3 Muscle Building Myths

by Dean McKillop 5044 views Gain Muscle

3 Muscle Building Myths

Move away from the hyped up bodybuilding forums, put down the sensationalised magazines and throw away any readers bias you may have before reading on and then buckle up while we dispel 3 muscle building myths so that you can get better results!

1.    You need more protein for muscle growth

The notion of needing more protein to grow more muscle, logically speaking, isn’t an outlandish concept. I mean, protein and amino acids build muscle!

But the reality is, that protein consumption reaches a point of diminishing return when it comes to the amount you eat and its effect on body composition change. Based on the current research available for athletes competing in a bodybuilding competition, which they are arguably going to be following a more regimented training program than general population trainers (meaning they need their diet to be optimal), the top end recommendation for protein intakes are:


Women – 2.2g per kg of lean body mass
Men – 2.7g per kg of lean body mass

One thing that is important to note, however, is that as calorie restriction increases, the demand for protein requirements also increase. Conversely, during a phase of muscle growth where calorie intake is greater, protein requirements actually decrease.

So while the recommendations above are scientifically applicable to the dieting phase of a body building competitor, the amount you require for muscle growth during a calorie surplus is actually less, as the risk for muscle breakdown is minimal.

Which means in actual fact, you need less protein to grow muscle and more protein to preserve muscle in times of calorie restriction.

But back to muscle growth...


During a muscle gain phase, the protein requirements for men and women can vary between:

Women – 1.8-2g per kg of lean body mass
Men – 2.2-2.5g per kg of lean body mass

Consuming above this amount is by no means a negative, and increased protein intake will ensure adequate recovery is achieved as well as it improves appetite control, however, protein should never be consumed in excess to the point where it is to the detriment of the other macronutrients (carbohydrates/fats) as it yields no greater results than what you would achieve with adequate amounts.

2.    You must train to failure in order to grow

While training to failure may seem ‘hardcore’ and the commitment to train to complete volitional fatigue certainly indicates the level of intensity required to train for maximum growth, reaching actual failure is 9 times out of 10, unnecessary.

Undeniably the 3 primary determinants for stimulating muscle growth from a training perspective are:

  • Volume - Total weight lifted in the week
  • Intensity (relative to 1RM) - Increasing absolute strength
  • Frequency - Increasing stimulation frequency

Furthermore, to achieve muscle growth the following 3 factors, in order of importance, are considered to be necessary when attempting to achieve muscle growth:

  • Mechanical loading - Volume/intensity
  • Metabolic stress - Lactic acid/metabolites
  • Muscle damage - Caused by mechanical loading/metabolic stress

As you can see, the primary determinants of muscle growth are increasing strength, lifting more weight over the course of a session or week, stimulating the muscle more frequently and then following these dominant aspects, forcing metabolic fatigue is also important.

To put it into perspective, the dominant aspect failure training is focusing on is metabolic stress. So while it may seem hardcore and the intention behind training to failure is fantastic, the actual necessity of reaching such intensity is unnecessary.

Optimising muscle growth via training should be focused primarily on breaking up your weekly program into daily sessions that will allow you to progress the most consistently without the risk of injury and also the risk of burning out. Utilising failure training within your program to create metabolic stress certainly has its place, however, it should not be utilised in every exercise but instead may be best utilised in the final set of the final exercise in your session.

Training this way will allow you to focus on genuine strength and volume progression in the majority of your workout and allow you to over fatigue the muscle at the end of the workout when metabolic stress can be used to your advantage.

Ensuring you only achieve one true set of failure in a workout will also minimise the risk of nervous system fatigue and help maintain training performance long-term.

3.    You have to shock the muscle to make it grow

This myth still stands strong today and I am unsure as to if it was started fallaciously by someone having a laugh or if it was simply a misinterpretation of a very basic concept, but nonetheless it seems it still needs to be squashed.

muscle shock

The idea of ‘shocking’ a muscle works on the premise that a muscle becomes conditioned or accustomed to an exercise and therefore its adaptation is ceased due to being comfortable with its surroundings.

Again, while this may seem like an ok concept on the surface when you really break it down, it’s equally just as silly as the over commitment to training failure concept.

Muscle tissue cannot be shocked, nor can it be surprised into growing via the simplistic approach of changing just the exercise type.

What a muscle responds best to is forced adaptation.

What I mean by that is, a muscle must be forced to adapt to the stimulus it is consistently receiving in order for it to make an adaptive change to contend with the stimulus it is being subject to. And that adaptation needs to be forced in the 3 principles mentioned in Myth #2

  • Volume - Total weight lifted in the week
  • Intensity (relative to 1RM) - Increasing absolute strength
  • Frequency - Increasing stimulation frequency

The moment you simplistically manipulate the stimulus via just an exercise type change, forced adaptation is no longer required. In reality, if we force a muscle to lift more weight consistently, the only way for this to occur is to grow new contractile tissue, whereas if we change the type of exercise, the primary adaptation that occurs is nervous system muscle recruitment and improved motor patterning, not necessarily new tissue growth.

So, instead of complicating the concept of ‘shocking’ a muscle with a new exercise, try shocking it by training to a well-controlled program that focuses on progressing with more weight each week, and force the muscle to adapt by laying down new tissue.

The Final Wrap

And there you have it, 3 muscle building myths that may be holding you back from maximum muscle growth.

Remember, muscle growth comes down to optimising the entire environment, not just 1 aspect. All too often people get caught up on focusing on the minor details when they should be focussing on simply eating the right amount of protein, training smart, training hard and it is my preference that you also train to a program if you want to optimise your approach.

Happy lifting! 

Dean McKillop

Exercise Scientist

I completed my Exercise Science Degree at the University of QLD and have worked in the fitness industry for over 8 years, including a short stint at the Brisbane Broncos in 2010 as a student. I also hold my Level 2 Strength and Conditioning Coach accreditation (ASCA) and have competed in 1 bodybuilding season, placing 2nd at the IFBB u85kg Nationals.

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