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Muscle-Building Myths, Part 2

7301-train2In my last column I began discussing some common myths that are written about in articles, talked about online and passed along in gyms. Let’s continue.

Myth 3: Use heavy weights and low reps for mass and light weights and high reps for definition. Wouldn’t it be great if it were actually that simple? Unfortunately, it’s not. I remember when I was a young lifter and was offered this piece of “wisdom” by someone at my gym who liked to put himself forward as some type of bodybuilding authority—undeservedly so. My immediate reply was, “But how heavy and how light? And for how many reps?” I cannot recall what his exact response was, but I remember that my questions really threw him.

The truth is that building muscle is a rather complex process and a function of many physiological mechanisms that collectively ignite our anabolic pathways. In order to stimulate them all maximally, we must present the muscles with a variety of stimuli, which means variations in rep ranges, training techniques, lifting speeds and more. In other words, “heavy weights” do assist in building bigger muscles, but so do “medium” and “light weights.” The key lies in giving your body an equal dose of each and not relying on a one-dimensional approach.

As for muscle definition, it’s the result of achieving a bodyfat percentage of about 10 percent or lower. Lifting lighter weights for high reps is certainly not going to be solely responsible for making that happen, as some people seem to believe. Only a sound nutritional regimen coupled with consistent cardio workouts and intelligent supplementation—in conjunction with resistance training—can push the body to rid itself of fat through increased calorie burn and heightened metabolic rate. As for how to approach the weights, train the same way that you always do. What helps you add muscle mass is also generally best for maintaining it when you’re in a calorie deficit.

Myth 4: Using resistance, other than bodyweight, during ab training will thicken the waist. Early in my competitive bodybuilding career one of my weaknesses was my abs. My waist was tight and narrow—about 28 inches in contest shape—but my ab muscles were not as prominent as they needed to be. When flexed, I had a sharp six-pack, but when I was standing relaxed, they were hardly visible.

I had always trained my abs with bodyweight only, sets in the 40-to-50-rep range. I knew that in order to reach higher levels in bodybuilding competition, I would have to do more to develop my abs.

Although I didn’t want to lose the advantage of having such a small waist, I began training my abs the same way that I trained other bodyparts. After all, I was not doing pushups for my chest, for example, but, rather, hitting presses, dips and flyes for sets that limited me to between six and 15 reps. Now my abs were getting the same treatment, with weighted crunches and leg lifts, never going over 20 reps and most often failing at 10 or 12.

The result? A year later I stepped onstage seven pounds heavier with the same 28-inch waist and grooves between my abs thick enough to hold a quarter!

While I don’t recommend weighted side bends, which will build the obliques on the sides of the waist, there is nothing wrong with training the rectus abdominis as you would any other muscle group. If you use proper form and technique during weighted abdominal movements, focusing intensely on performing the positive and negative strokes, getting a deep contraction and maintaining a strong mind/muscle connection, the size of your waist will not increase, but the impressiveness of your abdominal wall certainly will.

—Eric Broser


Editor’s note: Eric Broser’s new DVD “Power/Rep Range/Shock Max-Mass Training System” is available at 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


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