Welcome to Empower Blog: Myth Busters Edition, your bi-monthly debunking of common fitness misconceptions! This episode features the very common assumption that strength training will turn you into a giant green monster known as the Hulk. While lifting weights will promote the development of lean muscle mass, it will not automatically make you start bulging out of your shirt. First let’s define strength training.
In my own words, strength training (also known as resistance training) is the process of using a load to promote skeletal muscle adaptation specific to the type of exercise being done (read as: picking things up and putting them down). A load can be any form of resistance including body weight, resistance bands, cable machine, dumbbells, barbells, etc.
The key word to take from this definition is “specific”. Due to the plethora of types of strength training out there, it’s up to you, the individual, to decide what goal you want your strength training to tailor to. If you’re solely looking to “tone up” for the summer, there’s a specific style of strength training that will cater to you; if you want to improve your posture, there’s a specific style of strength training for that; if you want to run faster and jump higher, there’s a specific style of strength training to increase those; and if you want to look like the Hulk on steroids, then there’s a specific style of strength training that, hopefully without turning you green, will get you that big.
This works due to one of the major principles of human movement science – the General Adaptation Principle. This principle basically states that whatever exercise or training you impose on your body, your body will adapt to that particular stressor. So if you’re looking to add a bunch of muscle, then you’re going to have to lift heavy loads (about 75-90%+ of your 1 repetition maximum) for about 6-8 weeks to see hypertrophic gains in your musculature (read as: get bigger muscles). For most people, this isn’t their goal. If that isn’t your goal, and for a majority of people I would say it isn’t, then throw in some variety. Confuse your body by giving it different types of loads. Throw in a heavy lifting day here and there; have one workout be more cardio intensive; and have some days where your bodyweight is the heaviest you go. By mixing it up, your body will still develop lean muscle mass and give you the definition that you’re looking for, but not to the extent that your muscles will be ripping out of your shirt. The lesson here is that when it comes to exercise or resistance training, it’s about specificity and tailoring your program to your goals.
With all that having been said, I declare this myth BUSTED!
As always, stay awesome and we’ll see you next time on Empower Blog: Myth Busters edition!
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