A lot of misinformation swirls in the testosterone-fuelled cauldron of your local weights room. Every man with muscles is an expert, whether their accomplishments are naturally attained or not.
To keep you on the swiftest route to success we use the latest research to replace bro-science with, well, actual science. Take note.
You Need To Crunch To Build A Six-Pack
Abs – they’re what fitness dreams are made of. But, no matter what magazine covers tell you, there’s no magic move for success. Sorry. It’s what you do in the kitchen that matters, not the gym. Stick to a high-protein, low-carb meal plan to strip your belly fat and you’ll reveal a cobbled mid-section. Easy on paper, tricky in practice.
Plus, the famed crunch isn’t even the most effective exercise to hone your six-pack – the rectus abdominis muscles. Research published in the Journal of the American Physical Therapy Association discovered that the crunch stimulates a flabby 41 per cent of the muscle fibres in your middle, but an ab-rollout fires up a rock-solid 76 per cent. Put the wheels in motion for six-pack success.
Running Ruins Your Knees
The cardiophobe’s excuse doesn’t hold much weight. Turns out, pounding pavements doesn’t pound your joints. Stanford University researchers found those who run regularly have a lower incidence of arthritis in their joints and it’s hypothesised that regular exercise has a conditioning effect on your cartilage, making it stronger rather than wearing it away.
The major cause of knees problems is being overweight – something regular cardio can help you keep in check, obviously. Reach for your runners.
You Need To Stretch Before A Workout
Just because you’ve done the same touch-your-toes routine since PE doesn’t mean it works. In fact, limbering up with static stretches can do more harm than good.
Research published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports discovered that trying to loosen off your muscles when they’re cold actually has negative effects on strength, power and explosive performance.
Instead, try swapping them for dynamic warm-ups, using moves that activate the muscles you intend to use. That means a primer set of push-ups before you attempt a bench press PB.
The More You Exercise, The Better
When that beach holiday is just four weeks away, double gym sessions every day seems the sensible way to build a trunks-only body. But when it comes to building muscle, the clichés are true: less is more and quality trumps quantity. Play the hero and you risk overtraining, which stresses your body and sabotages muscle growth.
Rest days are where your body undoes the damage you’ve done in the gym, repairing and rebuilding muscles so they come back bigger and stronger. In fact, a week off may be just the tonic your workout plan needs. One Sports Medicine study found an extended break from the bench press results in a surge of testosterone and growth hormone, expediting growth when you start lifting again. It’s the most relaxing shortcut to more muscle you’ll ever take.
You Can Lose Fat In Specific Spots
We get it. If you want to rid yourself of moobs it stands to reason press-ups would do the trick. Struggling to keep your middle-aged spread in check? Best ramp up the crunches. Unfortunately, targeted weight loss – or ‘spot reduction’ – doesn’t work. While you can target muscle growth, fat burning is a total-body process.
Research in the Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise journal found that when test subjects worked out only one side of their body, their fat loss results were evenly split. Weight loss is the result of burning calories and that means working your larger muscles – most commonly found in your lower body. So yes, the best way to drop a cup size is another round of legs day. See you at the squat rack.
The Bigger Your Muscles, The Stronger You Are
That hulk in a snapback and racerback vest might have the muscle tone of, to paraphrase Clive James, “a condom stuffed with walnuts”, but there’s no reason to believe he can arm wrestle the lean guy doing weighted pull-ups.
Without going into the minutiae of strength training principles versus hypertrophy (size training), it’s interesting to learn that although bodybuilders’ muscle cells are larger, they actually produce less force – which is why scientists at Manchester Metropolitan University labelled them as muscles of lower quality. Although maybe don’t cite that particular study while you’re waiting for him to get off the bench press.
Cardio Eats Muscle
If you think time on the treadmill will have you racing towards a Mo Farah physique, think again. The bro-science buzzword to be wary of here is catabolism, where excessive road work can eat into your muscle size. It happens, but not after a leisurely 10K around your local park.
In fact, PloS One research found combining cardio with your weight sessions can actually increase lower body mass by 28 per cent, since it targets your slow twitch fibres for growth. Hit the streets twice a week and outrun any accusations of skipping leg day.
Exercise Turns Fat Into Muscle
Experts at Examine.com have explained there’s no evidence that muscle-building amino acids can be made in the body from anything other than other amino acids, excluding fat as a form of muscle fuel. Instead, you burn fat and sculpt muscle in a process called body composition change, where body fat percentage falls, and muscle mass grows independently.
The latter sits beneath the former, which is why no matter how hard you train your core, unless you get your body fat down, you won’t see your six-pack. The best way to achieve both? Circuit training with weights. The reps will stimulate growth while a heart trying to beat out of your chest will have you searing extra calories for hours.
You Should Hit The Gym Before The Cereal Bowl
Early bird or night owl, both have their strengths. Lace up your trainers at the crack of dawn and you’ll burn 20 per cent more fat, according to one British Journal of Nutrition study. Alternatively, you’re much more likely to hit a strength PB working out in the evening, because your anaerobic capacity is 7 per cent higher, says Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism research.
The upshot? Don’t stress. Pick the time of day you’re most likely to go because, let’s be honest, getting across the gym threshold is actually the biggest hurdle. You burn no calories hitting snooze.