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The Biggest Strength-Training Myths

5 Muscle Myths You Should Stop Believing

It may be April Fools' day, but it's time to stop fooling yourself; many often-believed "facts" about strength-training are actually false. Here are five common myths about muscles, and why they aren't true.

  1. Heavy weights make you bulk up: It's a common belief: lifting heavy weights will have you looking more bodybuilder than long and lean. But in reality, your muscles won't get Ms. Olympia-sized from lifting a 20-pound kettlebell; the size of your muscles is related to your genes and strength-training routine, not the size of your weights. Using heavier weights actually saves you time — studies show that you will get the same results when lifting heavier weights for fewer reps as you do with lifting lighter weights for longer. But no matter what size weight you use, make sure you choose one that is challenging your body the right way. The American Council on Exercise recommends that you choose a weight that fatigues your muscles within 90 seconds (aka makes you unable to perform another rep correctly), since that's within the limit of your muscles' supply of anaerobic energy.
  2. Soreness comes from lactic acid buildup: It's an often-quoted principle that the delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) you feel in the days after your workout is from lactic acid in your body. In fact, DOMS is a symptom of micro tears in the muscles that happen when you work out. Lactic acid does play a part in your workout, however, since it is the cause of that burning sensation you feel when working your muscles. It actually fuels muscles to help you work out longer, so pushing past that burning sensation will help you increase your strength and endurance.
  3. If you stop exercising, your muscle turns into fat: Once you've got your workout routine down, you'll be surprised at how toned you feel. But something like a vacation or sickness can set your regimen back, sometimes leading to weight gain. While many people believe the weight gain is from muscles turning into fat, both tissues are completely different and can't convert from one to the other (similarly, there's no way to make muscles leaner, since they are already fat-free). Instead, building muscle helps burn fat, so when you have less of it, your metabolism rate will be lower.
  4. Stretching muscles before a workout helps: Whether it's indoctrinated in you from years of high school sports or just part of your routine, many people think that cold stretching before a workout helps them perform better. In fact, stretching before exercising has been shown to be a waste of time and detrimental before certain workouts, like lifting weights. Instead, save the hamstring stretches for after your workout, and warm up muscles before with a few minutes of low-intensity cardio or one of these dynamic stretches.
  5. You shouldn't exercise with sore muscles: You took a butt-burning barre class yesterday, and now you can barely walk without wincing. You may think that you shouldn't work out again so soon afterward, but in reality, the right kind of exercise can not only make your sore muscles feel better, but also help you recover faster. Just make sure you aren't focusing too much on the affected area. If yesterday's workout included lower-body work, spend today focusing on your upper body, do a less-intense cardio session, or give weary muscles a good stretch in yoga class. Find out what else you should do when exercising with sore muscles here.
Image Source: Thinkstock
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yasminsdad yasminsdad 2 years
*debunking* sorry! 2. I thought that 'burning' sensation was caused by a positive Hydrogen ion (H+) concentration leading to a low pH environment and that your bodies way of REDUCING that Hydrogen ion concentration was to create lactic acid!!! ie Lactic acid (whilst coincidental with acidosis) is NOT the cause of the burning sensation but a result of your body trying to reduce the burning sensation! ie lactic acid is a symptom, not a cause! It may seem pedantic but my point is (ironically) THIS is how myths are formed! Well meaning people like yourself take recieved wisdom and perpetuate it without checking it out first! (its easy to do when it seems plausable, lactic acid is an acid right? and acid burns right?) 3. " similarly, there's no way to make muscles leaner, since they are already fat-free" Well. I know what you mean, but its not true is it? Ever eaten or seen a steak? Muscles contain two types of fat IntraMyoCellular Lipids (IMCL) fat contained within the muscle cell itself and ExtraMyoCellular Lipids (EMCL) fat inbetween the muscle fibres. IMCL levels are closely (negatively) correlated with insulin resistance and obesity so high IMCL levels are a good indicator of a poor, high GI diet. Interestingly in what is known as 'the athletes paradox' high IMCL levels in (healthy low GI diet, healthy insulin function) endurance athletes are the bodies adaptive response to extended anaerobic endurance training, as the body uses IMCL as an important fuel source during longer bouts of exercise. EMCL goes up with subcutaneous fat as well. So. Again. I know what you mean. But IF you propose to debunk myths I feel it is important to do your homework and be pedantic! Muscle DOES contain fat both in the cells and around the cells, the levels of which are a goid indicator, in conjunction with other lifestyle factors of overal fitness. Thanks for watching. Be happy. Stay healthy.
yasminsdad yasminsdad 2 years
If you are going to write an article supposedly debuking myths then I suggest it would be wise not to replace them with alternate myths.
PriceSteps PriceSteps 2 years
I usually warm up with a brisk walk to the starting point of my run, but I didn't know that stretching before a work-out can be a "waste of time"!
Lopbandet Lopbandet 2 years
This is a great article. I believe in all these myths before but not anymore. :-D Thanks for sharing. I will continue my work out even if my muscles are painful.
Mindy1986 Mindy1986 3 years
You guys did a poor job explain the muscle turns to fat myth. You are right that muscle can not literally turn to fat, but you need to explain to people that people gain weight quick if they stop working out because they are no longer burning hundreds of extra calories a day but are still eating the same amount of food.
couwy couwy 3 years
The first myth is one reason why I dislike Tracy Anderson. She keeps perpetuating it as the truth.
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