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Top 15 Bodybuilding Myths Debunked : Broscience & Lies

Bodybuilding myths

Every niche, every cult following, they suffer from this tough to describe the state of ‘over discussion’.

During which basic logic, understanding and all-round love of the subject at hand is infested with utter bullshit and hearsay. None more so than the world of bodybuilding.

We rack our brains, again and again, to understand where it all comes from. Why is this industry plagued with made-up nonsense? And why do members of the community who know very little feel the need to impart their ‘wisdom’ on others anyway?

It’s comparable to asking the 6.5 stone part-time student in the health food store to give you advice on the best mass gainer product they have. At least he probably has a few cue cards behind the till to help him out.

What really grinds our gears are the ‘gym bros’ who have been in the gym for 5 minutes but have already added a few new tattoos to show off in a stringer.

These are the fellas who ask to “work in” with you on the machine you’re using and invite themselves to critique your form. Then, they will probably give you some nutrition advice just to make sure they’ve made their point.

These guys are usually easy to spot and you’re probably already avoiding them like the plague.

Starting a muscle-building journey can sometimes be an intimidating and arduous affair. Especially if you haven’t undertaken any prior research.

If you rely on this broscience or some of the sources cited on the internet you will set yourself up on the wrong foot because the information is sometimes ‘myth’ based.

It is sometimes hard to sort out the myths from the facts because fiction does sound so good.

This article will sort out the wheat from the chaff in terms of the facts and fiction so that you can get started or progress down the right pathway. You will discover that by using the correct information will make your ultimate training goals a lot more realistic and manageable.

The Origins Of Broscience?

Broscience is a new word that describes something that has been around at least since the early 20th Century.

It isn’t about what clothes you wear or how you talk, it’s about espousing theories on fitness and nutrition that have no background in science.

So a hundred years ago when there was no such thing as exercise-science everything was Broscience.

In those days bodybuilding was just coming into fashion as was a professional sport. Some of the practices that were developed by these groundbreaking athletes are still used today.

But for every good bit of information they provided there were around 100 pieces of Bro-science.

For example, when the tour de France started cyclists would drink Brandy to dull the pain.

Speaking of booze, did you know that Arnold Schwarzenegger used to drink rum with his protein shakes because he believed it improved the amount of protein that was delivered to the muscles. Of course, the exact opposite turns out to be the case, with muscle protein synthesis being inhibited by alcohol intake.

The thing is you can’t blame people in 1903 for not having the answers. Nor can you blame the bodybuilders of the 60s and 70s for making it up as they went along.

They had nothing to work on, there were no studies no fitness experts. They were the vanguard. In fact, a lot of the anecdotal evidence that they believed has been recently proven.

The “Pump” that they mentioned was argued as useless by scientists for years, but now is known as Metabolic Stress and is seen as vital for muscle hypertrophy. But these days we have hundreds of academic journals that we can read, true fitness experts with PhDs, we are also standing on the shoulders of giants.

We can take the genius of Arnie and cast aside the mistaken beliefs. We know more about how muscles function and the science behind it then anyone did in the 70s (or even the 80s or 90s).

Also, this information is so accessible, a new lifter can access scientific papers on hypertrophy through the click of the button, and they can follow the experts on facebook and twitter.

In short, there is no excuse for perpetuating broscience any more. So why is broscience more common than ever?

Modern Day Broscience

Part of the reason why broscience is bigger than ever is that there is a much bigger market for it than ever before.

More and more people are interested in bodybuilding, power-lifting, and just regular resistance training than at any time in history. More people means more broscience even if the ratio of broscientists to non-bros is lower than ever.

Another reason is that due to the newness of exercise science there aren’t a lot of definitive answers, and a lot of the answers that are accepted as true are open to debate.

People like black & white solutions to their problem. Sadly when dealing with individuals there is rarely a cut & dry answer. What works for 90% of people will not work for 10%.

The final reason is that because the average man doesn’t know much about exercise science. It is very hard for them to distinguish between someone who knows what they are talking about and someone who is making it up as they go along.

Sadly these broscientists come in many forms, with so-called fitness experts being the worst.

The truth is that social media has given a lot of broscientists a platform and huge audiences. You can get massive followings for a guy who’s only qualification is looking ripped.

Yes, he got himself in great shape but that doesn’t mean he understands the intricacies of your circulatory system or how testosterone affects muscle protein synthesis. He just lifted weights for 5 years straight and ate chicken and broccoli every day.

