We've each been given advice from well-meaning lifters that we later find out to be untrue. This article explores false muscle building beliefs that continue to be passed around.

When you've been around lifting as long as I have you tend to see the same muscle building myths passed around over and over again, ad nauseum. (That means to a ridiculous degree, for those of you keep score at home.)

While times change and lifting trends come and go, the following bodybuilding lies never seem to die. In this article I will do my best to put them to rest, but am certain that 10 years down the road they will still be going strong.

12 Bodybuilding Lies That Must Die

Lie #1 - You don't need to get strong to get big

Lifters don't need to use strength-centric training programs, or to try and set new one rep maxes each time they hit the gym. They do need to get a lot stronger than they are now. There are no weak top level bodybuilders. These guys are all very strong, even though they may not think so.

Progressive overload drives gains, regardless of the training protocol you use. You can't simply train for a pump, or use rest-paused sets, without eventually adding weight to the bar in some form or fashion. The body will adapt to the demands of any approach very quickly, and will have no reason to grow unless more resistance is added over time.

I've trained with some of the best natural bodybuilders in the business over the years, and to a man, they all have rock solid strength levels. This tells us that if we want to get big - really big - we're going to have to put some weight on the bar sooner or later.

Lie #2 - You can get as big as a pro bodybuilder without steroids; it just takes time

This is complete and utter nonsense. I don't care how much you "believe", and how hard "you work", it ain't happening.

If you think I'm limiting you then it's time to attend a drug tested natural bodybuilder contest. These natural pro competitors have been training for 5, 10, 15, and 20 plus years. They train harder than most of us will ever train, yet remain light years behind the size of IFBB pros.

In fact, most pros I know (of average height) are lucky to reach 180 pounds ripped. The majority of pro natural bodybuilders I've met compete between 170-179 pounds. The best of the best manage to creep towards 185-190 pounds, or a hair over, but anything beyond that is natural fantasy land unless you are 6 foot tall and one of the best in the world.

Natural physiology prevents the accumulation of insane amounts of muscle tissue. The body is not built to expand to infinity, like some oversized balloon.

Bodybuilding Lies

Lie #3 - You need to live in the gym to make progress

Want to know what I think? If you can't get it done in 60 minutes of training, you have no business working out longer than that. What's the point? If your gym efforts suck and leave you wanting to train more, maybe it's time to focus on quality before quantity.

Are you maximizing every set? If not you need to be. What's the point of performing a set if you're not trying to turn it into a productive, muscle building effort?

Make every set count, and run with a consistent and tight rest between sets. Do your work, stay focused and you likely won't need more than an hour of lifting - 75 minutes tops - per training day.

Lie #4 - You need to bulk like a pig

Unless you are underweight, the most amount of muscle mass you can expect to put on during your first year of training (naturally) is about 16 pounds, give or take. This number decreases by about half each subsequent year of training.

I can't tell you how many times I've seen guys start a bulk, gain 30-40 pounds in 6 months, and then complain that bulking only makes them fat. Then they immediately jump back to a cut. This cycle of futility is often repeated several times.

Insanely aggressive bulks are foolish and unnecessary. They only lead to rapid fat accumulation. You should be bulking in accordance with your gains expectations. If you want to add 15 pounds of muscle during your first year of training, aim for about a 22-25 pound total bodyweight increase during this timeframe.

Lie #5 - To get big you need to follow the current programs of the pros

This makes no sense. How a bodybuilder trains now has nothing to do with how they trained during their early years. Current programs are usually structured to target specific weaknesses, bring up lagging bodyparts and push a body that is reluctant to grow into gaining even more size.

The top pros evolved their own system of training over the years to...(wait for it)...fit their own needs. If a program is based around a bodybuilder's current needs, it is safe to say that it is not designed to maximize your current needs. 

If you really want to know how to train at the beginner to intermediate stages of lifting, find out how these guys trained during their first several years in the gym. Believe it or not, even Arnold utilized a fullbody workout to build his base, and not the "Arnold volume program" that everyone is so fond of talking about.

