Monday, June 2, 2014

Muscle myths, lies, and fallacies

There's nothing worse than being an educated meathead and having to listen to all of the myths and fallacies associated with weight training.  There's nothing worse than listening to vacuous ramblings of people who have never picked up a weight, or have even halfheartedly educated themselves in regards to the benefits of weight training, and proper eating.

I suppose it shouldn't irritate me, but it often still does.

After all, if I were sitting in a room with an architect or surgeon I wouldn't belabor points about how certain structures weren't built properly, or go on and on about some article I read in Esquire (not sure why I would be reading that in the first place) that explained how silicone breast implants were unsafe.  I'd defer to his knowledge and allow myself to be educated.

Yet most meatheads that build enough muscle to be noticed by peers or family members generally are submitted to this onslaught of superior nonsense.

But this isn't just relegated to non-lifters.  I have read and partaken in numerous discussions in regards to lifting, and some of the things people cling to boggles my mind.

The next time you get any of these types of question or have to entertain these myths or fallacies, simply point them to this article and let them read for themselves.......

1.  All that muscle will turn to fat when you quit lifting.

This is like saying "when that apple rots it will turn into an orange."

Muscle and fat are two different types of tissue.  One cannot "turn into another."  I believe this comment is based around people that used to lift often, and eat a lot, then quit lifting, but don't change their eating habits.

Was built like Dorian Yates before he decided to quit liftin...

So now ol boy that was training 4-5 times a week and eating like a hoss, stops training, but doesn't stop eating like a hoss.  Muscle atrophies, and fat piles on.  To the common onlooker, it APPEARS that the muscle turned to fat.  When all that really happened is, fat turned to more fat, and the muscle that was underneath it shrunk.

2.  Lifting weights will make you muscle bound.

I believe this started in the 50's and 60's when football teams were on the fence about instituting weight training as part of their program.

I have no idea why people thought this other than the fact that when guys get overly muscular how they walk or their posture changes.  We've all seen the guy with imaginary lat syndrome or the guy with legs so big it appears he spent the previous day riding a horse bareback.

The fact is, lifting weights for the sedentary person actually makes them more flexible if the movement is carried through a full range of motion.  And there isn't a single professional sports team that doesn't have their athletes lift weights.

As far as lifting making you muscle bound, I can do deficit stiff legged deadlifts from a 4 inch block, and have no difficulties reaching the bar.  I can put my hands flat on the floor with my legs completely straight and I never do any static stretching.  In fact, I firmly believe that stretching is fairly overrated.  Not that it's useless, just that becoming "mobile" can be done if the appropriate movements are selected in training.  My own personal opinion is that most strength athletes need to be a bit "tight".  I can't see in any way, shape, or form that being hyper-flexible would benefit a strength athlete.  In fact, there are probably a great number of drawbacks to being hyper-flexible.  

3.  What exercises should I do if I want to get rid of the fat around this area right here, and tone it up?

Believe it or not, I still get these questions.

This is the myth of "spot reduction."  That means, someone thinks they can do an exercise for a certain area of their body, and that it will reduce fat in that spot.

Guys ask what they can do to reduce stomach fat, and women usually ask what movement they can do to get rid of those "saddle bags" on the side of their hips.

Thigh master or not, Suzanne Summers is still hawt

The movement you need to be doing, is less of that "fork to mouth" action.  In other words, "you need to eat less, i.e. diet."  There is no movement/exercise you can do that will reduce bodyfat in a certain area.  Everyone carries bodyfat differently, and the only way to reduce it, is to have a calorie deficit.  The reason a lot of people believe in spot reduction is because of those silly ass infomercials that tell you that you can "sculpt your thighs" and other such nonsense with their cute little toy.

Everyone has "abs".  It's just that some people's abs are hidden under a big layer of fat.

Your "saddle bags" don't go away by doing a certain exercise.  You may build muscle under that fat, and thus the shape of your leg changes, but the fat will still be there.

As the saying goes, abs are made in the kitchen.

4.  I'm following the South Beach Paleo Ketogenic Slim-Fast diet.  Are you aware of it?

Yes I'm aware of it, and I'm also aware that because you're following a fad diet and not making a lifestyle change.  So you'll lose weight, then after the diet is "over" you will resume your old eating habits, and then get fat again.

Don't think so?  I wrote about this last week here.

Dieting is an ugly word for most people.  So the key is to understand what your daily eating habits need to look like in order for you to lose weight, and keep weight off.  Because of my last article about food addiction, I feel like for most people, that's going to be quite the uphill battle.  However it's infinitely harder if you're using a fad diet to lose weight.  Because a fad diet isn't a long term solution to your lifelong problem.

5.  You can't get strong doing all those reps.  If you want to lift strong, you gotta lift heavy weights.

If you want to develop strength maximally, yes, at some point you'll need to lift heavy weights.  However strength can certainly be developed through rep sets.  5's and 8's were the bread and butter for elite powerlifters for decades in regards to building their strength base.

Lifting light weights, like pink dumbbells and shit, won't get you strong, no.  But you can get brutally strong lifting 70-85% of your 1 rep max for lots of reps and lots of sets.

