After nearly a decade of consistently training, injuring myself, gaining muscle, losing muscle, and finally, arriving at my dream physique (185 lbs. ~10% body fat), I’ve realized that getting fit is actually much simpler than most people make it.
The problem is, most people are following the wrong advice, and thus, not getting the results that they truly want.
I’ve spent years educating myself about the latest breakthroughs in medical science and physical fitness and, along the way, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing dozens of strength and fitness experts including Michael Matthews, Dave Asprey, Ted Ryce, Ben Greenfield, and Drew Canole.
The further down the proverbial rabbit hole I got, the more frustrated I became by the half-truths, misconceptions, and outright lies that the media continues to try and shove down our throats.
So, in an effort to help you build the body of your dreams without wasting thousands of dollars on expensive programs and useless supplements, I’ve put together this quick article to reveal the 8 biggest fitness myths that every man must dispel to achieve the body of their dreams.
Let’s dive in.
*Legal Disclaimer: I am not a physician or licensed healthcare practitioner. Please don’t misconstrue this article as medical advice. Do the research, talk to your doctor, and don’t do anything you don’t think you can handle*
Muscle Myth #1: Cardio is the Best Way to Lose Fat
When used properly, cardio can be a very effective strategy for improving cardiovascular conditioning, improving hormonal regulation, and rapidly increasing fat loss.
However, the slow steady state cardio that is practiced so often at Planet Fitness and other “Gyms” is not only an ineffective way to lose fat, it can actually result in significant muscle loss when practiced consistently over the long term.
Studies have shown time and time again that the ONLY way to achieve fat loss is through an intentional caloric deficit.
E.g. You eat fewer calories than you burn off
However, when you introduce excessive cardio into the picture, things start to get nasty.
Here are just a few of the negative effects of endurance training and long-term cardiovascular activities (courtesy of podcast guest Mike Matthews and his exceptional article How Much Cardio You Should Do)
- Research shows that endurance athletes are at a higher risk of heart dysfunction than the general, non-running public and that the older they get and the more miles they log, the worse the problem gets.
- Research shows that marathoners develop more arterial plaque than sedentary non-runners, which increases the risk of stroke and dementia.
- The more cardio you do, the more you stress your body, and if take it too far, you can wind up in a state of chronic stress wherein your body can’t adequately recover from your workouts.
- Hang around dyed-in-the-wool endurance athletes for a bit and you’ll quickly notice how many people have trouble with their knees, backs, hips, tendons, and bones.
The bottom line is that cardio, while it has its merits, should not be your primary form of physical exercise.
I recommend that most people complete 3–4 resistance training sessions each week and then include 2–3 HIIT cardio sessions (lasting no more than 20 minutes) to help burn fat faster.
Myth #2: Raising My Testosterone Levels will Automatically Make Me Turn Into the Hulk
Imagine for a moment that you could increase a single hormone in your body with a few “weird tricks”, obscure foods, and supplements and suddenly experience:
- Increased muscle mass and fat loss
- Lightning fast recovery from even the worst injuries.
- A dramatic boost in your sexual vim, vigor, and performance
- Amazing sleep
- Oh, and you will look like a 20 year old Brad Pitt with an impressive “endowment”
As the old saying goes:
Anything that sounds too good to be true probably is
Yes, studies have clearly shown that, for adult males, testosterone levels play an important part in regulating muscle growth, fat loss, sleep, appetite, and sex drive.
However, the extent of these effects has been widely overstated.
Several studies have concluded that the effects of testosterone are most pronounced when an individual goes from clinically low T levels (typically 300ng/dl) to average T levels.
However, going from average testosterone levels to significantly higher T levels (1,070ng/dl+) did not have any dramatic effect on strength, muscle synthesis, or body composition.
So what does this mean for you?
If you suspect that you have low testosterone levels (which is almost guaranteed if you have a high BMI, are over the age of 40, or do not regularly exercise), then you will want to go see a doctor and have a comprehensive testosterone test completed.
Some signs of low T in men are:
- Sadness and depression
- Reduced energy
- Lower strength levels
- Lowered sex drive
- Erectile dysfunction
- Loss of motivation, enthusiasm, and drive.
If the test results reveal that you have low testosterone levels, this is actually a fairly easy problem to fix.
Boosting your testosterone can be simplified into four main action steps.
- Eat a balanced diet constituting 50% carbohydrates (the more fibrous the better), 30% protein, and 20% fat
- Lift heavy ass weight 4+ times a week
- Sleep 7.5–9 hours a night
- Supplement with Zinc, Vitamin D3, and Magnesium
If you have average or above average testosterone levels?
