The Seven Myths Of Bodybuilding

Myth 1: Big Muscles Will Slow You Down

Many coaches and personal trainers believe that an increase in the size and strength of a muscle will result in slower movements when performing a particular athletic event. Boxing, for example, always maintained that weight training would slow down the punching speed of the boxer. However, just the opposite takes place. The speed at which you can perform a particular movement will he enhanced tremendously by increasing your strength levels. The speed of a body movement depends on two factors: (1) the strength of the muscles that are actually involved when performing a specific skill and (2) your capacity to recruit muscle fibers while performing the movement (neurological efficiency).

It's fallacious to assume that a muscle will "slow down" because of an increase in its strength and size. The correlation between the speed of a muscle movement and the strength level of the muscle is positive. Therefore, to increase the speed of a muscle movement, increase the strength of the muscles needed to perform that particular movement.

Myth 2: All That Muscle Turns to Fat Eventually

Perhaps the most common misconception in bodybuilding (particularly to the nonbodybuilder) is that the muscle you build will eventually turn to fat. That beliet is totally divorced from reality. Muscle can no more be turned into fat than an apple can be turned into an orange. They are two entirely different cells; one cannot magically become the other.

If you were to chemically analyze fat and muscle, you „ would discover that muscle anil fat both contain varying amounts of protein, water, lipids, and inorganic materials. 1 lowever, when muscle is exercised, it contracts and produces movement, whereas fat will not contract and is usually stored in the body as a source of fuel. It is physiologically and chemically impossible to convert a muscle to fat and vice versa.

A simple explanation of what takes place can be illustrated by observing the ex-athlete's pattern of exercise and caloric intake. When an athlete stops training his or her muscles, the muscles will begin to atrophy, or shrink from disuse. At the same time, the athlete may continue to consume the same level of calories. With the athlete consuming more calories than are needed to maintain his or her hodyvveight and energy demands, the excess is stored in the hody as additional fat. If an athlete becomes obese after terminating a strength-training program, it is due to caloric imbalance—taking in more than he's burning off—and not muscle transforming to fat.

Some individuals believe that their bodyweight should maintain a constant level upon the termination of a strength-training program. Unfortunately, these individuals fail to understand that if they lose ten pounds of muscle mass through muscle atrophy and their body weight remains the same, then the weight loss that is attributed to muscle atrophy has been replaced by deposits of additional fat. Thus, if you stop training, you should also reduce your calorie intake.

Myth 3: Lifting Heavy Weights Is Bad for the Joints

Some people worry that they will injure their joints if they lift heavy weights. However, the term heavy is relative—heavy compared to what? Nothing can be evaluated without standards for comparison. And, in Power Factor Training, the only person whose standards are significant for making comparisons is yourself.

More to the point, Power Factor Training, properly using what for you are considered "heavy" weights, will actually strengthen the muscles that surround each joint. This, in turn, makes the joint more stable and less susceptible to injury. In fact, proper overload on the ligaments and tendons in the joint region actually serves to thicken them (much as a callous forms on the hands), making them far stronger than they ordinarily would be.

Such a practice must, however, be undertaken cautiously. A greater potential for injury lies not in performing heavy strongest-range training movements

(which are within the body's most advantageous leverage and muscular range) but in full-range movements that put the joints and connective tissues in their weakest position, thereby exceeding (often considerably) the structural integrity of the joints and connective tissues. Extreme stretching of joints can, in fact, cause very real damage to ligaments and tendons.

Myth 4: You Train with Heavy Weights and Low Reps for Mass and Light Weights and High Reps for Definition

Despite what some trainers will tell you, there is no magic number of reps to perform for building mass or increasing definition. Remember that muscular definition is primarily the result of dieting off subcutaneous fat so that the muscles directly beneath the skin appear in bold relief. To accelerate the arrival of such a degree of definition, you really don't have to train with weights at all. Running even a mile a day will bum far and away more calories than would the performance of an extra set of bench presses or cable crossovers.

In any event, it is well substantiated that training with peak overload causes the greatest adaptive response by the cns. As long as you're training with your highest possible Power Index, you will have done all you reasonably can to stimulate an adaptive increase in your muscle mass stores.

Myth 5: You Have to Work a Muscle Through a Full Range of Motion in Order to Fully Develop It

Nowhere has there ever been a study that stated that a full range of motion is a requisite to stimulating maximum muscle growth. The contention of some that partial or strongest-range movements aren't as effective as full-range movements because you're only lifting the weight a few inches is totally unsupported by science.

The truth of the matter is that muscle fiber recruitment (and, therefore, growth stimulation) is a matter of force requirements, not flexibility. The range of motion therefore is not a factor in the muscle growth process. If it were, yoga masters and contortionists would be the most muscularly massive individuals on the planet.

In other words, if you can lift heavier weight, you will recruit more muscle fibers—regardless of the range you use to lift it. The body isn't concerned about such aesthetic factors as whether or not your biceps have extended all the way down on a Preacher curl. In fact, in terms of its energy systems, the body can't tell if you're training your quads or your pecs; its sole concern is how much energy and fiber recruitment are required to move that tremendously heavy weight at the end of your arms.

When your muscles have suddenly been called upon to lift a very heavy weight for a lot of repetitions, a tremendous amount of energy must be created—quickly. The body, then, concerns itself with factors such as muscle fiber activation, hormone secretion, increased blood flow to the working muscles, clearing waste by-products as quickly as possible, initiating the Krebs cycle, and a host of other metabolic activities. With strongest-range training, the two requirements for inducing hypertrophy (maximal overload and increased work in a unit of time) are brought to bear on the skeletal muscles in a manner that no other training method can even remotely-approximate.

