Strength Training Myths

Strength Training Myths

There are myths and word-of-mouth pieces of advice that regularly do the rounds, they seem to cop up time and time again, so it’s always worth having a look at the most common to avoid falling into any unnecessary traps.

Lifting Weights Causes Bulk

Ladies we are looking at you especially for spreading this one. If bulking up were as easy as picking up some weights then every teenage lad would be a pro bodybuilder by now. The truth is bulking happens through very specific lifting and nutrition patterns. Lifting weights and strength training with a load that you can manage correct form for 3-6 reps before fatigue will increase your muscular strength with no unwanted bulk tagging along.

Lift Light Weights With High Reps To Develop Endurance, Heavy Weight With Low Reps For Strength

Muscles need tension and volume to grow- overload your muscles and you will see growth and development in your strength. Whether this overload is found through high weight and low reps or low weight and high reps, you will see progression in both strength and endurance. Think about it this way – one set of 5 reps with a heavy weight may take the same amount of time to complete as one set of 15 reps with a light/moderate weight. The muscles are kept under tension for an equal amount of time providing the weight chosen is appropriate.

You Need To Train Several Times Per Week To See Benefits

By focusing on large muscle groups and compound movements such as squats, deadlifts and military presses, studies show benefits and progressions from performing one strength session per week. As long as your session is focused and planned with appropriate overload, you can keep a varied structure on your training week.

Running And Cardio Cause Muscle Loss

Weightlifters tend to avoid pounding the pavement for fear of muscle stripping away the further they run, and while running/cardio exercise requires energy that could otherwise be used for building muscle mass, this one comes down to your food intake. Essentially, if you are running for over an hour at a time after not eating much before, not taking energy on during a long run or not refuelling correctly afterwards then the body will seek its energy from internal sources.

However, if you are fuelling up correctly before, during (where necessary) and after a run (or any training session) then running can be a very effective way of maintaining and, yes, even gaining muscle mass. Remember – if you do any type of training (including strength training) without being properly fuelled you are at risk of decreasing muscle mass.

You Don’t Need To Strength Train If You Are A Runner Or Endurance Athlete

Here’s a common one prevalent among distance runners – they refuse to step in the weights room with the fear of getting bulky and slow. It’s the same reasoning behind why a weightlifter will shy away from running due to fear of muscle loss. The truth, however, is that for runners and endurance athletes alike, strength training is an incredibly effective way of working out imbalances, improving technique and increasing power maintenance over a distance. As mentioned before, bulk will only come with specific training whereas for an athlete who primarily focuses on endurance work, weight training will only bring positive results.

It’s Best To Train One Muscle Group At A Time

Ever seen the benches at the gym filled by bench-pressers on a Monday? It has become commonplace for strength training to be split into a ‘chest day’, ‘arms day’ or the dreaded, much-avoided ‘leg day’. This routine of training has developed from professional bodybuilders who will train a particular muscle group to such overload that extended recovery time is required for recovery. The vast majority of gym-goers, however, are not professional bodybuilders and training in this way can be counterproductive. Consider this – which sport (think of OCR especially) requires the use of one muscle group only? Training the whole body can better prepare for sports performance.

Strength Training Decreases Flexibility

Simply put, weightlifting done correctly can actually have the opposite effect. Studies have found that resistance training improves flexibility as effectively as static stretching. According to research in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning, working through a full range of motion while lifting will produce the greatest benefits.

Train Your Arms To Shrink Your Bingo Wings, Do Situps To Shrink Your Waist

This is commonly known as ‘spot reduction’ and is arguably one of the most common myths doing the rounds. If sit-ups were able to shrink belly fat, tricep extensions could shrink arm fat or squats could shrink only your legs there would be some very strange body shapes inhabiting gyms. The truth is you need to focus on cardio, strength training and proper nutrition to shrink body fat, which will reduce evenly over your whole body. Keep up those exercises though so you can be impressed when you see the muscle begin to show through.

Keep Strength And Cardio Training Separate

Similar to ‘legs day’ or ‘chest day’ – sessions are too often separated into ‘cardio day’ and ‘gym day’ – really there is no need for the two to be mutually exclusive, especially for the OCR runners out there (our research shows that by reading this website you have a passing interest in obstacle course racing). By utilizing different energy systems in one training session you can effectively build strength, balance, endurance and agility in one fell swoop so that when it comes time to flip a tyre halfway round a 10-mile race – it won’t require a second thought.

You Need A Gym To Strength Train

Find gyms too expensive? No problem. Performing bodyweight exercises eg. Squats, pushups etc. still develop strength as, quite simply, you are working against a resistance (the weight of your body) to perform a movement. Not only this, anything can be used to develop strength – shoulder raises with pints of milk, pull ups on trees, fill a rucksack with tins & squat – the possibilities are endless with these versatile exercises, just use your imagination!


See also: 5 Exercises That Everyone Should Be Doing.


Written by me: Keith Fairburn

Personal Trainer, Sports Therapist, S&C Coach.

Ninja Warrior Semi-Finalist, Obstacle Racer, Salming Running Ambassador.

If you have any questions about anything I’ve written in this post or want to get in touch, contact me.