26 Strength Training Myths You Can Stop Believing Right Now (Part 2)

A couple weeks back, we discussed how we humans really love myths. And holy-freaking-unicorn Batman, there some long-standing myths that surround strength training.

Some of them are just FAKE NEWS, but some of them have a little truth to them.

And now, our mythbusting continues….

13. I can reduce fat around the abs or thighs with specific exercises

Nope. Not possible. But I get why we all think this is possible. I want you to flex your bicep right now. Feels good, right? And you’re using the muscles in your bicep to bring your wrist closer to your elbow. So it’s only natural in your mind that you think, “Gee, I’m working this muscle so it should be using fat around it for energy, right?”

God, I wish that were how the body worked. If it were, we’d all have 6-packs in no time thanks to crunches. And no one would have fat fingers with all the texting and keyboard pounding we do. But if there’s one thing you take away from this article, I want you to write this next part down. Then paste it all around you or tattoo it on your forearm.

Nutrition drives fat loss; workouts support it.

So if you want abs, you have to take control of your nutrition. Exercise will help. But the battle of the bulge is 80% nutrition and about 20% exercise.

14. For fat burning or weight loss, I should only do cardio exercise

Fat burning: the process of changing our body’s composition levels while retaining as much muscle mass as possible.

Weight loss: losing both fat and muscle at the same time while only caring about what a hunk of plastic and metal shows us.

Cardio: those arduous minutes you spend on a treadmill dreaming about cake and then flagellating yourself by increasing your speed for the simple act of thinking of cake.

That last part was me taking a pot shot at cardio. Look, cardio is important. I just hate running on a treadmill. But you don’t need cardio to burn body fat. Sure, it can help your ticker run a lot better as well as improve your recovery time from intense exercise due to improved blood flow and stuff.

But you can burn fat by simply eating less food and walking more. That’s it. Remember:

Nutrition drives fat loss; workouts support it.

15. I should be sore after every workout

Working out is a lot like sex. Sometimes you have a night where the passion is wild and every single centimeter of your skin is buzzing; you’re in absolute ecstasy.

Sometimes, you put on some slow jams, take your time, and enjoy the connection with your partner. And then there are those times where you’re just going through the motions and hoping for the best in the end. But then the end isn’t the magical ecstasy unicorn that you rode last week. And you roll over asking yourself why you even put yourself through that disaster.

We’ve all lived through those moments in our sex lives. And working out is exactly like that as well.

It won’t always be pure ecstasy, and you won’t always feel sore the day after a great workout. In fact, the goal should never be to feel sore after every workout. Soreness isn’t an indication of effectiveness. What ultimately determines whether you had a good workout is how you feel when you’re done.

16. Squatting is bad for your knees and deadlifting is bad for your back

These exercises are only bad for you if you do them wrong. Period.

Squatting is a basic human movement pattern. Look at anywhere else in the world where people don’t work at desks, and they can easily “pop a squat” and touch their ass to their ankles.

And since we’re talking myths, there is a myth surrounding the birth of the deadlift in fact. According to myth, the term “dead lift” is derived from ancient Roman times. After military battles, young Roman soldiers were charged with going out onto the battlefield to lift their compatriots corpses onto a wagon where they would be transported for burial.

Hence the name “dead lift.” And according to the myth, Roman general’s requested young soldiers do this (a.) to get familiar with battle and death and (b.) to increase overall strength.

Of course, no one knows if this ancient myth is true or not, but it makes for a great story. Still, the hip hinge is a basic human movement pattern. And when you deadlift, that’s what you’re training.

Squats and deadlifts are not bad for you. But like anything, if you do it wrong, then it’s bad for you.

17. Crunches get abs

Crunches don’t get you abs. Consistently staying in a calorie deficit while eating plenty of lean protein and green leafy veggies while avoiding highly-processed foods — with a hefty helping of patience — gets you abs.

You can play peek-a-boo with your nether regions all you want. But until you address the food you put in your mouth, those abs are only a dream.

18. You need a belt to lift heavy

Belts do not replace your core. If you have a weak core, you’re gonna lag behind in overall strength with or without a belt. But belts allow your abs to create more intra-abdominal pressure which helps your core create more tension and stay more rigid while you squat or deadlift super heavy.

David Dellanave, the founder of Movement Minneapolis and biofeedback mastermind, has a heuristic that I think is a good guideline in terms of when you should consider using a belt.

For men, once you’re able to hit a 2x bodyweight deadlift and a 1.5x bodyweight squat, start using a belt. And for women, David suggests working up to a 1.5x deadlift and a 1x bodyweight squat before you strap on a belt.

If you wanna know more about the myths and truths of lifting with a belt, David Dellanave dispels all myths in this article.

19. Men and women should train differently

Are there separate classes for men and women at MFF? Umm, no. Everyone does the same basic movements:

  1. Squat
  2. Deadlift
  3. Row
  4. Press (overhead or on a bench)
  5. Weighted Carries
  6. Anti-Rotation

That’s because men and women don’t need to train differently. Sure, we may have physical differences, i.e. men carry more lean muscle mass and women recover faster after training sessions than men. But HOW we train doesn’t really need to change.

Lift heavy and across all rep ranges, and focus on mastering the basic movement patterns above. Oh, and toss in some curls for good order. Because arms rule.

