It’s not uncommon for gym-goers to work out for months on end without making significant gains. This lack of improvement can be disheartening and push athletes to either give up or lift beyond their ability. In many cases, though, the problem isn’t a lack of effort—it’s that they’re constantly given bad advice based on pseudoscience and gossip.
To get the most out of their workouts, Vincent Montague says that athletes should first understand their basic physiology, exercise with specific goals in mind, and base their routines on scientific findings rather than locker-room scuttlebutt. With that in mind, let’s explore some of the most common fitness myths that are destroying gains.
Myth #1 – Lifting Alone Will Build Mass
So many beginners assume that by lifting weights, they’ll suddenly bulk up and turn into a bodybuilder. While it is a fact that lifting weights can help build bigger muscles, it’s not a guarantee—it all depends on how the athlete lifts.
Lifting on its own places the muscles under sustained stress, causing microtears in the tissue. As these tears heal, the muscles grow in size and strength. However, most casual gym-goers aren’t lifting enough to induce widespread muscle development. Instead, their muscles become leaner, more compact, and more capable of handling weight.
To develop bulk, bodybuilders lift well above what they would do in a set of 10 or 12 reps. Instead, they’re lifting near their max weight in 2-to-3-rep sets. Then, they consume a massive amount of calories to help their bodies grow. Without the combination of both diet and intense lifting, though, it’s nearly impossible to pack on pounds of muscle in a short amount of time.
Myth #2 – Ab Workouts Sculpt the Stomach
Working your abs helps to build a strong core, which is necessary for supporting the lower back, shoulders, and hips during intense exercise. It also helps to maintain posture and prevent hernias. What ab workouts don’t do, though, is sculpt the stomach. In other words, it’s impossible to build a six-pack with sit-ups alone.
The secret to building defined abs isn’t found in the gym—it’s found in the kitchen. The only way to get that sculpted, statuesque stomach is to burn belly fat through diet, while also building muscle. As the muscles grow and become leaner, they’ll tighten into the defined six-pack shape but, until they’re exposed from behind that layer of adipose tissue, they’ll remain hidden indefinitely.
Myth #3 – Working Out More Makes You Healthier
There can be too much of a good thing. In healthy doses, exercise is wonderful for the body, improves mental health, and extends the life expectancy. If pushed to the extremes, though, it can be damaging.
Keep in mind that exercise puts the body under prolonged stress. If it doesn’t have time to recover, the body will remain weakened and may even pass into atrophy. For this reason, it’s wise to also take a day or two off from the gym every week and get enough sleep every night.
The Bottom Line
Sometimes the trick to building mass isn’t about how much you exercise. Instead, it often comes down to diet, lifestyle, and an understanding of how the body works. Rather than pushing beyond their limits, most athletes should instead focus on adjusting their diets to add or cut calories, while also remembering to get adequate rest between workouts.