Myth Number One - The biggest myth of all concerning weight training is that women who train with weights will get too bulky.
Fact - If I had a penny for every time I've heard this myth used as an excuse I'd be able to buy out Donald Trump. This muscle bulking is virtually impossible in women unless you have rare genetics AND train extremely hard with very heavy weights AND inject anabolic steroids AND take male hormones (which many female professional bodybuilders do to get that bulky look.) A woman who strength trains drug and hormone free, as well as reasonably hard and often, will look lean and toned with small yet well defined muscles. They achieve that sleek and sexy look most people never achieve with aerobics alone.
Myth Number Two - I have to strength train in a gym or buy expensive equipment for my home gym such as free weights or machines.
Fact - While strength training with free weights or machines is beneficial and can speed your progress, neither is necessary to build muscle. Muscle grows when it is stimulated, or more accurately, stressed. Free weights and machines are excellent methods for achieving muscle stimulation that leads to growth (as long as other supportive factors including nutrition and adequate rest are in place.) But muscle can also be stimulated with diverse methods including isometric training, using your own body weight (such as pull ups and push ups,) Pilate's, Bar Method, and resistance bands.
Also, the book 'YOU: On A Diet' by Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Michael Roizen has an easy and effective strength building program that involves no weights, no equipment, and you can do it in your living room, in front of the television, at the office, or just about anywhere.
Other reasons people avoid strength training is a fear of free weights and weight machines. One solution is to spring for a session or two with a knowledgeable personal trainer who can instruct you on proper and safe use. But if your goal is not to become a competitive bodybuilder or fitness model, you can achieve phenomenal results without free weight or machines. Stay tuned for a future blog entry on this subject.
Myth Number Three - I'm too old to build muscle.
Fact - Studies show even elderly people as old as 90 can build muscle and strength with as little as one or two 30 minute strength training sessions a week. If you're in your 30's, 40's, or 50's you should be able to achieve excellent progress with a few short training sessions a week, which is easier to fit in to a busy schedule than you think.
Myth Number Four - I don't have the time to dedicate many long hours at the gym to get results.
Fact - As long as you're healthy (have no muscle diseases,) eat adequate protein and get at least one or two 20 to 30 minutes strength training sessions a week you will make progress and achieve muscle growth. How often you train and eat properly can equal faster muscle gain for some, but even adding a single pound of muscle improves your metabolism and calorie burning efficiency by approximately 50 calories a day. Add 10 pounds of muscle over a year and you can burn 500 calories more a day. If you maintain your weight now and change nothing else, you can burn a pound of body fat a week just by adding 10 pounds of muscle.
Myth Number Five - I'll have to lift weights every other day to maintain progress and not lose muscle mass. I'll be chained to the gym and never take a break or vacation.
I can see why this myth abounds. I read this today at another popular blog, Livin La Vida Low Carb, in a letter to Jimmy Moore from an obviously misinformed reader. I quote:
"The general rule of thumb when it comes to muscle building is that you work the same sets of muscles only every couple of days, not every day, but if you go more than 3 days without working those muscles, you're losing ground."
Fact - That part about going more than 3 days without working your muscles and you'll lose ground just is not true. I don't know who wrote that or what, if any, credentials in training that person might have but they are incorrect. I've read literally reams of material on weight training and muscle over the years, not to mention putting what I've learned into practice.
Generally, if you're actively weight training on a regular basis of at least two 30 minute sessions a week and you're making progress, you can take a break as long as 3 to 6 weeks and not lose muscle strength or size as long as you're eating adequate amounts of protein and are otherwise active. And I have the fitness log book with the numbers to prove it. I've had to take long breaks, (once four months during pregnancy,) and also up to six weeks due to illness or injury and came back to lift even heavier than my last session right out of the gate.
You likely won't build additional muscle on your breaks, unless you're doing an activity other than weight lifting that stimulates muscles adequately for growth, but you should not lose ground either.
Many people, especially those over forty or heavy lifters, find their muscles need a longer recovery period between sessions than the usual recommendations of one, two or three days for optimal results. An excellent example of this type of training is Mr. Olympia Mike Mentzer's effective High Intensity Training (HIT). He recommended a minimum of five days rest between training sessions and he achieved phenomenal results. I favor this system when working with weight machines, as well as the Super Slow technique.
While there are more myths circling the atmosphere and blog o-sphere regarding strength training and muscle building, these five are the chief suspects that derail people from staying with a program or even starting in the first place.
About the Author: Carol Bardelli
I'm a wife, mother, writer, publisher, certified sports nutritionist, hold a Ph.D. in philosophy in religion, and I'm a semi-retired reverend of World Christian Ministries. When I'm not writing, I offer private counseling sessions in sports nutrition in a privately owned gym, and spiritual counseling sessions in my home office. My books include The Protein Edge, Weight Loss That Works and Easy Gourmet For Diabetics