There may be some old and inadequate beliefs about building muscle holding you back
For years, I would listen to various fitness professionals educate me on the principles for building muscle and maintaining health. Some of them were outdated, and a lot were downright wrong. For instance, old-school bodybuilders insisted on eating a lot of protein at the expense of fewer veggies and fruit. Unsurprisingly, most of these so-called ‘professionals’ experienced health challenges, including the gut and hormonal imbalances. I wonder if these people could even go to the bathroom! There are so many more myths that you probably held close to and may prohibit you from getting results. Let’s clear up some of these now.
One: The need to constantly inflict tension on the muscle for growth
You probably have encountered this before — tension is the pathway to muscle growth. Maybe you have also spent a few seconds resting the weight to gather the power to perform the movement again. Resting is that brief point at the top of a squat rep and the top of a bench or shoulder pressing movement. We were told to constantly perform the movement without a pause to get the best growth. But it’s within those mini rest periods that give you the capacity to perform more reps, creating even more muscle tension which is the primary driver of growing muscle. Maybe you feel that intense burn, and it’s comforting to know that the muscle is activating due to the continuous chase towards tension. It may come at sacrificing a full range of motion or lead to muscles not being activated appropriately to grow due to the lack of stimulating the necessary muscle fibres. We must ensure we lift the weight using a full range of motion and perform the necessary repetitions to grow muscle. So, if you need to pause for a second to gather your courage or breath, do so and don’t focus on keeping the muscle activated constantly. Instead, maximise the number of repetitions you perform, leading to muscle growth over the long term.
Two: Sticking with the same exercises or changing every week?
It’s a tough one because I have utilised both methods. Training with the same program for a month and then alternating every week to perform an array of different movements. Which one is better over the long term? Muscles are not made to cater for the confusion in training programs provided. Their job is to adapt to the exercise they inflict at any given time and perform better next time. Higher-level athletes work with a program that may see them performing the same exercises for months to master particular movements and then progress. Changing specific exercises during the month may help you overcome any injury that usually starts to manifest when overusing particular muscles. You can choose a program for three months before making changes. Does that seem too long? Of course, but, according to many of us, this is not something we’re used to. But, changing exercises during each session won’t make you gain more muscle. It reduces strength gains instead of keeping the same exercises each week. So, next time you design a program, focus on the consistency of your training rather than trying to devise creative ways to alter it every day. If the program does become tedious, shift the focus slightly, but aim to master those critical movements. I recommend multi-joint movements as much as possible, providing the best strength and muscle growth gains.
Three: Do you need to eat every 3 hours?
I failed miserably with this and did it for years despite feeling full or having no appetite! This theory helped us believe that the metabolism responds well to constantly eating to keep chugging along during the day. Research has finally revealed that meal frequency doesn’t matter; the total number of your macronutrient breakdown counts. You don’t have to spread your meals or have three settings — the body utilises the nutrients as it’s given. So, consider your meals a total caloric intake, and be done with meal frequency. Time your meals when you feel hungry, and that’s convenient for you. We can’t all eat at 10 am, as most of us have work commitments that do not align with the usual bodybuilder timing framework. Snacking constantly also makes you a lot more hungry. Focus instead on your overall macronutrient count, not meal frequency.
Four: Do your workouts need one hour in duration to be effective?
I recall many articles warning us about the dangers of cortisol spikes and how that can negatively impact your gains. These myths suit so-called professionals who want to cut their client’s time for a workout and coaches alike. Cortisol messes with our health over the long term and is a natural occurrence in everyday life and training. I want to reinforce that you don’t need to subject your workouts to one hour only if you need to train for extended periods. It will depend on your goals and the time you have. For example, many athletes require training twice daily to prepare for an event. Nutrition and lifestyle must be considered when deciding to train in a specific way. One thing to keep in mind with training is that it always has to optimise our progression and ability to recover from the session. If you don’t sleep long enough or eat appropriately, you put yourself on the pathway to injury and lack of recovery from a workout. So, if you are training for something particular or have a specific program to follow, don’t limit yourself to one hour only if you don’t need to. Instead, consider just how much time you have for exercise and your lifestyle needs.
As you can see, several factors need to be considered regarding the practical results of your training sessions. It seems that consistent training, using the correct exercises and ensuring you get enough rest and recovery play a more significant part in our overall exercise results and quality of life. Athletes will have a significantly different training threshold than those working in an office. Therefore, we must keep these factors in mind regarding our exercise choices. Although I exercise a lot, this weekend left me in a physical and psychological downfall — due to stress and anxiety at work and home. In addition, lack of sleep increases the odds that I will struggle to make the best use of my time in the gym. Days like this call for minimal exercise and a lot more rest. We each have to gauge our body’s limits according to what’s going on in our lives. So if you need a rest — take it. If you want to go hard — go for it.
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