The fitness industry is plagued with myths. Some of these myths are instances of people being well-meaning but misinformed, and others are simply marketing jargon designed to make sales. Marketing can be frustratingly effective, and many people end up buying into these myths in spite of them being made up out of thin air. One of the reasons these are believed (and also that they’re made up in the first place) can be summarized with a quote from one of my favorite books:
“When fear is employed, facts are incidental”
Simon Sinek, START WITH WHY
One such myth that fits this description is that certain programs or workouts will deliver “long, lean muscles” to those who do it. This sounds attractive to a lot of people, usually women, who want to have something along the lines of a ballerina’s body. As such, gyms and workout programs which make that promise (or equivalent ones) tend to sell a lot of memberships to people who believe they’ll get long, lean muscles by following those workouts. The “fear” aspect of this slogan is that if you do a different gym’s workout program then you’ll end up “bulky” and not looking the way you want to. Frustratingly, this ‘promise’ is a complete fabrication and has no appreciable base in reality. Let’s take a quick look at the facts, which is basically anatomy 101.
• Each muscle has an origin (where it starts) and an insertion (where it ends) and a tendon on each of those ends which anchors the muscle to the bone.
• In order for the muscle to be “longer” then the points where the tendons attach to bones would need to increase, e.g. the tendon needs to physically move farther down the bone in order to create more space between the two tendons.
• However, the points at which your tendons attach to your bones are fixed, THEY DO NOT CHANGE. The only way to change where they attach is surgery.
Another helpful concept to understand is that muscles generally work in pairs (this is a bit of a generalization, but is sufficient for now). A simple example here is your biceps (muscles on the front of your arm) and triceps (muscles on the back of your arm). When you flex your biceps they get shorter, and your triceps get longer. When you straighten your arm then the opposite happens, your triceps get shorter and your biceps get longer. THERE IS NO WAY TO MAKE THEM BOTH LONGER AT THE SAME TIME.
That leads to the next point, which is that if someone is trying to sell you on the idea of “long, lean muscles” then one of two things is going on.
1. They don’t understand the most basic concepts of anatomy, and as such it is doubtful that they are qualified to teach exercise
2. They know they are full of sh*t and are lying to you anyway (usually because they’re trying to get your money)
What is especially aggravating about #2 above is that people believe it because they are being TRICKED INTO BEING SCARED; and when they’re scared, the facts don’t matter. These organizations make a lot of sales by making people afraid that strength training will give them the opposite of long, lean muscles (what is that, short & bulky?), and they use that fear to manipulate them into buying their program. So, I urge you to override your emotions and look at the facts:
• No workout program will make your tendons magically move farther down your bones to give you “longer” muscles
• Strength training will not magically move your tendons farther up your bones, giving you “shorter” muscles
As a 13+ year full time professional in the industry, I have literally never met one person who was unhappy with the changes to their body after starting strength training – NOT ONE. So, base your decisions on evidence and facts, not fear.
Have questions on how to start strength training? Reach out to us, we’re happy to help.