Lie #6 - You must use a bodypart split to grow

The idea that full body workouts or upper/lower splits are somehow inferior because they are not currently en vogue is a travesty.

Yes, naturals grow on splits. My point wasn't to imply they didn't. But just because splits work, and can work well, doesn't mean that full body workouts should be dismissed. This is simply abhorrent logic.

There is strong evidence that reveals protein synthesis levels return to normal (baseline) after 48 hours. This means that if you are using a split workout, each body part is likely to be put on ice for 5 days until it is trained again. By using a fullbody workout you can stimulate a muscle more frequently and keep protein synthesis levels elevated to a greater average weekly level. This could potentially yield slightly better gains.

Bodybuilding Lies

Lie #7 - There is no overtraining, so you should just man up!

If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone proclaim "there is no overtraining", well, I would have a lot of money.

Here is some logic I want you to consider...just because overtraining might not exist, or is hard to achieve, doesn't mean you need to train like a madman. The body can take a lot of punishment, but this doesn't mean it's necessary for growth.

Train smart, and focus on progress. Progress should always trump punishment. The point of training isn't to cripple the body, but rather to challenge it during each workout.

Lie #8 - You should switch how you train when trying to lose fat

High rep ranges are for cutting, right? Wrong. This myth will never die.

You should train about the same way on a cut as you do on a bulk. If you switch to using lighter weights while dropping calories, you are signaling to your body that some of the extra muscle is not needed.

If you want to hold on to existing muscle mass, continue to train for progressive overload. It doesn't matter if you lose some strength while dropping the fat...keep trying. Do what you can do.

Lie #9 - A pump equals muscle gains

It doesn't. You can get a muscle pump from doing many things. Try locking your elbows and holding your arms at your side parallel to the ground for several minutes. You will get a muscle pump. Is this building muscle? No.

Armies of lifters have never trained for the pump yet have made incredible gains. A pump is non-essential. It's neither necessary, nor is it a bad thing. Some muscle groups "pump" more easily, while others are stubborn.

Train for progression using conventional hypertrophy ranges. This is the long term key to gains. A pump using light weight is nothing more than an illusion. It might be painful, and you might feel exhilarated, but if you don't start adding weight to the bar your body will adapt to this method very quickly.

Lie #10 - All big and strong lifters understand the essential rules of training

This might offend a few seasoned lifters, but it's the truth. You don't have to understand the true engine that drives gains to make decent progress.

I've met many advanced lifters who like to focus less experienced trainees on things that are non-essential. Most times lifters like this have adopted a certain dogma, or set of beliefs, that they believe to be better than everyone else's. This often results in confusion for beginning lifters who are seeking information from them.

One experienced lifter will advocate supersets as the be all, end all, while another pushes time under tension. Another one low volume, while yet another high volume. Each of these lifters means well, but they fail to see what they have in common: consistent effort, great improvements in strength, proper food intake, patience, etc. This is the real magic.

When someone tries to sell you on their "magic secret that will re-ignite gains", take it with a grain of salt. Tools obviously can help, but rarely is one advanced training technique or training principle "magic" compared to another.

Bodybuilding Lies

Lie #11 - You should never eat more than 150 grams of protein per day

At one point there was a study (or studies) revealing that for muscle building, you really don't need to eat more than 150 grams of protein per day to build muscle.

Here's the thing: just because the average lifter may not need more than 150 grams of protein per day to build muscle doesn't mean they should never eat more than 150 grams of protein per day. There are several reasons to eat more protein.

First, there is no harm in playing it safe and eating a little more protein, say 180-220 grams per day. Just because some science guy in a white coat tells you to never eat more than 150 grams per day doesn't mean you can't eat a little more just in case. We are in this game to build muscle, not to play it safe. If you're like me, you would rather eat a little more protein each day just as an insurance policy.

Second, if you are eating a lot of food each day it makes sense to balance your macronutrient intake just for the sake of convenience. An early 20-something lifter that requires 4,000 calories per day to grow doesn't need to stay chained to 150 grams of protein and 600 grams of carbs. It makes perfect sense to eat with a little more balance, say 200-250 grams of protein and 500-550 grams of carbs. 