But if you had no idea where to start in a gym you’d probably trust the guy who got huge wouldn’t you? Hence the problem.

Now obviously a lot of huge bodybuilders can also have a high level of knowledge, but it is definitely an issue.

Here are some common bodybuilding myths that you should probably take with a grain of salt.

Myth 1: You Feel Heavy, Therefore You Are Fat

When you begin a weight training regime, it is a natural progression that you will start to gain weight. A good weight training program stimulates the body to create lean body mass and this process also increases your basal metabolic rate.

Muscles contain water and the more muscle that you gain, the more water will be retained within your body.

After a couple of weeks of weight training, you will inevitably put on some healthy weight.

Don’t freak out as this is natural and it is your body’s way of adjusting to the challenges of the new fitness regime.

After several weeks, your body will start to burn the fat off. And your newly acquired muscle will make you look a whole lot leaner.

You will weigh more but your clothes will start to drop off you.

This is because muscle is denser and takes up less space within your body than fat.

If you don’t believe this, then Google image the differences between 5 pounds of fat and 5 pounds of muscle. You will be shocked!

Myth 2: You Can’t Build Muscle By Eating Vegetables

Non-starchy vegetables are filled with slow-releasing carbs, vital vitamins and minerals which are essential in supporting muscle growth and recovery.

Vegetables are good fillers on the plate at mealtimes, and to create an anabolic environment for muscle growth you need to eat the right calories.

Eating veggies like broccoli, kale, cauliflower will give you a good source of carbs. This will help you to stay leaner, feel fuller and healthier whilst packing on the muscle.

The ‘myth’ can become a reality when you are solely relying on veggies to meet your calorie intake and to build muscle at the same time. Bear in mind, that without enough calories in your diet (and protein), you will not gain any substantial muscle mass.

If you are a vegetarian, then complete veggies, nuts, seeds, grains and dairy, along with complete proteins are needed for muscle growth.

Myth 3: All Salt Is Bad For You

The normal intake of salt should be 1000-1500 mg per day. Salt intake within this healthy range is essential like any other mineral. It is required for health maintenance and helps with your looks.

If you are lean but never get a pumped or vascular look when you exercise, then maybe you have a lack of salt in your diet. When you start to increase your RDA of salt you may retain water and feel bloated.

However, this will stop once the body starts to maintain a sodium equilibrium at a cellular level.

The body will get used to releasing the salt instead of holding on to it.

Salt is also important for electrolyte balance within your bloodstream.

Myth 4: Take A Break From Training And Your Muscle Will Turn To Fat

When you take a break from training, you are changing the environment for your muscles and reducing the number of stimuli that they are being exposed to. When weight training, your muscle is in a constant state of growth and repair.

In addition, you are consuming more calories to fuel muscle growth and repair. Plus more calories are burnt due to the increase in muscle mass.

Muscles use more energy than fat, and this is caused by the constant active breakdown of ATP.

When you stop exercising the volume of the muscle decreases and this atrophy causes a reduction in the resting calorie turn over.

Unfortunately, many people continue to consume the same amount of calories as they did when they were training, and the % body fat starts to rise.

Therefore, your muscle doesn’t turn to fat but when you stop training your basal metabolic rate slows down because of the decrease in muscle size.

This has a negative ‘knock-on’ effect and fat accumulation is increased. Especially around the abs area for men.

Myth 5: Cheat Meals Don’t Work

When used in a controlled manner, ‘cheat meals’ are an excellent dietary tool that can be used to help you to chisel out that physique.

Following a training diet can often be very hard work. Especially after a hard day at the gym pumping iron and burning a huge amount of calories.

Many people after a big gym session start to crave the foods that they really enjoy. For example, craving sugar cravings. Sometimes half the battle is not to give in to this urge and temptation.

However, all is not lost, as the ‘cheat meal’ strategy can keep you sane and if adhered to properly (90% training diet and 10% cheat meal ratio) then it can have the following benefits:

  • Reset your hormones that are a catalyst for boosting your metabolism and insulin regulation
  • Replenish glycogen levels that are required for bouts of energy
  • Enhance fat and calorie burning mechanisms

Before you go driving to your local takeaway and/or demolish all of the food in your kitchen cupboards. You need to realise that cheat meals are not an impulsive action and do require self-control.

