Conflicting information about weightlifting is as easy to come by at the gym as faux tans and tank tops. And when everybody thinks they’re a trainer, it can be hard to separate fact from fiction. Read on for the truth about common muscle myths courtesy of the Life by DailyBurn team, so you can be better informed next time you head to the weight rack.
1. Myth: Lifting weights will make you bulk up
This is one of the biggest concerns for women considering starting a weightlifting program, says Rachel Cosgrove, CSCS, author of The Female Body Breakthrough. But unless you’re also consuming a ton more calories, your muscles will only grow to a healthy, normal level that promotes an increased metabolism. “You have to really work for every ounce of muscle that you gain, and it’s not as easy as most women think to sprout big muscles,” she says.
Truth: With proper nutrition, lifting weights will create a leaner physique — not a bulkier one.
2. Myth: Muscle turns to fat if you stop lifting
Some serious magic would have to happen for muscle to turn into fat, as they’re two completely different things, says Cosgrove. “Muscle never turns into fat, and fat never turns into muscle,” she says. Muscle will, on the other hand, help you burn fat. Research has found that an intense bought of strength training results in more calories burned in the 16 to 24 hours after your training session ends.
Truth: Your muscle won’t turn into flab if you take some time off, and having muscle will actually help you burn fat.
3. Myth: It’s best to work one muscle group a day
You’ve probably overheard locker room chatter about it being “back day” or “leg day,” but unless you’re a bodybuilder (or dedicated lifter) it’s not always beneficial to adopt this schedule. Michael Carozza, owner of Carozza Fitness in Connecticut, suggests high-intensity interval training and circuit training, which are designed to help build muscle, increase aerobic capacity, burn calories and improve recovery time. Whatever program you choose, just keep in mind that muscles typically need about a day to recover, says Kelvin Gary, owner of Body Space Fitness in New York City, so it’s important to vary workouts so you aren’t doing the same full-body workout each day.
Truth: Choose compound exercises that work more than one muscle group at a time (like squats, pull-ups and deadlifts) for a more effective workout in a shorter period of time.
4. Myth: Lifting heavy weights is the only way to see results
Researchers have found that lifting light weights for more reps is just as effective for building muscle as lifting heavy weights for fewer reps. The key is lifting to the point of fatigue. In fact, bodyweight exercises can often be just as effective — or more effective — than committing solely to iron, Cosgrove says. “There are so many ways you can put a demand on your body,” she says. “Heavy weights aren’t always the answer.”
Truth: Vary your workout by mixing in heavy weights, light weights and bodyweight exercises.
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