Common Fitness Myths Debunked

Forget everything you’ve been told about your workouts and bodyweight!

Myth #1

It takes six to eight weeks of hard training to increase muscle size.

It’s the question everyone wants to know when they start a weight-training program: How long until I get big? The consensus (if you ignore infomercials) was that early strength gains come from neural adaptations, and it takes six to eight weeks before your muscles actually start to grow. But University of Oklahoma scientists decided to get serious and use CT scanners to accurately measure progress after each week of an eight-week training program. And what do you know — they saw immediate increases in muscle cross-sectional area, and by the third week the subjects’ muscles were already 5% bigger. After eight weeks, they were up almost 10%.

What you can do: Subjects in this study followed a program of three sets of each exercise to failure (8–12 reps), three times a week. Your progress will depend on what your starting point is and what your goals are, but the good news is that you can start getting bigger in weeks, not months.

Myth #2

If you’re overweight, you’re unhealthy.

Muscular guys have always known that body mass index isn’t the best measure of health. After all, there’s nothing unhealthy about having big muscles. Fat has always seemed less ambiguous; too much is bad. But lately, doctors have been reassessing the biggest risk factors for common killers like cardiovascular disease. It turns out that you’re half as likely to die being overweight but aerobically fit compared to being a slim couch potato with a great metabolism.

What you can do: For guys carrying extra weight, it means that workout success shouldn’t be defined only by what the scale says; if you’re improving your fitness, you’re getting healthier, so keep at it. And for guys who look good without having to work for it, it’s a wake-up call: your six-pack is meaningless (healthwise, in any case) if you can’t climb a flight of stairs without getting puffed.