Lie #12 - You need to frequently deload

This is a modern myth, but it is gaining steam rapidly. You don't need to deload every 4 weeks. You don't even need to deload every 8 weeks if things are running smoothly. The lifting community is rapidly becoming obsessed with the deloading process, and I see many guys deloading more than they need to.

For those of you on a more straightforward type of training program, meaning you are not using a form of training that involves extended periodization or peaking, or are not on a program that aims for planned overreaching, you should deload when you feel like you need to deload.

When you feel fatigued, beat up, or just mentally in need of a break, insert a light week or week off from training. One week off every 8-12 weeks isn't going to hurt anything. These types of deload weeks can be good for recovery.

You can certainly training longer than 8-12 weeks without a break if your body feels fine. There is no need to deload when you are feeling great and rocking the progress. Bottom line...only deload when you feel you need to.

Posted on: Tue, 08/16/2016 - 04:13

Great article. The protein myth is something people keep telling me. I'm 6'7" and my lean mass is well over 200lbs. All limiting my protein intake led to was sore muscles, no progress and foul mood. I need at least 200g per day, and tend to be somewhere between 230-260.

Matt Harwood
Posted on: Sat, 08/08/2015 - 20:05

Good article all I would say is I personally don't agree with 3 only because I don't think that anybody can really push to the limit fully in 60 min. I'm not saying live in the gym but I think 90 min allows you to push that bit further in reality you are only doing 60 min of work but allowing your body to recover that bit more.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 08/10/2015 - 10:42

I somewhat agree with your statement but much of your workout duration will be determine by a number of factors which I discussed in this article: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/how-long-should-i-workout

Posted on: Thu, 11/27/2014 - 08:17

Hi Steve

What do you think of once a week training? Low frequency training?

Posted on: Wed, 06/18/2014 - 08:43

I have a degree in Exercise Science and I'm a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA. I still read through these and other articles to learn and stay current. I've worked with many personal trainers who I thought were idiots. Passing an exam or completing the required course work is one thing, but true knowledge is gained through applying the theories in the field. Most of what I learned is a result of working at the US Olympic Training Center and the people with years of experience with whom I worked. Thanks for the article, Steve. These articles help the natural lifters like me keep things in perspective.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 06/18/2014 - 08:46

Thanks John and stay strong.

Posted on: Tue, 06/17/2014 - 21:29

What about "no pain, no gain"? Myth or true?

Posted on: Mon, 04/21/2014 - 01:34

great articles...

Posted on: Tue, 01/14/2014 - 16:34

I love when "certified personal trainers" plug in their 2 cents.

YOU guys are the worst information givers of ALL!!!!!
Always, it never fails. Please keep chiming in, because; you - without fail, make the comments the best part of the read.

Love this article.

Posted on: Tue, 12/10/2013 - 14:17

Hi steve, iv been following your 4 day power muscle burn workout for a few month now and seeing great progress, was wondering though if I should intertwining the exercises. For example bench press(chest) pinwheel curls (biceps) then back to incline press (chest) or should I just stick to doing all chest then move on to bicep?

gyno man
Posted on: Tue, 12/03/2013 - 20:44

I think I have gyno. Do i still have a chance to cover this up by working out?

Posted on: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 12:56

Congratulations Steve. I'm from Brazil and I'm using a translator, may have some errors. Referring to lie 4 and also said on the matter: Natural Muscle Building: A Look At Potential, Genetics & Arm Size on Growth 1-2 pounds per month in the first year and half of it year after year. Do you mean that if someone did not enjoy the first and second year to grow about 36 pounds will take 5 years or more to grow the same 36 pounds?

Posted on: Sun, 12/01/2013 - 02:03

I did a week off, de-loaded so to speak. Managed to gain 15 pounds of fat....in a week, real talk. So the last 6 months were for nothing and I am starting all over again. Frustrated as hell but what to do? Take another week off and be in a +30 lb situation, no thanks, great article over all.