20. You shouldn’t exercise on rest days

Does this mean that if you’re following a strength program that you shouldn’t run on a rest day? Or that you shouldn’t go for a hike or a bike ride around Central Park?

Rest days don’t mean sit around and rewatch Buffy the Vampire Slayer all day (though, if that is how you choose to spend your rest day, I’m not gonna say you made a bad decision).

Rest days can be active. Walking is one of the best recovery tools you have at your disposal. And if riding your bike brings you joy, why would you not want to ride your bike after a heavy day in the gym?

Sure, maybe you don’t need to go back into the gym and do what you did the day before. You do need to give your muscles time to recover and repair. But slothly lying around isn’t how you have to spend your rest day.

Active recovery can be beneficial. But so can sitting around and sleeping all day too.

21. Cardio will eat your muscle and strength

If this were the case, then NFL players would be weak and small instead of the massive thundering beasts you see on TV. No. Cardio does not “kill your gains.” In fact, when cardio is programmed intelligently into your program, it can improve your lifting. Cardio:

  • increases blood flow;
  • opens capillaries; and,
  • can help you recover faster during your strength sets.

So Robbie, should I do HIIT or steady state cardio?

Well since I know how much Ninjas love to ask a question only to then have that followed up by another question (or ten), I have a question for you: what do you enjoy the most?

If you love HIIT, do HIIT. If you love to imagine yourself as a gazelle gracefully prancing across the open plains while you’re on the treadmill, then do your gazelle thing, honey.

Yes, there are advantages to either form of cardio. HIIT saves you a ton of time. But steady state is less taxing on your nervous system and is less likely to get in the way of recovery from your heavy lifting.

This is my rule with cardio for my online clients: choose the activity that brings you joy and makes you feel great. Then do that for cardio. (But don’t do it to “burn calories.”)

22. Muscle weighs more than fat

When you look at this picture, that statement seems to be true, right? The fat is clearly larger, and the muscle smaller. But it’s not weight that you’re seeing here. The fact is, muscle takes up less room than fat. That’s it. Five pounds is five pounds. Period.

23. The post-workout window is essential for building muscle

That’s right, my friends. If you don’t get protein within 30 minutes of your workout, you will lose all the muscle. ALL OF IT.

Okay. Let’s end this myth once and for all. A meta-analysis from 2013—yes, 5 freaking years ago (man this myth just won’t die will it?)—found that groups who slurped down massive protein after their workout did not fare any better in terms of building lean muscle mass vs. groups who ate the same amount of protein throughout the day.

Basically, it doesn’t matter if you have a shake immediately after the gym or a meal a couple hours later. What matters most is total protein throughout the day. So save yourself $7 and skip the smoothie stand at the gym.

24. Muscle confusion: you gotta keep your muscles guessing

Do you wanna know what your muscles don’t have? A brain. They can’t think for themselves. They just do what your brain tells them to do. So you can’t confuse your brain.

What makes your muscles grow is tension and volume. And when you repeat that tension and volume for 4-6 weeks, slowly adding either more weight or more reps as the work becomes easier, then your body can adapt and change.

But if you’re changing up workouts every week because you’re trying to confuse your body, then you’re never going to place your muscles under the repetitive tension that they need to grow.

25. You should never squat past 90 degrees

When I drop it, I drop like it’s hot. And by hot, I mean I go ass to grass with my squats. That doesn’t mean that I am going to jack up my knees or cause more issues later in life. What it means is I have the hip mobility to be able to sit deep into a squat. But some people physically can’t.

So getting them to 90 degrees – legs parallel to the floor – is the best way for them to squat. Everyone has different hip structures, and what’s good for one person may not be best for the other.

Creating a myth based on what one person can do is wrong.

26. Strength training means lifting weights

That’s like saying that modern dance isn’t dance. Or that finger painting isn’t art. Or that hip-hop isn’t music. Or that video games are not art. I will fight to the death for that last one. You don’t combine every artistic endeavor into a project and then claim that it isn’t art.

Anywho, back to strength training. Strength training is more than dumbbells, barbells, or kettlebells. Pole Fitness is huge right now and it requires massive amounts of strength. But the only resistance you have is your body.

There are millions of people around the world who only use their body weight for exercise. And there are thousands of others who use resistance bands or TRX to challenge their bodies to get stronger. Strength is the adaptation your muscles make to the tension you place them under. Those adaptations will vary depending on the external forces you place your body under, but you don’t need to lift weights to strength train.


Phew. That was a freaking marathon of myth busting. By now you’ve hopefully discovered that the majority of strength myths are pretty bogus. Some of them make no sense when examined with science. And many of them seem like someone just created them out of thin air.

But one thing is always true: Nutrition drives fat loss; working out supports it.

Now that you know strength fact from fiction, are you ready to get strong? Schedule a Strategy Session at Mark Fisher Fitness and we’ll show you how!


Robbie Farlow is the King of the Gingers, Protector of the North, and an uber nerd who loves all things Star Wars, video games, Marvel, and 90s music. Oh, and tacos and whiskey. He’s an online fitness coach who helps men and women make their 30s better than their 20s. And he writes about all things nerd, lifting weights, emo music, and more at Side Quest Fitness. When he isn’t writing, you’ll find him playing video games, deadlifting, munching on tacos, snuggling on the couch with his wife, and drinking good whiskey.


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