Stereotypes and Myths of Bodybuilding
If You Stop Training, It All Turns To Fat
Out of all the false statements linked to bodybuilding, this is probably the most persistent. As bodybuilding great Franco Columbu said in one of his books: the most vocal critics of bodybuilders are usually built like laboratory flasks!
Muscle cannot turn into fat any more than fat can turn into muscle. They are two completely different biological entities. Muscle is healthy, vibrant, living tissue, and in general the more of it you have, the healthier you are overall. Fat, however, merely sits there as a stored source of energy in case one day the food supply is cut off. If not burnt, the storage pile just gets larger. If fat could turn to muscle, we would have a lot of Mr. Olympias out there, given the rate of obesity in western society!
We’re not sure where this myth came from. It could be jealousy on the part of non-exercisers. Rather than pick up a barbell or go for a run, they sit back with their donuts and criticize those who take pride in keeping in shape. Of course, some bodybuilders and other strength athletes do gain weight as they get older or stop training. As we age, or as we lose muscle when we stop training, our metabolisms slow down and we don’t need as many calories to survive. Unfortunately, many do not adjust their caloric intakes accordingly.
The end result is a buildup of fat, as it would be with anyone who consumes more food than their body needs. Football players and powerlifters are famous for this. During their competitive years, their huge appetites match their high-energy workouts. Unfortunately, when they retire they neglect to alter their diet, so excess calories get deposited around the midsection. All I can say is trust me, your muscles won’t turn to fat if you stop training. Assuming you adjust your caloric intake, you will simply lose the muscle tissue over time.
They Are Big, But Not Strong
Another myth based on ignorance. This myth is probably based on the fact that modern bodybuilders don’t have to demonstrate feats of strength at contests (unlike their counterparts decades ago). To most audience members, today’s bodybuilder simply steps onstage and flexes. Also, years ago, Olympic weightlifters and powerlifters would be seen on stage lifting heavyweights, but without the same degree of muscle mass as modern bodybuilders. Well, things have changed over the past couple of decades.
Many powerlifters and Olympic lifters have physiques rivaling bodybuilders. And as for bodybuilders being weak – virtually the entire Mr.Olympia lineup can bench press 500+ pounds, curl 200+ pounds and squat 600+ pounds. Guys like Jay Cutler, Gustavo Badell, Ronnie Coleman, Mustafa Mohammad, Markus Ruhl and Toney Freeman work out with poundage the average strong man couldn’t lift once, let alone for10 reps or more! As we’ll see later in the book, there is a direct relationship between strengt hand size. The bigger your muscles, the stronger you’ll be. It also works the other way around;the stronger you are, the bigger you can build your muscles.
You Will Be Muscle-Bound
How often do you see some big bodybuilder playing a “heavy” on TV or in a movie, barely able to move himself, while some 150-pound main actor dances around him and kicks his ass?! It rarely works that way in real life, I assure you! In fact, bodybuilders are on average more flexible than non-bodybuilders, due to the nature of their training. But thanks to Hollywood,people perceive a bodybuilder as being some brainless deadweight who can’t fight for himself.
Most muscles work in pairs, and contracting one muscle tends to stretch the opposing muscle group. Unless you train with poor technique and only perform half movements, don’t worry about becoming “muscle bound.”If you’re still worried about increased muscle mass causing reduced flexibility, look no further than professional sports teams. For years, coaches forbade their athletes from going near the weight room for fear of reducing their flexibility. How things have changed!
Virtually every professional sports team has a strength-training coach these days. Boxers and hockey players spend as much time in the weightlifting gym as in the ring or on the ice.Finally, take a look at the posing routines of current stars Melvin Anthony and Dexter Jackson, and 1990s star Flex Wheeler. Despite their massive muscle size, all three bodybuilders demonstrate flexibility that rivals gymnasts. Trust me – you won’t become muscle-bound from bodybuilding
Bodybuilding Is Gross
This is not so much a myth as it is a matter of opinion. It is true that a large segment of the general public finds the extreme ripped bodybuilding physique a turn off. Well, the same could also be said for gross obesity, or even the average overweight guy. While most women probably won’t buckle at the knees at the sight of a 280-pound Mr. Olympia competitor, virtually all are very physically attracted to the muscular and balanced physiques in such magazines as Reps!, Men’s Health, and Maximum Fitness.
It is worth noting that most of the top Hollywood stars of the last 20 years (Arnold, Sylvester Stallone, Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, The “Rock” and Matthew McConaughey, to name just a few) all sport great-looking physiques that women love. The fact that virtually all of these stars regularly take their shirts off in their movies shows just how important it is for an actor to have a muscular and conditioned body. Of course, no amount of persuasion will change the mind of someone who stubbornly refuses to see reality. Still, if it’s a choice between the soft pudgy look and the hard muscular look, the vast majority of women will choose the latter!
Robert Kennedy: Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding, The Complete A-Z Book On Muscle Building. 2008
Nick Evans: Bodybuilding Anatomy. 2012
Arnold Schwarzenegger: The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding, 2013