Posted on: Sun, 12/01/2013 - 09:59

You didn't gain 15pounds of fat in a week. You may have gained a pound or 2 of fat and 13pounds of water retention. But that will disappear as soon as you start eating sensibly again.

Huge Hughe
Posted on: Sat, 11/30/2013 - 20:25

@Jeremy Welsh, Steve totally torched your ass, dude. Steve knows of what he speaks. You came off as a pompous douche that spits the same crap that alot of so called "certified personal trainers" spit out.

Anthony Belfiore
Posted on: Sat, 11/30/2013 - 13:11

Great article Steve..any ideas on cardio contributing to muscle loss? Would love your opinion

Amit Afridi
Posted on: Sat, 11/30/2013 - 12:30

Hi Steve,

A very Great article...totally agreeing with each & every statement of this article.

Thanks for sharing your most worthy knowledge & experience.

Cheers :)

Posted on: Sat, 11/30/2013 - 08:51

Hi Steve, Thank you for the great article. I just want to clarify something. Does it mean IFBB pros use steroids to get so big? Is there any other way to get as big as them any other ways? Then there's no way to attain Mr. Universe without steroids? Thank you. Your advice is much appreciated.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sat, 11/30/2013 - 11:06

Hi Hein,

For reasonable drug-free standards check out our profiles here: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/natural/athletes/natural-bodybuilders....

Posted on: Sun, 12/01/2013 - 13:41

Hi Steve

I have a question about #8 in regards to cutting. How do I achieve cut if not by doing low weight high repetition?

Posted on: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 13:03

Diet will be the biggest tool you have to cutting body fat.

Posted on: Sun, 12/01/2013 - 05:41

Correct. You will never win Mr universe without taking performance enhancing drugs.

Posted on: Sat, 11/30/2013 - 06:19

I'm confused as to #8 I always thought moderate to light weight with high repetition will form cuts if not then how so?

Posted on: Sun, 12/01/2013 - 05:13

Cutting or bulking is more about diet than workout, a lot of people say you should keep your workout the same and only change your diet. I've also read people that prefer to lift heavy weights for less reps while cutting in order to try and minimize strength loss, either way its all about diet.

Posted on: Sun, 04/20/2014 - 15:44

losing fat is what brings out definition of the muscle, if you are cutting and you lighten your lifts then there is a possibility of losing some of your muscle mass as well

Posted on: Sat, 11/30/2013 - 01:07

good tips.

Posted on: Fri, 11/29/2013 - 23:20

what is deload?

Tim Run
Posted on: Sat, 11/30/2013 - 03:50

a light week or week off from training, just break to recover your fatigue muscles.

Posted on: Fri, 11/29/2013 - 21:17

Another great article Steve! Just finished 12 weeks of you power 8 workout after not lifting any weights for 8 years and being about 100 pounds over weight. I've seen great muscle growth. I took this week(thanksgiving) off and next week I start Power Muscle Burn 5-Day Split. Do you have any quick notes about that workout? I've read through the post about 100 times and have read almost all your articles. I've even found your YouTube channel with tips on proper form. Thanks for all you do!

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sat, 11/30/2013 - 02:33

Thanks Adam! Glad to see you are gaining strength. My main advice is that if the power muscle burn seems like too much, don't hesitate to try the 4 day variation.

Posted on: Fri, 11/29/2013 - 20:28

Lie #17 Personal Trainers offer advice worth paying hundreds for vs doing your own internet research (like this article)

Posted on: Fri, 11/29/2013 - 19:59

Lie #16 Bodybuilders are the healthiest people in this world

Can someone explain why so many pro bodybuilders died this year at a young age? List of 2013 dead bodybuilders:

Nasser El Sonbaty
Ed Van Amsterdam
Greg Kovacs
Art Atwood (died in 2011)
Don Youngblood (died in 2005)
+ many more

Posted on: Fri, 11/29/2013 - 20:26

You srs?

-Human Growth Hormone
-Androgenic-Anabolic Steroids

Amongst other things they are abusing their bodies with.

