If you have ever trained yourself, or I’m sorry to say been to see a personal trainer (because we aren’t immune to believing the myths) then you will have probably heard things like
this number of sets and reps is the perfect amount for building muscle
if you eat 15 chickens a day you will only put on lean muscle
ab exercsies are the best thing for getting a killer six pack
Where did these myths originate, however, and is there any truth in them?? I’ve done a bit of digging around and added a few little bits of my own knowledge to hopefully mythbust some of the better known training myths.
Myth One – 3 sets of 10 reps is the ideal number for muscular size gains
As far as I can gather this idea of 3 sets of 10 goes back to the 40’s when it was published by Mr Thomas Delorme in the archives of physical medicine. He found that 3 sets of 10 was as effective at building muscle as 10 sets of 10 (which we now refer to as GVT (German Volume Training)). Since then, however there have been quite literally 1000’s of other articles claiming that there are other combinations of sets and reps that are more effective than 3 sets of 10, so why has it stuck for so long? NOT A CLUE!! I cannot find any plausible reason as to why this theory has been so etched into the psyche of people in the fitness industry, so I’m gonna give you my own reason. People who train aren’t always the brightest (I’m including myself in that so don’t get offended) and with all the available blood rushing to the muscles being worked and away from the brain counting to more than 10 is sometimes a stretch. As for the 3 sets it’s simple – 2 is really easy, and after 3 it starts to get boring so you need to move on.
Now I’ve told you that this is a myth what do I recommend? Well that isn’t an easy questions to answer. As a general and very basic rule of thumb you should be looking at 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps if you are looking to build size. I say this is a basic rule but this depends on how many different exercises you are doing, are you super setting, have the smaller muscles been used doing the compound lifts and so on. All I will say is mix it up a little bit. Your body is inherently lazy! If you always do the same number of reps it will find the easiest way of completing it, and your gains will quickly diminish.
Myth Two – If women lift weights they are going to get big and bulky
After speaking to women in the gym and during training there is a real hesitancy from them to lift weights, not even heavy weights, just weights in general. The number one reason is – I don’t want big muscular arms, or I don’t want my boobs to shrink. I’m sorry ladies but these are both massively removed from the truth. Women only look muscular when they are either a)on steroids or b) have a body fat percentage of about 4! Women have to much oestrogen in their system to allow muscle bulk. In order for muscular size to build large amounts of testosterone need to be present, which women (unless on steroids) do not have. You can take Jodie Marsh as a perfect example of this. When she was on stage for her body building competition it seemed as though her muscles were enormous and bulging, yet after a few weeks of eating normally and getting back to a healthy body fat percentage you couldn’t even tell. As for chest focussed weights making boobs shrink then I suppose in some ways it is true. But only in as much as lifting burns calories, burns fat and as I’m sure you are aware boobs are fat. What trainers need to be telling women is that chest weights will help to counteract the effects of gravity later in life!!