There are muscle myths that get floated constantly. And it’s not merely the notion that men who look like The Incredible Hulk (minus the green skin color) get more (or more beautiful) women just because of their shirt-ripping muscles.
We’re talking muscle myth-takes that those who are in the know should know much better about, notions that can interfere with someone’s workout, training, or fat-burning regimen. There’s misinformation and there are fallacious, untried narratives in every discipline, and the sport of fitness is no exception to the rule.
So let’s look at some of the pervasive muscle myth memes out there and get down to the truth.
“I may build too much muscle and get too bulky by accident.” By accidentally doing what, exactly? This is a fear that many people have about utilizing the right amount of resistance to do the right amount of muscle-toning, fat-burning, energy-enhancing work for them. This myth-based fear prevents people from, well, utilizing that right amount of resistance.
Here’s the reality: your body produces a biochemical called myostatin, and this is controlled by a gene that everyone has which is known to scientists as GDF-8. Although myostatin levels do vary from body to body, they’re consistent enough so that the vast majority of men, and virtually all women, will find it impossible to naturally build bulky muscles.
How many pro NFL or NHL players do you see who look like that? (As for those bulky body-builders, even the ones who aren’t jacked on steroids: try checking them out during their “off season” when they aren’t lifting weights for eight hours a day -- you won’t be impressed, but you may be disgusted.)
“A little weight, a lot of times, is the key to strength without making bulky muscles.” Well, it’s certainly true that lightweight resistance won’t build bulky muscles -- because it’s not going to build any significant strength or fire up the fat-burning metabolism that you want, either.
You have to find an amount of resistance that you cannot work against for more than eight reps or more than 30 seconds without stopping. This will vary from person to person due to different body types, body weights, and levels of training experience, but “a little weight” (such as those three-pound hand-weights that you sometimes see women jogging with) isn’t doing anything to get you the results that you do desire.
“Muscle weighs more than fat.” No, in fact, it doesn’t. However, muscle is volumetrically denser than fat, meaning that it can weigh the same as fat while taking up less space. Look at women’s tennis superstar Serena Williams [Unlink], who has a body that is both muscular and voluptuous.
Would you guess that she weighs a mere 130 pounds? Also, think about those slender female training coaches who seem to you to weigh about 115 pounds but who really weigh about 140. Check out the muscle tone. Check out the proportions.
Muscle tissue is also healthier than fat tissue, and that’s what you’re going for. You don’t need to weigh a whole lot to be muscular, strong, healthy, and energized.
You will get leaner and stronger in less time by working the “deeper” muscle fibers within your body. This is true-- but the myth is that you’ve got to focus entirely on working more muscles in order to burn more fat and build more total body strength. That’s a good thing to do, but for maximum efficiency in your training your focus ought to be on depth.
The “deeper” muscle fibers are those of what are known as the “fast-twitch” muscles: these are the muscles that give us powerful bursts of strength or speed, but which have very little endurance. Sprints and vertical leaps are done with fast-twitch muscles.
“Concentric action burns fat and builds strength.” No, in fact, the eccentric action of resistance training burns the fat and builds the significant strength. In other words, it is the lowering of a kettlebell, rather than the lifting up of a kettlebell, that makes the real difference. So shoving a weight up then dropping it fast won’t do you nearly as much good as a more controlled motion.
Arthur Jones, inventor of Nautilus training equipment built his empire on this simple concept: lower the weight twice as slowly as it takes you to lift it.
Straining your muscles as you lower the weight (and they slowly elongate), rather than just when you lift the weight (and shorten them) will greatly improve your weight training results.
Ready to workout smarter instead of harder?