Myth 6: You Will Be Forced To Compete

If we had a penny for everyone who said “I’m not a bodybuilder, I don’t wear tan and G-strings or anything, I just like to change the way my body looks” or something along those lines, we’d be rich!

Bodybuilding as a competitive sport may well be defined by a long-standing history of stage judging competitions. And yes this is how we judge the best in the world. However, you don’t need to pose on a stage to be a bodybuilder.

Technically, anyone who is using training in or out of the gym, in order to change the shape and composition of their body, is a bodybuilder.

Myth 7: It’s All About Being The Biggest

Yes, that’s right, that girl in the squat rack, she might not have any intention of posing on a stage but none the less she’s a bodybuilder even if only as a hobby.

She is building her legs and glutes with exercise. For some reason, the term bodybuilder screams MASS MONSTER and everyone thinks you’re aspiring to rival Arnold.

Bodybuilding is about achieving the body you want through diet and exercise. What that ideal body looks like is entirely down to personal preference.

Yes, many guys aspire to gain size and build that traditional alpha male frame. But others will want to build a lean body, focussing instead of maintaining a low level of body fat.

Myth 8: Bodybuilders Drink Protein Shakes Instead Of Food

This is a favourite for sure. Unfortunately, this reputation was earned for the bodybuilding community by a select few jackass ‘gym bro’s’.

Despite being new to the sport and poorly educated in nutrition, are walking around their office taking their scoop of protein in their shaker into every meeting in a desperate attempt for someone to notice that they workout.

Any real bodybuilder will tell you that protein shakes, just like other supplements, are there as support to a well-balanced and considered diet.

Any nutritional plan should be based on eating real food. If anything most bodybuilders eat considerably more real food than your average Joe.

This is due to their active lifestyle and extra muscle mass requiring more calories to sustain it.

The protein shakes are simply a convenient way to ensure daily protein intake is high enough after all other meals have been eaten.

Myth 9: All Bodybuilders Take Steroids

The original and still the best. If you’re able to fill an XL T-shirt with your chest and shoulders instead of your bulging stomach, then you’re obviously on “the gear”.

The simple matter is it’s just bogus. It usually stems from the jealous who simply don’t understand the sacrifice involved in building a body to be proud of.

Dedication to hard and varied weight training and a solid diet is enough to build a strong, lean, bodybuilder physique without the need for anabolic steroid use.

Not everyone has what it takes to be a bodybuilder. They don’t have the dedication, determination or the will power.

The work is too hard and painful, or the diet too strict to follow when they smell the warm breeze from KFC across the road.

Far too often those who can’t comprehend how achieving all that is possible. Instead, they turn to the easy explanation, it’s the steroids that got him like that.

This is not a misconception that will be wiped out anytime soon as it takes considerable health and fitness education for people to understand what is and isn’t possible naturally.

Myth 10: If You Work Out Every Day You Can Eat Whatever You Want

Most of you have probably facepalmed already thinking of all the times you’ve heard this one in some shape or form. But let’s just dispel this myth.

Yes, if you’re very one dimensional about it, calories are calories and they add up the same on a calculator regardless where you get them from. But that just isn’t the point is it now?

Trying to shrug off the importance of a solid nutritional plan in favour of just working out more or harder, is immaturity at its finest.

The reason it’s so often downplayed is that quite simply most people don’t have the stomach for it. They don’t have the dedication and the will power it takes to combine a healthy balanced diet with intense training.

You absolutely need to ensure you have an adequate protein intake vs your overall size and muscle mass.

Some fat in your diet is also essential but from specific unsaturated and monounsaturated sources.

And as far as carbs go, yes they are essential, especially for growth and performance in the gym.

The wrong kind of carbs, however, will turn into glycogen in the blood and muscle tissue faster than others. For example, sugars and high GI foods like French fries.

When this happens your glycogen stores will up quickly and your body will store the remainder as nasty body fat.

Look the other way when you hear this, and continue with your meal prep.

Myth 11: High Reps With Low Weight Will Get You Toned

It’s tough to know where to start with this one, we usually have to laugh it off for about 5-10 minutes before we can correct it.

Let’s start at the beginning and address the issue of muscle ‘tone’.

There is essentially no such thing as a toned muscle or toned body. It’s a media depiction of someone with a low enough body fat percentage to show their muscle definition underneath.

