increase in protein intake—not the timing of it.
Myth No. 4
“IF YOU WANT ABS YOU JUST NEED CRUNCHES”
You’ve probably been doing crunches since “gym” was something slotted between lunch and recess, but they’re an ineffective way to get a true six-pack. Instead, experts say toned abs come from a combination of interval training, utilizing carbs effectively, getting adequate sleep, keeping your stress levels low, and of course, selecting the right training moves. “If you look at big bodybuilders with block abs, they’re not getting those from crunches,” says personal trainer and strength coach Eric Allen. “They’re getting them from squats, deadlifts, and chinups.”
Myth No. 5
“YOU NEED TO CARDIO BEFORE EVERY WORKOUT”
Stand at the door of your gym and watch the next 10 people walk in. You’ll likely be observing a traffic jam at the treadmills. Yet the most effective way to organize your workout is to strength train first, and hit cardio second. “Running or doing other cardio first will reduce glycogen levels, which can prevent you from training as hard as you need to,” Allen explains. “On the other hand, weight training first will increase levels of testosterone and cortisol, both of which are beneficial to your workout.”