Let's dive into some of the most frustratingly common muscle-building and fat loss myths that unfortunately still prevail to this day, especially among inexperienced trainers. The bodybuilding-fitness industry is notoriously full of misleading information and advice everywhere you look, so always stay on your toes mentally, think critically about anything you read or watch, and do your best to learn from those who have achieved the exact goal you want to achieve and ideally who started from the same place as you.
That includes me - don't listen to a word I say without thinking critically for yourself, doing your own research to come to your own conclusions, and implementing and testing things for yourself. However, there are some sabotaging ideas out there that have been proven as straight-up BS time and time again, yet which still prevail and don't help the beginner looking to learn effective strategies and get to the bottom of how to build muscle and burn fat for real. And so there's no debating - the following muscle-building training myths have GOT to go.
See Also: The Best Muscle Building Workouts
In other words, the myth that you can "tone" your muscles (ie create more definition) by performing higher reps (or by targeting a specific muscle group, thinking you can make them more defined/toned by doing so). The spot reduction myth has always been, and still is unfortunately to this day, a fairly big misconception that even some working personal trainers fall victim to themselves who then further relay this advice to their clients and the cycle lives on.
Lifting lighter weights for higher reps (I'm talking rep ranges of like 15-20+) won't make your muscles more defined or "toned" because there's no such thing as spot reduction when it comes to burning fat. Meaning, you can't burn fat by targeting a certain muscle group. So, if you're doing tons and tons of situps to try and get a six pack, you're going about it the wrong way. Or if you're doing tons of bicep curls thinking your arms will become ripped...same thing.
The only physical way to lose/burn fat and therefore make your muscles appear more defined/toned/ripped is to lower your overall bodyfat through dieting and/or cardio. Amping up your rep count isn't going to do much. If you want ripped muscles then you need to lower your bodyfat levels to remove the fat that is hiding your muscle, simple as that.
There's no such thing as "toning exercises" - exercises that will burn fat. At least not weight training exercises. Cardio? Sure. But you hear the misleading term "toning" everywhere, even in relation to weight training, where some people wrongly believe that say cranking out 100 biceps curls with a light weight for instance is going to make your biceps grow big. You may get a pump from doing so, pumping blood to your muscles temporarily giving you the illusion that they may grow, but that's now how building muscle works.
Doing high reps with a light weight may be an occasionally okay strategy for unique situations (injury, endurance/sports training, etc), but when it comes to effective muscle building and/or maintaining muscle mass on a fat-burning cycle, high reps are a waste of your time. Lower reps should be the focus if you want to see muscle gain results. So while that pump from doing a gazillion pushups feels cool, and it's good in other ways such as for building stamina, but doing so is not activating and breaking down the right muscle fiber types in order to stimulate new muscle tissue growth.
Out of all bodybuilding myths on this page, this is probably the easiest to fall to 'cause it seems like common sense that working out more should equal more results, right? Well, not always. Let me explain. Over-training is a common problem made by beginner lifters, and it will put a halt to effective strength and size gains if your program is imbalanced and doesn't account for rest and recovery properly. It's understandable - you're a raging noob who wants to get down to business and finally put some meat on your bones and you're motivated to hit the gym every day cause you're a badass like that.
Not so fast, friend. Training less than the typical muscle-building mainstream advice of around 4-6 sessions a week absolutely and positively CAN in fact make your program more effective overall. You could do 2-3 sessions a week, and if properly designed your program would be way more effective, efficient and easier to stick to then slogging away at endless sets day in day out or every other day.
This short-term thinking isn't a sustainable way to go about it, and in fact you can get BETTER results by training LESS if you have a properly designed and structured program by your side. Training too much could have you either burn yourself out and get frustrated and/or quit, develop body pains and potential imbalances, develop a mild or serious injury, or you'll be limiting your muscle gains. Muscles doesn't grow in the gym - they grow OUTSIDE of the gym when you're resting, recovering, and most importantly sleeping. To achieve success you don't just want to work hard; working smart is just as important.
When you train with weights its natural that your muscles burn and tighten up. For a short time you feel and look bigger and more ripped. This is what you call a muscle pump, and it can be a cool, empowering feeling that'll have you motivated and energized from the sudden appearance of fairly significantly muscle size and fullness, and you'll start howling at the sky like a wolf (ok, maybe not that last bit). But many lifters see this pump in a false light, which leads us to the 3rd biggest bodybuilding training myth out there - that your muscle pumps have something to do with your muscle gains.
Scientifically speaking, muscle pumps have nothing to do with the muscle building process. Obviously they'll disappear soon after your workout and you'll go back to your normal size, but some guys believe that your pump has something to do with your gains and that you should focus on getting the biggest pump you can (sometimes using supplements to boost your pump). Your muscles don't grow in the gym, they grow when you are resting, and therefore the ferocity of that mad Hulk-like pump you managed to work up may feel cool - but don't count on it to improve your gains my friend.
Getting a good pump on before hitting the bar
Resting for a set period of time between sets is a recipe for mediocre muscle gains. To understand why, let's think back to how you actually build your muscles. You need to shock them into growth by lifting heavy weights, and using every ounce of energy you have to perform your set. The heavier the weight you lift and the more reps you do will determine how much muscle you break down. The more muscle breakdown, the better.
Just say that you have a fixed rest time in-between each set, such as 45 seconds. Sometimes that's won't be enough to recuperate from the previous set and fully catch your breath back, especially with some of the more taxing exercises such as squats and deadlifts. Not all exercises are created equal and some are a lot more taxing on your body than others, so you should take this into account when resting between sets.
See Also: Why Weight Training Warms-Ups Are Key
You need to give your body the time it needs to recover so that you are as close to 100% as possible for performing your next set, otherwise you are robbing yourself of extra potential gains by not being ready for your next set. So although fixed rest times may be appropriate for other fitness goals, for building lean muscle mass it's not the best approach.
These aforementioned myths are just the beginning when it comes to misleading advice in the fitness industry, and like I mentioned you've got to be careful from where and whom you take your advice from. If you're serious about getting good results and avoiding newbie myths and mistakes, make sure to only ever follow a well-thought out, balanced and science-based program from a credible author. See our muscle-building program reviews to find a suitable program or use the articles on this site to craft your own effective mass gain program from scratch using sound principles based on science and real-world results. Good luck!