Weight Training Myths - Don't let them hold you back!
Weight Training Myths
Most of the various misconceptions associated with weight training
have one thing in common : they are excuses for not working hard in the gym.
Although these misconceptions have been disproved many times, they
linger on as a convenient justification for people who want great results
without exerting significant effort. However, there is no shortcut to achieving
the numerous benefits of weight training; in fact, to be successful does
not only require hard, but also smart work. The paragraphs below are intended
to make you smarter with regard to common weight training concepts; and
to set you straight about some of the most prevalent weight training myths
by explaining the facts behind them.
Myth 1 : Weight Training and Bodybuilding are the same. Wrong !
Weight Training is sometimes mistakenly understood to be synonymous with bodybuilding.
Although both activities involve systematic training against the weight resistance
of dumbbells, barbells, exercise machines, various other equipment and even
one's own body weight, there are significant differences.
The term weight training is commonly used in referring to people who lift
weights but not for the purpose of competing in bodybuilding, powerlifting
or weightlifting. Weight training is a "specialized method of conditioning
designed to increase muscle strength, muscle endurance and muscle power". It
is the major component of any sensible fitness program, aiming
to develop muscle tissue throughout the body to increase the body's athletic
performance and appearance, increase basal metabolic rate for body-fat control,
restore and maintain good health and, last but not least, counteract aging;
cardio-respiratory exercises and stretching for increased flexibility are beneficial
supplements and may complement any weight training program. With weight training,
muscle development is not exclusively sought for the sake of improved appearance,
but mainly for its performance, fitness, and health-enhancing qualities.
Bodybuilding on the other hand focuses primarily on building the perfect physique
with the greatest possible amount of muscle mass, optimum muscular symmetry
and outstanding muscular definition. Muscular efficiency, strength, endurance
or health benefits are secondary, but - to some extent - derived as by-products
of pursuing the goal of ultimate muscularity, provided bodybuilding is performed
naturally. Major emphasis is on appropriate nutrition, including performance
enhancing supplements, without which the achievement of the desired levels
of muscularity is impossible. Bodybuilders also often use and abuse - partly
illegal - chemicals and drugs in order to enhance their muscular development
and to keep up with their competition. The intake of these chemical substances
and drugs often leads to severe health problems in later years.
Myth 2 : Training with light weights and many repetitions results in muscular
definition. Wrong !
Bodybuilders in the final stages of preparing for competition usually decrease
the weight loads of their weight training exercises and increase the number
of repetitions per set. This practice may have contributed to the misunderstanding
that performing sets with high repetitions and reduced weights is best for
creating muscle definition. There is, however, no
special lifting routine for increasing muscular definition . The observed
decrease of weight resistance is rather an inevitable consequence of the extremely
strict diet, which bodybuilders have to subject themselves to in order to achieve
the low levels of bodyfat necessary to compete successfully; dieting hard,
they just lack the strength to handle their usual weight loads and try to make
up for this by increasing the number of repetitions per set.
If you want to achieve optimum muscle definition, you must focus on two things:
1) You must train with heavy weights and high intensity to build optimum muscle
2) You must restrict your calorie intake in order to reduce the amount of
bodyfat covering your muscles. Reducing your bodyfat percentage by strictly
adhering to a controlled diet is most essential for your muscles to eventually
become clearly and distinctly visible through your skin.
Myth 3 : Lifting light weights for many repetitions creates muscle tone without
size increases. Wrong !
Some fitness enthusiasts don't want to do without the numerous health benefits
of weight training, but worry that working out might make them grow too big.
In the unreasoned fear that weight training might cause them to become too
muscular, some exercisers restrict themselves to handling only very light weights
for lots of repetitions and many sets. This concept of performing a high amount
of work with only very little effort is called "toning", and is erroneously
believed to produce muscle "tone" (firmer muscles) without any size increases.
