What’s legit and what’s a total waste of time?
If you are new to lifting it will come as no surprise that misinformation is rife in the world of training. Busting common gym myths is a good way to separate truth from fiction.
1. Myth: Go heavy or go home
Busted: Everyone who has spent time under the bar will know that you cannot go all-out all the time. If your mantra is “go heavy or go home” you can be certain that tendonitis will develop along with other injuries. Life is about balance, which means you must have periods where you focus on concentric, eccentric and isometric strength in the gym.
Concentric strength is about contracting as much musculature as possible, while eccentric strength emphasises the extension phase of a movement which strengthens the tendons and increase the capacity to recruit more muscle fibres. Isometric strength tests holding, stabilising and pausing at specific points in a lift to not only build strength at your weakest point but also through a complete range of motion.
Strength is important while chasing hypertrophy for muscle building purposes, but you should not ignore high reps with light to moderate loads to flush the muscle with blood as this also aids in the recovery process.
Lighter loads help improve your overall muscle quality by increasing the muscle’s endurance and its resistance to injury. For that reason trainers should vary their workouts using both heavy and light protocols to enhance muscle growth. Of course, strength and hypertrophy will diminish if loading is not imposed on a regular basis and at specific intervals.
2. Myth: Muscles in 3 weeks, guaranteed!
Busted: This is a total lie. The gym has never produced overnight success stories. Even Arnold had to work damn hard for every muscle on his body. You cannot pack a ridiculous amount of muscle on your frame overnight despite what some might tell you. If getting jacked were as simplistic as eating protein and lifting heavy weights, every man on this planet would look like a Pro. As you get stronger you will start to see changes, but probably not at the rate you’d like. You have to be smart about your training, nutrition and recovery. Lifting weights is not a short-term hobby but a long term commitment, and this will only be possible if you love what you do in the gym. There is no ‘muscle in 3 weeks formula’ and that is why you’ll continue to see guys in the gym who look like they don’t lift despite training for years. Be consistent, patient and keep lifting.
3. Myth: Stretch before you sweat
Busted: Not so long ago stretching was to exercise what proposing is to marriage – a necessity. Researchers are now saying that you must not stretch before workouts, suggesting that it can actually impede performance. Scientists discovered that runners run more slowly, jumpers jump less high and bodybuilders lift less after stretching before exercise.
Performing static stretching prior to any multi-joint movements in the gym will therefore not improve your range of motion or boost your performance. For decades stretching was advocated to not only improve flexibility but also to ensure you don’t become too ‘tight’.
Current research shows that stretching before exercising can cause a drop in subsequent force development that you are able to produce in the gym.Perform your static stretches as part of a cool down after your workout.
Many athletes now stretch in the middle of the day at non-exercise times, rather than the typical stretch-before-a-workout protocol.
But what should you be doing prior to a workout?
A warm-up for weights should rather include anything that is of moderate intensity and uses major muscle groups. This involves dynamic or mobility work which will warm up the body by getting the heart rate elevated and moving the body through a complete range of motion, doing so actively. Examples of dynamic stretching include anything from cardio machines (elliptical, stationary bike or treadmill) to jogging, jumping rope or jumping jacks.
4. Myth: Hitting it from all angles
Busted: You don’t need a lot of equipment to grow bigger and better. You only have to find out what works for you and what your body will accept. When you have that covered it is all about progression and consistency. Consider the following exercises as essential meat-makers:
- Legs – Barbell squats and leg presses
- Chest – Bench presses and dips
- Back – Deadlifts, chins and rows
- Calves – Standing and seated calf raises
- Shoulders – Military presses, rear delt raises
- Arms – curls and dips
Machines have their advantages, such as working specific muscles, and they are useful when you are rehabilitating an injury. Free weights are more versatile and efficient in developing strength because they promote natural human movement. Free weights also produce significant lactic acid accumulation which leads to a large release of growth hormone, a crucial component in increasing muscle mass and elevating the metabolism. This will increase calories that are burned at rest and during exercise. Sometimes the goal in the gym is not do the perfect exercise perfectly, but to get the job done and move on.