Let’s Bust Some Myths!!
Let’s do a little bit of myth busting with this blog post from a couple of years ago 😉
1) You need to feel a “massive pump” or you aren’t working out hard enough!
We can thank the supplement companies for this one. They make their money selling you Nitric Oxide products that make your muscles feel like they are going to explode while you are working out, so they create ads that make it sound like your workout has failed if you don’t get a pump. The bro-scientists come in here trying to add more sets, “Aftershock sets”, more and more reps, or crazy supplement combinations on the flawed belief that they MUST have “the pump.” Does it feel good to get your muscles “pumped up” during a workout? Hell yeah! Does it mean you didn’t get a good workout if you don’t? Hell no! As long as you pushed yourself as hard as you could and you made progress over your last workout – you’ve had a good workout regardless of “pump!” They will argue that a bigger “pump” means more blood flow to the muscle bringing in more nutrients – OK, that may be true BUT when you work out your blood pressure increases and your muscles get an increase in blood flow automatically. You may or may not feel it – but it is happening, or else you wouldn’t be able to carry out the exercise. I will add one thing though – there is some debate about it, but it could be argued that causing a massive “pump” in a muscle could potentially help stretch the fascia to allow improved growth… but that is a bit beyond the scope of this, and it doesn’t take away from the fact that “a pump” isn’t a necessary indicator of a good workout.
2) If you aren’t making gains, add more exercises!
This one leads to all sorts of craziness in the gym. I think this one comes from what happens when you first start training. When people are first working out, they will almost always make gains no matter what they do. That is just a fact. These magical beginner gains eventually taper off and progress starts to slow. Bro-scientists often decide at that point in time that they should add more exercises for each body part to rekindle those gains! This will often work for a short time, then the gains will stop – and the cycle will repeat until eventually, years down the road, they bro-scientist is now slightly stronger and slightly bigger but in a massive rut that he or she can’t get out of. I know I fell for this – at one point my training partner Jay and I had a tricep routine that consisted of a superset of 6 different exercises that we ran through 3 times! We did similar things for every bodypart. Eventually for some reason neither of us could get any stronger, and we both weighed 185-190lbs! At that point someone told me “You moron, you need to take a week off and start doing LESS!” Now we did some real research – and we both do 1 or 2 exercises per bodypart per workout, our strength goes up every workout, and he weighs a solid 210, while I am a mostly solid 250! I know… I just used a bro-science tactic there by using myself as an example – but you know what? Get over it!
3) If you aren’t sore the next day, you didn’t workout hard enough!
This one just doesn’t seem to ever go away… muscle soreness after a workout is due to one thing and one thing only: microtrauma to the muscle fibers causing inflammation. This microtrauma is what leads to the muscles being repaired and gaining strength – but just because you don’t feel it, doesn’t mean you haven’t taxed your body enough! The best way to know if your workouts are adequate is to keep track of your strength – and endeavor to improve either your reps or your weight EVERY WORKOUT. Sure, you might get sore the next day – in fact you probably will – BUT if you don’t get sore, it doesn’t mean a d@mn thing about how well your workout went! While we’re on the topic – let’s put another myth to bed: Lactic Acid has NOTHING to do with muscle soreness the next day. That was an early theory about what caused muscle soreness, but was dismissed when it became apparent that lactic acid is completely flushed out of muscles within minutes of completing an exercise. The currently accepted and taught theory (for at least the last 15 years) is that delayed onset muscle soreness is caused by damage to the contractile units (actin and mysoin) in the muscle fibers.
4) The biggest/strongest/fastest person in the gym knows all the right answers!
This argument is used a lot in bro-science – the “he’s bigger than you, so he must know more than you” argument. Seems logical, right? The guy that has the biggest bench press or runs the fastest marathon must know all the secrets! Sorry, but that isn’t true! The problem with this is that many times – especially in the gym – the biggest and strongest guys are also likely to be the most genetically gifted. Meaning that although they still have to work their asses off, their bodies grow and respond better than everyone else. Ask Ronnie Coleman what he does for his biceps – the answer won’t matter because his biceps grow no matter what he does! Ask Mike Matarrazo (for you old bodybuilding fans) what he does for his calves – it doesn’t matter what he says, they were massive before he trained them! The point here is that Ronnie’s biceps and Mike’s calves were going to grow no matter what they did – so asking them for advice on how to look like they do isn’t going to help unless you can go back and pick different parents! Don’t get me wrong here, the biggest/fastest/strongest people still have to work their asses off to be the best and to make gains – BUT – what worked for them may not work at all for us mere mortals.
5) If you can “feel it” after taking a supplement, you know it is working!
Recently I’ve been doing a lot of reviews of pre-workout supplements, and most of them make some sort of claim about how you can “feel it working” right away. Many of them achieve this effect in one of a few ways: 1) blasting you with caffeine, 2) blasting you with beta-alanine, or 3) blasting you with arginine or another nitric oxide booster. Caffeine is a proven performance enhancer – they are absolutely right there, but if they include enough to make you feel like you are going to have a stroke… it isn’t going to enhance your performance, its going to distract you! Beta-alanine is research proven to be an effective supplement – and taking it in large doses causes a “skin crawling” tingling sensation similar to taking a hot shower with a sunburn. Taking it in a dose large enough to cause that effect does virtually nothing for you though – research shows that it must be taken in small doses spread throughout the day for a period of days/weeks for there to be a real effect. A single large dose is just going to make you feel like your skin is crawling off, and make you pee out a bunch of beta-alanine. Number 3 on that list was covered earlier. My point here is simple: You don’t need to “feel it” for it to work. One caveat though – if you read my supplement reviews you will see that I do base my opinion on whether I “feel it” after taking something… this is because they CLAIM you will feel it. If they didn’t make the claim, I wouldn’t have to test it!
So there you have it – a few common myths busted 😉