The term "toning", is, however, merely a made-up term, which does not have
any scientific basis and can not be found in any physiology book. It has meanwhile
been known for more than fifty years that the
low intensity/high volume "toning" approach is an ineffective training method,
as it hardly affects any muscular adaptation. The result of such exercise is
a waste of time and energy and may at the most improve muscular endurance to
some extent. Increased muscle tone, a state of continuous partial contraction
, which gives muscle tissue a firm consistence, is in fact a result of regular
progressive strength training with high intensity !
Significant increases in muscle size are not easy to achieve. Without the
appropriate genetics, extremely dedicated hard training over many years, a
daily calorie intake far beyond what is considered "normal" and the use of
performance enhancing supplements, chemicals and drugs ( often including anabolic
steroids, human growth hormone etc.!), it is almost impossible to achieve major
gains in muscle size. Even men, who actually want to get big and work very
hard to achieve this goal, are hardly ever able to gain as much muscle as they
desire. There is certainly no chance at all that anybody will unintentionally
become too big by just working out with weights and consuming an adequate healthy
Myth 4: Women need to train differently from men. Wrong !
Examining a muscle cell under an electron microscope, it is not possible to
discern whether this particular cell comes from a female or a male organism.
As there is obviously no difference in the anatomic make-up of female and male
muscle cells, there is also no reason to believe that they need to be trained
differently: training principles are universal and not based on gender. Training
programs and concepts for women and men should therefore generally be quite
identical in order to be effective. To provide any muscle with the optimum
training stimulus requires maximum effort and striving to slightly exceed oneself
next time. This applies to women as well as for men, if they are serious about
achieving their fitness goals.
Women may not be able to handle as much weight as men, as they usually have
less lean body mass than men. However, on a basis of lean body mass, many women
are capable of proportionally becoming as strong as many men. Entirely different
is, however, the effect of weight training on men's and women's physical appearance.
Myth 5 : Weight Training makes women look unfeminine and too bulky. Wrong
Although male and female muscle cells are anatomically identical and ought
to be trained according to the same training principles, the training
effect in men and women is very different due to physiological differences .
Women produce 10 to 35 times less testosterone than men; with testosterone,
the "male" hormone, being mainly responsible for increases in muscle size,
it becomes apparent that women have nothing to worry about. Although women
become stronger in response to systematic weight training with high intensity,
their muscles do not tend to increase much in size due to the naturally low
levels of testosterone present in the female organism. Weight training rather
tends to make women's muscles firmer and tighter and over time usually leads
to a reduction in the circumference of their bodyparts and limbs, due to eventual
fat loss throughout the body. As muscle tissue is much denser than fat tissue,
women are soon able to wear smaller clothes-sizes as a consequence of their
weight training efforts. Such reshaping of their physique is what women should
generally look forward to achieve as it makes them look slimmer, healthier
and more attractive.
The excessive muscular development of certain competitive female bodybuilders,
as seen in bodybuilding magazines, can only be achieved by very few genetically
gifted female athletes. Apart from exceptional genetics, it takes them many
years of dedicated training, strict nutritional discipline and the use of performance
enhancing supplements, drugs and chemicals to build their extraordinary physiques.
It is completely impossible for any woman to accomplish such excessive muscle
development unintentionally or accidentally merely by following a sensibly
designed weight training routine as part of a healthy fitness lifestyle.
Whether you are male or female, don't let any of these outdated and debunked
misconceptions get in your way and prevent you from working hard in the gym.
Train in accordance with a sensible fitness program designed to achieve your
individual fitness goals and always work with correct exercise technique, avoiding
the use of other muscles than the target muscles to lift the weight. Adhere
to all training principles and don't be afraid of training "heavy". To the
beginning and intermediate weight trainer "heavy" generally means using enough
weight to be able to perform an exercise correctly for 8 to 12 repetitions
If you can easily perform more than 12 reps, you are not lifting enough
weight to stimulate your muscles. Do not use more weight for any exercise
than you can handle for the recommended number of repetitions but also never
finish a set knowing that you could have performed more reps. Challenging
your muscles and pushing them to their limit is the key to success !
Master of Fitness Sciences
Specialist in Performance Nutrition