7 Myths of Resistance Training

By Justin Zimmerman, LAT, ATC

Resistance training is often misunderstood. To put some myths to rest, here are 7 that we think are important to bring to light. In reality, resistance training (translation: strengthening) is the single best piece of prevention for a myriad of conditions.

Myth #1: “Older Individuals shouldn’t lift weights because they can’t build muscle.”

Fact. Resistance training in older adults is an essential component in maintaining a high quality of life and independence throughout the aging process. Resistance training has been proven to be an effective tool at combating age related decrease in muscle size and strength as well as increasing bone density. Individuals over the age of 85 have been shown to increase muscle cross-sectional area (muscle size) and strength when engaging in a progressive resistance training program!! This shows that regardless of how old you are it is never too late to begin lifting weights and improving your overall well being. 

Myth #2: “I have chronic low back pain and resistance training would make it worse.”

Fact. Numerous studies have shown improvements in middle-age and elderly individuals with chronic, nonspecific low back pain. These include improvements in quality of life and strength with regular participation in a resistance training program. Additionally, a decrease in pain and disability also result from resistance training. Further, resistance training has been shown to be more effective at reducing low back pain compared to aerobic exercise.

Myth #3: “If it’s hurting it’s working.” or “If you aren’t sore you didn’t do enough.”

Fact. The deep painful muscle soreness felt 2-3 days following a workout is commonly referred to as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS. If you are constantly sore several days following a workout this could indicate that you are simply doing too much too soon. High levels of muscle soreness can negatively affect the subsequent workout. Try dialing back the total exercise volume of your workout and slowly increase the volume over several weeks or months. You do not need to feel sore to make strength gains. In fact, strengthening should make you feel more energetic and resilient.

Myth #4: “Cardio will kill my gains.”

Fact. Aerobic exercise (exercise such as walking, running, or biking) helps improve aerobic capacity which means your cardiovascular system will be better able to supply your muscles with oxygen. More oxygen to the muscles helps aid in recovery and can help you achieve more volume. When it comes to resistance training, more volume equals more hypertrophy (muscle gain).

Myth #5: “Lifting weights will make you bulky. Do cardio if you want to lose weight.”

Fact. Resistance training burns more calories and for a longer period of time following exercise compared to aerobic exercise. Resistance exercise also helps build lean muscle tissue (emphasis on the lean). What does this mean? If your goal is to lose weight and burn calories try adding resistance training into your current routine and watch your body composition change!

Myth #6: “Resistance training will make you stiff.” 

Fact. Performing exercises through a full range of motion can actually improve joint mobility and tissue flexibility. An example of this would be a deep squat. So ditch those hamstring stretches for a deficit RDL!

Myth #7:Rapid progress in the first few weeks of training is due to muscle gain.” 

Fact.  Muscle gain does not occur this quickly. When beginning a resistance training program the rapid progress and gains in strength during the first several weeks are more neurologically related. This means your body is developing new motor patterns and becoming more efficient at using the muscle you currently have. An improvement in exercise technique is also a factor! While you may not be gaining additional muscle, you are training your body to be effective. Keep the progress up and soon enough you will see that actual strength gain.


About Justin Zimmerman, LAT, ATC

Justin is a Portland, OR based athletic trainer with Work Right NW. He was a member of the Ferrum College wrestling team and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist with a passion for helping the industrial athlete heal by moving. He spends his free time in the gym, hiking, and as a wrestling coach.