You don’t need to worry about a darn thing. Just keep on doing what you’ve been doing and you will be fine
Myth #3: I Don’t Need to Count My Calories to Lose Fat or Gain Muscle
Many of you reading this will hate me for dispelling this myth. But it’s so detrimental to real progress in the gym that I can’t stand by silently.
If you want to gain muscle and lose fat as effectively as possible, then you need to count your calories. Period.
This is not to say that you cannot lose fat or gain muscle without counting calories… Plenty of people do this every day.
However, if you want to achieve your fitness goals with as much speed and as little drama as possible, you need to count your calories and macros every single day.
Think about it this way.
Imagine that you are doing a road trip from California to NYC.
You have only one of two options for planning your trip.
You can either.
- Fill up with gas, hope for the best, and start driving
- Carefully plan your trip, map out gas stations in isolated areas, and make sure that you have a full tank before you get started.
What do you think will be more effective?
Yes, you can arrive at your destination using the first method, but even one missed exit can quickly turn into a disaster if you haven’t planned carefully.
Your caloric intake is the same way.
If you are a “Hard gainer” or “Don’t understand” why you keep gaining weight, then start counting your freaking calories.
The numbers don’t lie and neither will the scale.
Myth #4: If You Want to Gain Muscle, You Gotta Get the Pump
There is a common misconception in the weight training world that doing “Pump” workouts or low weight/high repetition, exercises is the fastest way to build muscle.
According to multiple studies (like this one and this one) “pump” training, by itself, is not an effective way to gain muscle.
This is not to say that pump training doesn’t have
its place in your workout routine, however, it deserves a much smaller slice of the pie than most guys would prefer.
The best research that we currently have suggests that most men should use compound exercises (deadlift, bench press, squat, and military press) in a 4–10 rep range 80% of the time, and fill the remaining volume of their workouts with higher rep lower weight isolation exercises.
Speaking of isolation exercises…
Myth #5: Isolation Exercises are the Fastest Way to Gain Muscle (a.k.a. Curlz for the Girlz)
I get it…
Bicep curls are f*cking fun.
Chest flies make you feel like Gladiator.
And strict lat pulldowns make you feel like you have wings. (suck it Redbull!)
But, in and of themselves, none of these exercises are the best way to gain muscle.
Similar to pump training, isolation exercises have their place in your workout regimen.
However, just like pump training, research has shown that isolation exercises should only make up a small part of your overall training routine.
The brunt of your workout should be filled with heavy compound movements like the deadlift, squat, bench press, and military press.
From there, you can fill your workouts with focused isolation exercises to activate the muscle fibers and segments that weren’t torn down by the compound exercises.
Myth #6: You Can Get HUGE, Stay Lean, and Feel Great Without Using PEDs (Performance Enhancing Drugs)
This particular myth sucks… A lot.
I wish that I could tell you that you can get as big as the guys on the cover of Men’s Health naturally.
I wish I could tell you that it’s possible to pack on 50 lbs. of muscle in a single year while still maintaining sub 10% body fat.
I wish I could tell you that you can get HUGE by doing low weight high rep pump training for hours on end.
But I can’t.
Simply put, there are some physiques that are NOT achievable without steroids and PEDs.
I wish that you could look like those freaking fitness models without some sort of performance-enhancing substance.
But unfortunately, you cannot.
Myth #7: There’s No Such Thing As Overtraining
Anyone who tells you that overtraining isn’t real either isn’t training enough or is on steroids.
Anyone who tells you that training more than 5 times a week will lead to over training is a pu… er… wimp.
Overtraining is a very real phenomenon that occurs when your body is unable to properly recover from heavy weight lifting sessions.
You might experience:
- General fatigue
- Long lasting muscle soreness
- Stagnation in your training
However, it should be noted that over training requires HEAVY training without adequate rest (think 7 days of weight lifting per week) for 8–12 weeks.
Although it is very unlikely that you will experience over training while following a normal (read: non-Bodybuilder) routine, it is possible and it’s something that you should try to avoid by strategically taking a deload week.
During this deload week (typically done every 9th week) you will either do your normal sessions with only 50% of your normal weight or you will not train at all.
These are non negotiable if you are serious about making gains.
Myth #8: Yoga is for Wimps
Ok, so this isn’t a “Myth” per-se, but I know enough meatheads who think that yoga is for sissies and women that I had to say something.
Yoga is, bar none, one of the best activities any weightlifter can engage in.
It helps speed up muscular repair, lower cortisol (which helps T levels), improves the health of your blood vessels, and improves overall balance, posture, and well being.
If you want to be as healthy as possible, then you will find a way to sneak in at least 2 hours of yoga a week.
I promise you won’t regret it.
So there you go!
The nine biggest muscle myths holding most guys back from making HUGE gains in the gym.
What did you think about these myths? Do you agree? Disagree? If so, share some studies and information in the comments below!
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