Posted on: Fri, 11/29/2013 - 21:00

All above are Anabolic Steroids Users.

Posted on: Fri, 11/29/2013 - 22:20

I rarely if ever see people say bodybuilders are the healthiest people.

Posted on: Fri, 11/29/2013 - 22:34

Steroid and other drug abuse more than likely shortened their lives

Jim V
Posted on: Sat, 11/30/2013 - 00:09

Yeah it's called steroid abuse lol..

carl johnson
Posted on: Fri, 11/29/2013 - 19:55

what? #9. arnie always trained for the pump. watch some of his videos, he always talks about striving for the pump and how good it feels

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 11/29/2013 - 19:56

For every Arnie there are hundreds who never used the pump. He liked to train for it, doesn't mean it's required. It's a personal thing.

Posted on: Fri, 11/29/2013 - 19:50

Get em Steve!!!

Posted on: Fri, 11/29/2013 - 19:16

Lie #15 You need to take supplements to gain muscle or lose fat

Posted on: Fri, 11/29/2013 - 18:24

Rule #15: Running is all the leg training you need.

Jeremy Welsh
Posted on: Fri, 11/29/2013 - 18:17

Im sorry to say this, but i think that about 75% or more of this article is also a lie. What scientific proof is related to anything he is saying? Im a cert. personal trainer, and can debunk about half of what he says from scientific proof, not saying the myth is correct either. Sorry but there are a lot of people that think they know what they are talking about because they have the experience of lifting for years and years, and that training works for them, but everyone is different. Experiment with workouts, change your exercises to challange your muscles in different ways, and youll grow. Doesnt have to be size, there is also strenght and endurance that can be added by more repititions. Its not only from sticking to the hypertrophy range of 8-12 reps.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 11/29/2013 - 19:35

For the record, you are telling folks:

1) Not to get stronger.
2) You can get as big as an IFBB pro without steroids.
3) They need to live in the gym.
4) They need to bulk like a pig and get fat.
5) They need to follow the programs of the pros because these programs are the best for them.
6) They must not use full body workouts or upper lower splits because they don't work.
7) They should try to overtrain.
8) They should use high reps when cutting.
9) They must live for the pump above all things.
10) All big and strong lifters know everything about training.
11) They should never eat more than 150 grams of protein per day under any circumstances.
12) They need to deload every 4 weeks.

Everything in the article is 100% accurate. Also, the need to "switch up exercises" is a huge myth.

My experience includes 30 years of working with top natural bodybuilders and powerlifters. I am an elite powerlifter myself.

I have personally trained with every from Mr. Minnesota to Mr. North Carolina, and spoken with everyone from Mark Lobliner to Jason Blaha to Frank Zane. I have interviewed nearly all the tops stars in bodybuilding and/or met and trained with them personally. I also compete with some of the biggest name stars in the powerlifting realm.

My information comes from personally talking to, training with, interviewing or profiling hundreds upon hundreds of elite athletes.

Please don't make generalizations about the accuracy of this information in my articles. It doesn't help anyone.

If anyone doubts the validity of my statement, please check the athlete profiles and interviews on this site.

Posted on: Tue, 12/10/2013 - 07:08

Very well said, Steve!
Some personal trainers think they know everything because they took a few classes and give completely insane advice. I pity the beginners who listen to them because they don`t know any better.

Austin Walrath
Posted on: Wed, 06/18/2014 - 01:32

Jeremy, you're an idiot. did you even read the article?

Posted on: Fri, 11/29/2013 - 16:54

Not to distract from the decent article, but I have a question.
Has there ever been any scientifically based clinical trials of workouts/supplement mixes to determine which system is "best" at building muscle mass?
Surely asking protein and supplement manufacturers to subsidise and provide their products for proper tests would be possible, any that refused would be risking their reputation.

Posted on: Fri, 11/29/2013 - 16:45

Lie #14 Turn fat into muscle

Posted on: Fri, 11/29/2013 - 15:40

Lie #13 : leg extensions = leg training