The 4 Worst Pieces of Muscle-Building Advice

gym workout

Are you unwittingly sabotaging yourself? |

If you’re new to the gym, you’ll figure out rather quickly that everyone is an expert. While there’s no harm in trying to help someone out — especially beginners who are unsure of themselves around strange and dangerous equipment — offering up unclear or just plain bad advice can be far more damaging than helpful.

In effect, by giving someone bad advice, you may be sewing the seeds of destruction that can manifest later on in the form of stunted progress, or even injuries. The danger here is twofold: either by giving bad advice or guidance to others, or by being on the receiving end — and beginning or continuing on your fitness odyssey with bad intelligence.

G.I. Joe used to say that “knowing is half the battle,” and if it’s merely half, then the other portion is putting that intelligence to work for you, not against you.

Luckily, common sense alone will filter out the lion’s share of bad advice that you’ll get from others. The real issue is that people who are unfamiliar with, or brand new to, the gym or fitness center may not have any idea. There are a lot of things that are relatively counter-intuitive about getting in shape, and it can be confusing and overwhelming at first. But here are a few falsities that you can keep in mind whether you’re new to lifting, or a grizzled vet.

1. Diet doesn’t matter

having a bad diet isn't good muscle-building advice

Chili cheese fries won’t help you gain any muscle. |

Gym veterans, and even those who have spent any bit of time in and around a fitness center, will tell you that this is utter nonsense. In fact, only newbies are likely to fall prey to this line of thinking, which is more than likely an idea that will come from outside influences, such as those perpetuating the idea that eating whatever you want is good because it’s all about how you feel inside.

Or any variation of that line of thinking.

Right away, your B.S. detector should have gone off. What you’re eating may be the most important aspect to fitness — and that’s something you need to learn right away. They say that great bodies are built in the kitchen and sculpted in the gym. Key-in your diet first and foremost, and ignore anybody telling you to have as many donuts as you want.

2. Form is unimportant

Man being spotted while doing bench press

Form matters, so ask for a spotter. |

Again, this is something that is common sense almost universally. Why would anyone bother practicing or even teaching proper form if it wasn’t important? Perhaps you’ve seen or heard something along the lines of “it doesn’t matter how you get the weight up, as long as you get it up.” That type of thinking is what leads to people getting hurt or setting themselves up for long-term damage to their bodies.

You know how a lot of Crossfitters do pull-ups (kipping pull-ups)? Imagine what the disregard of proper form is doing to their shoulder joints — unless the kipping pull-up is properly taught and performed as it was meant to be.

Either way, form is everything. You must perfect it, or you risk hurting yourself or seeing asymmetrical muscle growth. It’s important, no matter what advice you’re offered.

3. It’s OK to skip leg day

lunging with weights

Work on your legs if you want to stay strong and injury-free. |

If you want to look like a chicken, then yeah. Go ahead and skip leg day.

Two of the big three compound lifts which should be making up the core of your workouts depend on your lower body, and that means you should be giving your legs some serious attention. Squats and deadlifts are going to do a good portion of the “heavy lifting” as far as lower body exercises, but you still need to make sure you’re targeting auxiliary muscle groups, meaning your quads, glutes, and calves. You want to make sure your body is well-balanced and that you’re seeing even, symmetrical muscle growth.

4. Always push it

Man pushing to do a deadlift

You shouldn’t be killing yourself on a daily basis. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

You’re going to want to hit personal bests and set PRs every time you hit the weights — nobody can fault you for that. But that shouldn’t necessarily be your main focus every day. You want to make sure you’re getting through your workouts, and getting in the necessary reps and sets that will truly benefit your overall fitness plan.

Think about it this way: You could waltz into the gym, do a few warm-up sets on the bench, and then put every ounce of energy you have into trying to get up a one-rep personal best. That’d be a good thing. But wouldn’t it be better, all things considered, to work your way through multiple reps, across multiple sets? The struggle through those sets is where you’re really building strength and muscle, and you’re short-changing yourself by skipping out.

Get after it, but just make sure you’re taking the “scenic” route, rather than sprinting for one-rep maximums every time.