In my past two columns I have been talking about some common myths that are passed along in bodybuilding. Let’s dispel a few more.
Myth 5: If you’re not getting stronger, you’re not getting bigger. Not true. Twenty years ago I was far stronger than I am now, but yet not nearly as big and muscular. While it’s certainly important to try and push greater poundages as you move along in your training, that’s not the only factor necessary for inducing growth.
Understand that gaining strength is often a function of simply practicing and getting better at a particular exercise, which is more of a neuromuscular adaptation than anything else. In a sense, becoming more “efficient” at lifting a weight can actually be counterproductive to forcing muscle growth. Think of it this way: If you’re constantly doing the same exercises, your central nervous system may begin to get so good at performing them that fewer muscle fibers need to fire in order to move the weight from point A to point B—the opposite of what you want!
Another thing to consider is that strength gains are finite and will eventually plateau—because if they didn’t, we would all be able to bench-press our cars at some point. I’m not trying to tell you to stop yourself from getting stronger, just that growth is not solely reliant on pushing increasingly heavier weights. You can also stimulate gains in mass by improving your mind/muscle connection, getting more work done in the same period of time, introducing novel training techniques, switching up lifting tempos, varying repetitions and altering angles, grips and planes of motion.
The take-home message: Just because you don’t get stronger for a period of time doesn’t mean you’re not getting bigger! As long as you’re training hard, eating correctly, getting your rest and staying positive, you are more than likely stimulating muscle growth.
Myth 6: Exercises like cable crossovers, leg extensions and triceps kickbacks create striations in muscle. In my 25 years of bodybuilding I have read at least 5,000 articles written by professional bodybuilders, and this is one of the most common pieces of misinformation put forward. Countless times I have seen quotes such as, “I add in five sets of cable crossovers to my chest workouts starting 10 weeks before a show to help carve in the striations.” Please understand that no exercise, no matter how strong the peak contraction, whether it’s done with a machine, cable or free weight is going to create striations in a muscle! The ability to get them is entirely a matter of genetics, similar to bone structure, muscle shape, muscle origins and insertions and vascular formation.
You can put two equally developed bodybuilders next to each other, both with bodyfat in the low single digits and subcutaneous water levels at a point where the skin is paper thin, and while one may show wicked cross striations in his lats and tri’s, the other may have little to none. In other words, those deep grooves that Jay Cutler and Kai Greene have all over their massive quads were basically there when they were born, not etched in by thousands of sets of leg extensions.
Build your own physique, and diet away all of your bodyfat, and you, too, may find that you have highly visible striations from delts to sternum, even if you have never done a cable crossover or pec deck flye in your life!
Editor’s note: Eric Broser’s new DVD “Power/Rep Range/Shock Max-Mass Training System” is available at Home-Gym.com. His e-books, Power/Rep Range/Shock Workout and The FD/FS Mass-Shock Workout, which include complete printable workout templates and Q&A sections, are available at X-Workouts.com.