Modern Bodybuilding’s Pervasive Myths

John Quinlan (Wrestler)Anyone who’s considering building muscle and researched what’s involved has probably come across some very widespread myths and misinformation about body building.

If you’re serious about transforming your body, then you should be aware of these myths so you can safely ignore them and concentrate on what really matters – building your strength, physique and overall performance.

Having the right expectations about what’s involved and the results you can achieve will set you on the right path; and knowing how your body works is paramount in this process as well.


Common Myths – Part 1

1. “Your Muscles Will Turn Into Fat And Flab If You Stop Exercising”

Let’s get this common misconception out of the way first. Muscle fiber and fatty tissue are two completely different types of cell in the body. One cannot transform into the other.

Fat cells store energy within the body and fat is burned when providing the body with energy. That energy is used throughout the body for autonomic functions like breathing, keeping the heart beating, keeping the body temperature well regulated, etc. Your brain alone burns about 20% of the energy used by your entire body.

Fat is also burned off when doing voluntary actions like walking, running, lifting weights and other physical activities. To keep fat levels in the body low, you must burn off as much fat as you take in. If you’re overweight, then you need to burn off more fat than you consume.

However, you don’t convert fat into muscle directly and, if you stop exercising, muscle doesn’t become fat. This is the myth that many have, unfortunately, come to believe as fact.

Where this myth originated is hard to say, but a good candidate is exercise and bodybuilding programs that talked about how you could “turn that fat into hard muscle”.

While we can spot that that’s a particular kind of marketing spin, it should not be taken as fact. marketing types like using slogans and soundbites to get our attention and convey an appealing idea, even if its premise is wrong!

If that matra were true, then it’s opposite would be equally true: “turn that hard muscle into fat!

And that matra’s equally untrue.

Ok, so you probably know someone who used to go to the gym all the time, got buffed up, beefed up, whatever, and then stopped doing regular exercise. And now they’re fat.

Well, yes, of course this happens. But don’t confuse correlation with causality. Muscle requires constant exercise to keep it tuned up. Stop exercising and muscle fiber will start to diminish because the body doesn’t think that extra muscle is needed any more. Use it or lose it is the philosophy here.

Now if someone stops exercising but they continue to consume as much food as before, then they’re going to put on weight (fat).

The basic science behind calories is simple: if you eat 5,000 calories a day and you only burn off 1,500 calories, you will have an excess of 3,500 calories. All that excess energy gets stored in your fat cells.

The body tries to distribute fat around itself as evenly as possible, but as we all know, a lot of fat tends to build up around the stomach, hips, backside and thighs.

2. “After Lifting Weights You’ll Be Bulging With Muscle”

Professional bodybuilder put a huge amount of time, effort, passion and resources into building their muscle mass. If you’re naturally in the large size (not fat but have a large frame), then that’s a plus if you plan on building muscle mass the natural way.

But that’s not how most people are built.

If you’re goal is to become lean and strong, then give bodybuilding a try by all means. It pays dividends to follow a sensible diet and to have a certified trainer supporting your efforts.

Your body type also dictates where and how much muscle you put on. So just because you lift weights, you may not end up having bulging muscles!

Another “Muscle Myth” is that once you do build a lot of lean muscle mass, you won’t be able to bend properly to do everyday tasks.

People joke about bodybuilders being able to lift 300lbs but all that muscle stops them from scratch their backs!

Again, this myth is completely fallacious.

A Modern BodybuilderBuilding tremendous flexibility is one of the cornerstones of bodybuilding.

If you watch professional body builders going through their warm-up routines, you can see how a muscle-bound pro is still able to easily bend forward at the waist and stretch like a yoga instructor!

One thing that isn’t a myth is that poor-quality workouts, such as not performing repetitive movements properly, can lead to muscle damage and/or loss of flexibility. Lifting heavy weights the wrong way can result in injury to the back which is no fun, as anyone who’s been laid up with back pain can attest to.

Doing things “your way” because you think you can do as good a job at training your body as a professional instructor is just asking for trouble. You may think you’re saving money but medical bills down the line could cost more than you thought you’d saved.

Any injury you suffer in such cases is entirely your own fault.

3. “While You’ll Bulk Up Your Strength Will Actually Drop”

There’s another myth out there that pro bodybuilders are actually at their weakest physically in the run-up to a major competition.

The reason for this misconception is likely down to bodybuilders doing routines designed to cut any extraneous fat from their physiques. That usually requires dietary changes as well and the combination would leave anyone feeling a bit depleted.

But when you cone right down to it, the reason such bodybuilders are fatigued is purely from physical effort, going that extra mile to get the shape they desire for competition. It’s not because they’re bodybuilders per se. Anyone who pushes themselves physically for an extended  period is going to be pretty tired afterwards.

Remember that many pro-level bodybuilders are able to bench-press a half a ton in weights. Not too shabby for someone considered weak because all that muscle has somehow weakened them!

Hopefully, we’ve busted some of the myths you might have come across about bodybuilders or building muscle mass.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this article! 🙂