6.  I don't want to get bulky.  I just want to tone.

This is usually uttered by women, but I've heard guys say this shit too.

Do you know what "tone" is?  Muscle hypertrophy.  That means, growing or increasing the size of a muscle.  For women, this is what changes the shape of their body.  Makes their ass round and legs TOIGHT.

Women have told me "I don't want to lift weights like a man."  What does this even mean?  You mean you don't want to train hard, or actually put some weight on the bar?  Listen, you're in the gym to build muscle.  If you want a floppy bologna ass then by all means, take up running and never do any weight training.  Become the proverbial cardio bunny that ends up with a skinny-fat body.  Muscle is what gives your body SHAPE.  When you avoid getting stronger, then you avoid changing the shape of your body.

That "tone" you are looking for, comes from squats, presses, chin ups, rows, and other compound movements.

If you want to look like a sexual goddess then yes, "train like a man."

There are lots of women that are "bulky" that don't lift weights, because they spend all their spare time lifting tacos and cheesecakes.

As for guys that say this crap, I don't know how to respond.  If you want to look like Jeff Seid, that's your prerogative.  I just don't know how to do that because I always wanted to looked jacked and manly.  If you can put a t-shirt on and no one can tell that you lift weights, and that's what you want, then that is your right.  I just choose another path.  And it involves a significant amount of muscle and strength.

7.  How much do you bench?

Whatever it is, I know you benched that for reps when you were in highschool.  That or your uncles old roommate had a cousin that knew a guy that was in prison with a guy that was related to a guy that used to work at Jiffy Lube that benched 900 for 10.

8.  What kinda protein you on, dawg?

I get asked this in various forms, but generally what they are asking is what kind of protein powder they can take to look like me.

I always tell them to eat food, and they look at me like I asked them to visit my uncle in prison for conjugal visits.

This is because for decades now the supplement industry has told us that to get really big or really lean we MUST have this protein powder in order to accomplish that.

I'm not saying protein powder doesn't serve as a useful tool, but if your eating isn't in order then it's not going to do a whole lot.  It's no different than taking a multi-vitamin and expecting that to completely cover your daily needs when your diet isn't.

Diet first, supplements are supplements.  Go look up what the word "supplement" means.

9.  I want to turn all this fat into muscle.

This is the flip side of the "all that muscle will turn to fat."

This is almost always a dude that is fairly chub, or even quite fat, and believes that his 300 pounds of slop can somehow be magically transformed into 300 pounds of sex.

I have heard this from women too however.  It's just phrased differently.

"Well I weigh the same but my trainer said I lost 10 pounds of fat and gained 10 pounds of muscle."

I'm glad you enjoy the bullshit sammiches your trainer serves you.  I'm glad you eat that up so readily and with a full heart and open mouth.

Fat can be lost at an exponentially faster rate than muscle can be gained.  Losing 10 pounds of fat might only take 6 weeks.  Gaining 10 pounds of lean mass, depending on the experience level of the lifter, can take a year or five.

Outside of a sheer novice, you're not going to gain muscle and lose fat.  Not at any significant degree.  Generally speaking, when you're dieting to lose fat, the best you can hope for is to retain the muscle you built.  More than likely, depending on the length and severity of the diet, you will lose some.

10.  You need to do certain exercises to shape the muscle.

You can overdevelop a muscle, or it can be underdeveloped.

You cannot however, change the shape of a muscle.  The shape of your muscles were determined as soon as dad bust loose inside of mom, and you beat the rest of the swimmers out.

This is a myth that goes way way back.  Larry Scott played a huge part in this in my opinion because he did the shit out of some preacher curls, and basically credited that movement to giving him those full biceps.

Short biceps or not, Franco was jacked

Well Franco Columbu could have done those "Scott curls" until the cows came home, and he was never going to have long, full biceps like Larry Scott.  Yet this didn't stop bodybuilders, even as recent as the 80's and 90's from basing their routines around doing a myriad of movements in order to "shape the muscle".

What eventually gives the appearance of a new shape, as I noted, is over developing certain muscles.  So you can sort of present the illusion that the shape has changed, but it really hasn't.

You can't make muscles longer, nor can you "etch" a new shape out of them.  You get what you get, and you don't throw a fit.

You just keep training and build on what you were born with.


  1. That would be something if you can make your muscles longer. Some people need to accept themselves as they are. Another good article from you

  2. Hi, Mr Carter, I had requested If I could share your earlier post, "If you were fat, you will become fat again" on my blog. Is it okay if I do so or it is not okay with you. Thanks.

  3. Paul I really enjoyed this one, I thought I had a way with words but brother you got the gift too!

  4. "pilates will help you sculpt long lean muscles...tone without bulk...blah blah blah bullshitcakes."

    I wish the crap they feed to women about lifting heavy turning you into Arnold, or 60 reps with what looks like a pink buttplug giving you long lean toned muscles would die a horrible death.

    I watch the cardio bunnies day in day out doing the same thing and sweating like mad, with no change in how they look at all. Ima go squat and deadlift until I can't breathe. (deadlift = push up bra for your ass)

    thank you for another great post, Paul.

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