You can achieve this in two ways, or rather you should be looking to achieve this in two ways;

  • Build more lean muscle
  • Reduce body fat

So don’t be fooled into ‘toning’ yourself. Put those electric shock ab pads back in the £250 box they came in and never open it again.

Growing muscle is the same process whether you want to be a mass monster or if you’re looking for a leaner, more athletic physique.

Your training will dictate it slightly but also your diet and the number of calories you consume among other considerations will also have a huge impact on your ability to grow past a certain size.

As previously mentioned, if you’re eating clean then you’re also far less likely to store excess body fat in the process.

Continue with the rep and weight range which causes your muscles to grow. Keep challenging yourself or your body won’t grow.

As a base, we often recommend lifting the most challenging weight possible for 12-15 reps over 3-4 sets. You should make sure you are progressing as you get stronger. This is a good foundation to ensure hypertrophy occurs.

100 reps with zero weight still equals zero. Unless you do CrossFit, and then it makes you a hero. But we know you don’t want that life.

On top of the above, eat clean and add in cardio where required to get the physique you’re looking for. Don’t stop lifting!

Myth 12: Squats Are The Only Exercise You Need For Legs

Now, let’s be clear… We LOVE squats; they rock our world. But as awesome a move for building legs, glutes and even a stronger core as squats are, it’s laziness which often leads to the belief they’re all you need to build your legs.

Like anything the body will adjust to the movement, building muscle where it needs to make squats easier.

Your legs are big complex muscle groups and if you expect them to really grow you need to work them from a variety of angles. The same as you likely do with your arms, chest, back and shoulders etc.

To build your legs you’re best off using a combination of compound and isolation movements.

Particularly when it comes to adding that detail, your quad extensions and hamstring curls can’t be neglected. Don’t go neglecting your calves now either – don’t be that guy.

Myth 13: Women Will Get Bulky If They Lift Weights

There are two main differences between men and women, the first is hormonal and the second is structural.

The hormonal difference is that men produce much more testosterone than women, and women produce much more oestrogen than men.

While both testosterone and oestrogen are responsible for muscle growth. Oestrogen is a LOT less effective at this. So women will not be able to get as big or as strong as a man (provided that man exercises too).

The second difference is a structural difference. When it comes to the lower body there is not too much difference between men and women. This is why a lot of women are able to squat heavy weights. But from an upper-body point of view, there is a huge difference.

Because of these two differences, women would find it almost impossible to get bulky lifting heavy weights. Hormonally they would not be able to adapt to hypertrophy or strength training as well as a man would.

Structurally they would not be able to lift weights that were heavy enough to affect that kind of muscle growth.

What about those huge women bodybuilders from the 90s? Well, they were taking massive doses of anabolic steroids, growth hormone, and insulin. If you are taking all of those drugs then you deserve to get bulky!

But even if all of this were not true women would still not get bulky by accident!

You have to work damn hard, eat the right amount of calories, and live in the gym to build muscles big enough to make you look bulky.

Most people who look bulky do so because they are carrying way too much body fat. Want to lose that body fat? Then lift some weights! You’ll get leaner and less bulky.

Myth 14: Spot Reduction Of Fat

You cannot decide where you are going to lose body fat, you do not have that type of control over your body.

You will lose fat from all over your body in response to diet and exercise. This is because your body requires the extra energy that your exercising burns.

If you have a lot of stored fat around your abdominal area, then it might go from there first, but there are lots of other factors involved.

Myth 15: Resistance Machines Suck

There seems to have been a huge uprising against resistance machines in some circles. Some will claim that they are “useless” and you should only be performing free weight exercises if you want to lose weight and build muscle.

Now there is some merit to this argument. And nobody should believe that the dusty ab crunching machine in the corner is a better exercise choice than a barbell deadlift.

But to say that resistance machines are useless is stupid. If you are sitting in a chest press machine and you push the handles forward are you not using your pectoral muscles and triceps to move the weight?

Therefore you are working your chest and triceps. That part is indisputable. So how can a chest press be useless? It’s working your chest.

Maybe it’s not as effective as a barbell bench press. However, it’s better than nothing and a nice change of pace once in a while. It’s also perfect for drop sets, eccentric training, supersetting and many other exercise techniques.

In Conclusion

Hopefully, you will now realise that not everything you have heard about bodybuilding is true.

We have debunked some of those common bodybuilding myths. If you have heard any others then please let us hear them below.



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