Muscle confusion. The bodybuilding practice of trying to "confuse" your muscles by switching up workouts and training techniques. The goal: stimulate or re-ignite gains. All kinds of gains.
Muscle building confusion. The bodybuilding practice of reading too many articles and watching too many videos. The goal: to complete confuse the lifter, resulting in a state of paralysis by analysis. Fear sets in. Myths merge with truth. The result...
We don't even lift.
Try this someday when you're really, really bored. Poll a random group of lifters. On Facebook. At the gym. On a lifting forum. Ask them for the lifting gospel; the commandments of great muscle building gains.
What happens? Madness. Melee. Verbal brawls. Bodybuilding sucker punches. Heated debates. Blocked buddies. Banned forum members.
Most lifters are so swamped with info that myth becomes truth, the truth is called a myth, and no one really knows what the heck is going on. So without further ado, let's bust all kinds of myths.
3 Muscle Building Myths
#1 - Finding the Perfect Workout is an EssentialYou can read all the studies you want; digest all the research and opinions on research. You can search all you want for the perfect workout, and optimize until your testicles turn blue. But here's the reality...
There are no magic workouts. There are no magic set and rep schemes. No magic exercises. Over the long run the real key to muscle building success lies in your head and your heart.
A lifter with fire in his belly and an insane love of the iron will crush his workouts. Give me a driven lifter on an "inferior" program any day. I guarantee he/she/they will outperform the average moderately inspired gym bro using the "perfect" program any day.
When heated debates over perfect programs arise, I have been known to retort with this brash and bold statement:
Give me the worst program you can think of and I guarantee I will find a way to make amazing strength and size gains using it.Stop the program hopping immediately. Instead, focus on killing your workouts. Training programs are merely starting points. Hit the gym, give it your all, learn, and evolve your training based on needs.
This combination is unbeatable. Instead of placing your focus on finding magic, learn to create your own. Work hard. Train smart. Tweak programs to fit your needs. You will never find a program that is perfect for everyone. Know this and you're way ahead of the game.
The magic lies inside of you. The science of bodybuilding is dead without the art.
#2 - A Moderate Volume of Sets Per Workout Isn't EnoughYes, volume training can have it's place in a muscle building regimen. No doubt. Overall tonnage has value. But before you make the jump and try to slaughter yourself in the gym, first, master the art of making every set count.
What's the point in piling on the volume and trying to rack up tonnage if you still haven't spent several years building up a substantial amount of strength? There isn't one. Before trying to slaughter volume, spend a few years learning to maximize a moderate amount of volume.
By making every set count, you make every workout count. By making every workout count, you maximize the muscle building process.
To do so, remember the following. Push every set set for as many reps as possible. Stop a set either:
- When you feel like you might fail on the next rep.
- Your form starts to slip.
This approach is deceptively difficult. Over the years I've trained with hundreds of individuals. Most of them think they train hard until we try this method. The result? After four to five sets they start to feel gassed.
They soon realize that a moderate amount of sets - say 12 to 16 per workout - is plenty, especially is you are pushing each one to the limit. Only after years of safely building strength using this method should you consider adding volume.
First build the base strength, then build in volume and tonnage. By the time you've spent a few years using this approach, you should have built 90% of the muscle and strength you're ever likely to build naturally.
#3 - Strength Doesn't MatterYou will never find a weak top-level bodybuilder. Period, end of story. While training for absolute strength is not the goal of bodybuilding, you still have to get a heck of a lot stronger than you are now to build muscle mass.
I'm sorry, but you can do all the bench press volume you want with a 155 pound bench press. The added volume stimulus might for for a short period of time, until adaptation sets in, but without future advancements in strength your gains will soon become dead in the water.
The same goes for principles like the mind-muscle connection and slow reps. These are cute, gimmicky approaches but without an advancement in strength you're up a creek with a paddle of gains.
The point here isn't to hit the gym and try to improve your bench press one rep max. The point is to push your eight rep set of bench presses for nine reps. Then ten reps. Then twelve reps. Then five more pounds. Rinse. Repeat.
These small steps; these seemingly minor advancements add up over time into big, big muscle gains.
All roads return to progressive overload.
Adding in volume? Eventually your body will adapt and the only way to increase the intensity of this volume is by adding more weight? Adding in rest-pause work? Eventually your body will adapt and you return to the need to increase weight to stimulate.
Lifters often ask me about specific training techniques. Drop sets. Slow negatives. Rest-pause. Halting reps. On and on and on. All of these CAN work as long as progressive overload is in the mix. Remember this point. It's very important.