Myth 6: Real Gains in Mass and Strength Will Come When You Learn How to "Feel" the Exercises You Perform and Train "Instinctively"

The issue as to whether or not man is an instinctual creature is best left to the realm of philosophy and psychology. However, to postulate that man, somewhere in the innermost recesses of his psyche, possesses some sort of a "bodybuilding instinct" or "training instinct" is downright ludicrous.

Even if such a thing did exist, attempting to monitor one's results by such a subjective index as how you felt at any given time would be tantamount to having no way of monitoring one's results. Can you envision an athlete in any other sport engaging in his training in such a haphazard and subjective fashion? Could you imagine, for example, an Olympic miler trying to monitor his progress by feel or instinct and never measuring his progress with a stopwatch? Yet this is exactly the type of irrational, low-tech methodology that bodybuilders have always used. There has always been a technological barrier to finding out the validity of training beliefs and methodologies.

No objective gauges by which to accurately measure one's progress or lack thereof have ever been applied to the sport. In their place are maxims such as "no pain, no gain," "high reps for definition, low reps for mass," "incline presses for your upper pecs," and "muscle confusion," with no objective method to measure their efficacy. What makes Power Factor Training revolutionary is its ability to measure and find the optimum point where you can sustain your highest Power Factor (and, hence, greatest degree of muscle growth stimulation) while accumulating your highest total weight. This is achieved by determining the best combination of weights, reps, and sets for each exercise that you perform. Results can then be simply calculated and even graphed to immediately reveal the effectiveness of your workout. This newfound technology negates the need for c<x)kie-cutter routines that prescribe predetermined numbers of sets, reps, and weights irrespective of the tremendous physical and physiological variation among athletes.

Myth 7: Never Train Less than Three Days per Week, or Your Muscles Will Get Smaller

The issue of training frequency still is cause for debate among individuals (including supposed authorities) in the realm of bodybuilding. Even solid writers such as Arthur Jones and Ellington Darden, Ph.D., who have injected liberal doses of much-needed sanity into the realm of bodybuilding, still have some unwarranted suppositions (and not a little dogma) in their conclusions. One of these areas is in the realm of training frequency.

Darden writes that a three-day-per-week routine is best regardless of your level of development: "A first workout is performed on Monday, a second on Wednesday, and a third on Friday. On Sunday your body is expecting and is prepared for a fourth workout, but it doesn't come."1 What exactly is this? Certainly not science. The biceps muscles don't talk to the triceps muscles midway through Sunday afternoon and say, "Wasn't there supposed to be a workout today? I was kind of expecting a workout today. I mean, its been forty-eight hours, and we had one forty-eight hours ago."

To our knowledge, there is nothing in the scientific literature to suggest that muscle tissue thinks (despite the misapplied term of muscle memory to the condition of reconditioning an atrophied muscle) by any manner or means. Muscle tissue, you'll be pleased to note, is wonderfully uncomplicated. Muscle tissue will do one of three things: atrophy (from disuse), hypertrophy (from overload training and rest), or remain the same (from genetics and mild stimulation). Technically, muscle action is even more simple; muscles either contract or relax, depending on the neural impulse they receive. It's that simple.

Rather than waste time trying to outwit nonthinking tissue into growing bigger and stronger, the simple solution to building muscle, once you've stimulated growth through heavy overload training, is simply to take adequate time off between workouts to recover and allow the growth you may have stimulated to manifest. Your Power Factor and Power Index numbers will instantly reveal to you whether or not you need more time off. If your numbers are increasing, you're doing fine and your frequency of training is perfect. If they're decreasing, you haven't allowed enough time for recovery and growth to take place. Trying to pigeonhole your physiology into responding to a three-day-per-week program—once it's obvious that you're no longer gaining on such a system— simply because Arthur Jones at one time believed this to be the best way to space out workouts is tantamount to no reasoning whatsoever.

Much of the confusion regarding training frequency might arise from the fact that bodybuilders misunderstand the low-intensity, low-muscular-output feeling of aerobics (which is highly repetitive, daily activity), which causes some pumping or edema of tissue (the same way lifting heavy weights does) but is perceived by the body and the central nervous system as a very low intensity activity. And rightly so. However, while it's true that you can stand literally hours and hours of daily low-intensity activity, the same cannot be said of high-intensity, maximum-overload activity, which is the kind necessary to stimulate maximum gains in muscle mass. It's a case of apples and oranges. Power Factor Training is not aerobics or yoga, so the recovery periods following a Power Factor Training workout must be protracted simply to allow the growth you've stimulated to take place.

Incidentally, in some of his more recent writings, Arthur Jones has advanced the notion that training three times per week is probably less effective than training once a week would be. He's drawn this conclusion based on his own empirical observations and some carefully considered conclusions. But then, it was never Jones who was all that dogmatic about his conclusions, but rather his followers. Jones, to my recollection, always stated that his research was a paradigm until contrary evidence proved it outdated or incorrect.

Nevertheless, any claim to truth without evidence or data cited to back it up is simply predicated on the logical fallacy of "appeal to authority." When unwarranted claims supersede all else—even empirical evidence to the contrary'—such information ceases to become science (which is always amenable to reason or evidence). Science, if it is to be truly an intellectual movement, cannot be planned by any central authority; it has to be open to refinement and extension. Once it becomes a closed system, impervious to research or modification, it ceases to be science and becomes, instead, dogma.

In conclusion, you don't need to "shock" or "confuse" your muscle cells to get them to grow bigger and stronger. You simply have to subject them to progressive overload and give them adequate rest afterward.


1. Ellington Darden, JOC High-Intensity Ways to Improve Your Bodybuilding (New York: Pedigree Books. 1989), 161-62.

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