Have You Bought into These Weight Room Myths? Part 1

Demystifying common myths in the gym that might hamper your weight training progress

When I first picked up weight training about seven years ago, like most people, I just copy what the other guys were doing and started hitting the machines and free weights. For fear of looking stupid, I didn’t question why the guys were lifting the way they did. Instead, I started reading glossy magazines with big guys on the covers and thought I knew everything I need to know about weight training.

Needless to say, l got almost no results in the first two years and the little muscles I gained quickly evaporated due to my intermittent, half-hearted appearances in the gym. It was only when I knew a friend who is a committed gym-goer that I started to put in serious efforts in weight training. I started to read books that I can get hold of from the libraries and even attended courses, eventually receiving my fitness instructor certification in 2006.

Even then, I found that conflicting theories and concepts abound in the gym as well as in books. Some people advocate daily training, while some swear by their 3-times-a-week routine. Some books recommend eight to twelve repetitions per set, while some suggest eight or less. The best way to walk out of this contradictory web of information, I thought, is to find out myself.

Listed below are my opinions in response to some common misconceptions pervaded either by the media or by clueless instructors and trainees. Use what makes sense to you, feel free to question those that don't and test them out for yourself.

  1. You can be as big as you want.
    While it is commonly accepted that one’s height remains more or less constant after a certain age, the same understanding does not seem to apply to physique, at least to many gym-goers. Some people have the notion that they can grow as big as they want, as long as they train hard and long enough.

    But sad to say, like any sport, how well you perform in bodybuilding is dependent on your genetic make-up. A genetically gifted person who is predisposed to developing bigger and stronger muscles can get away with a less intense program and yet produce good results, while an average person with a smaller built or less muscle fibers can work twice as hard but yet can never hope to become as big as his gifted counterpart.

    It is a harsh fact to swallow. But realizing this early will save you from a lot of unnecessary frustrations and disappointments, and even save you time and money.

    Does that mean you should give up your dream of becoming fitter, stronger and more muscular? Of course not! I am not a large guy by any standard, in fact I am considered as a ectomorph, but that doesn't stop me from enjoying a good workout. Instead of trying to become an Arnold Schwarzenegger clone, focus on realizing your unique physical potential. You can look as hunky and attractive in your own right without a 25" biceps or a 50" pectorals. Compete against yourself and aim to do better than you last did.

  2. More protein = more muscles.
    Many people have the mistaken notion that by taking protein supplements alone, they can grow muscles without any workout.

    But, the fact is you will only grow muscles with proper training, rest and a good diet, supplemented with appropriate amount of proteins if necessary.

    How much protein is appropriate? Aim for 1 gram of protein per kilogram of your body weight per day. If you weight 70 kilograms, then you'll need about 70 grams of protein a day. If your diet already contained good sources of protein like lean chicken meat, beans, milk, eggs and soya-based products, then you may not need additional protein supplement.

    But, as most people eat out most of the time instead of preparing their own meals at home, your intake of quality protein may be hampered or irregular. If you suspect that your protein intake may be inadequate, then try adding small amount of protein into your diet. Don't start off with the standard amount recommended on the tub or bottle right away. Start small and check your progress.

    You don't want to end up having too much protein in your body and end up gaining fat instead of muscles. Unlike glucose and fat, our body cannot store excess protein for later use. Excess protein ingested is excreted, converted to glucose or stored as fat.

    In the long run, copious amount of protein may even mess up your health by putting you at higher risk of osteoporosis, kidney damage, atherosclerosis and certain types of cancers.

  3. Do eight to twelve repetitions per set for every exercise.
    Eight to twelve repetitions per set is a useful general guideline for weight training, especially to beginners. But, it can also sabotage you if you follow it blindly without paying attention to the condition of your body. Stopping after a predetermined number of repetitions, and artificially lowering the weights so that you can complete a prescribed number of repetitions and sets are the two side effects of following this guideline to the letter.

    First, let’s understand how muscles grow. For a muscle to grow, you must subject it to stresses which it is incapable of handling, so that the muscle fibers has no choice but to become stronger and bigger (assuming proper diet and adequate rest are given). By not working your muscles to failure, as happened in the two cases above, your muscles will have no reason to grow at all.

    What does it mean by working to muscle failure? It is the point where you can no longer complete a full repetition. In this last excruciating repetition, you are sending a clear-cut signal to your muscle: Grow stronger and bigger, or die!

    Starting now, if growing muscles is your goal, don’t be too fixated on completing a prescribed number of repetitions or sets. Instead, focus on pushing your muscles to total fatigue.

Continue to Have You Bought into These Weight Room Myths -- Part 2

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