I’ve got to warn you. There are bogus rumors going around about strength training. The truth is that strength training is one of the absolute best things you can do for your health and appearance. If you’ve fallen for these 5 myths then you’re missing out on tremendous potential results.

Myth #1 Muscle Turns Into Fat

Why would anyone want to build muscle if it could morph into fat after a span of disuse? Rest assured that this is a myth of the highest order. Muscle tissue is muscle tissue. Fat tissue is fat tissue. One will never become the other.

Myth #2 Strength Training Doesn’t Burn Fat

On the contrary, muscle mass is your number one ally against fat gains. A pound of muscle burns 10-20 calories each day, while you’re just living and breathing. Regular strength training helps you increase your muscle mass as well as preserve existing muscle mass, turning you into a fat burning machine.

Myth #3 Lifting Weights Makes Women Bulk Up

Yes, strength training increases the amount of muscle on your body; so many women take this to mean that their body will become body-builder-esque, which isn’t quite the look you’re going for. The truth is that the female body simply doesn’t contain high enough levels of testosterone to produce that level of results without a very focused and dedicated effort. The tighter, toned figure of a recreational female weight lifter is every bit feminine.

Myth #4 Strength Training Is For Young People Only

Ha, that’s a used-up excuse that senior citizens across the globe have shattered. Assuming that your doctor has given you the OK, you have much to gain from a regular weight lifting routine. Improved balance and coordination, better strength and flexibility, and a decreased risk of osteoporosis are just the beginning.

Myth #5 Use Light Weight and High Reps To Tone

This myth, popularized in the 90’s, that very high repetitions of very light weights would result in a toned physique, has become outdated. These high repetitions will increase your muscular endurance but will not add strength or tone. We now know that in order to truly challenge your muscles, heavier weights with lower repetitions are a must. Start with an 8-10 repetition range and push your muscles with each set.

Including strength training as a part of your fitness routine is essential for achieving a fit and toned body. Our custom-made fitness programs remove all of the guesswork for you. We know what works, and we make it our mission to see you reach your goals. Call (502-893-4024) or email ([email protected]) today and we’ll get you started on the program that’s best for you.


The 7 Myths of Weightlifting

Evan Stevens

There are common utterances when the conversation shifts to weightlifting and why people don’t do it. More so than any other form of exercise, lifting has a near infuriating amount of misinformation and myths surrounding it that steers people away. Yet it remains that lifting is one of the best ways to maintain a healthy, strong body as we age and is an integral part of peak performance for those of us who are more competitively minded. Here are some of the most common myths that remain about lifting, and why they are just that – myths.

1. I will get too bulky.

While an old one, this myth is one of the most common misconceptions still out there, predominantly with women. Woman seem to be afraid that they will put on too much muscle, gaining wider, broader shoulders and an “unfeminine” muscle shape and tone. However, the reality is that it simply isn’t true; the act of lifting is not enough to cause you to bulk up. Muscle mass and growth is directly linked to the number of calories you are able to consume immediately post workout, and building the type of bulk that most of us are apprehensive about requires more calories than most of us care to eat. As well, women are naturally more resistant to building bulk than men. Higher levels of estrogen and lower levels of testosterone mean most women are physiologically unable to build bulk like men are able to.

Indeed, lifting weights is actually hugely beneficial in women, especially as we age. Lifting weight helps to strengthen muscles as well as bones, meaning that they are more resistant to age-related density and stress issues.

2. Muscle turns to fat too quickly if I stop and it’s too difficult to regain muscle once it’s gone.

Another common myth that some people seem to believe is that if you stop lifting for whatever reason, the muscle that you’ve built will magically turn to fat. Where this myth came from is anyone’s guess as some serious freaky magic would have to be going on to turn muscle into fat. They are two physiologically distinct tissues. Now, if you stop lifting, muscles can weaken, sag, and lose their tone and strength. As well, if you stop exercising all together for whatever reason (injury, burnout, etc.) but continue to consume the same daily calories, you are liable to deposit more fat, which can “hide” the muscles you had worked so hard to build.

In fact, muscle mass helps you burn fat. Some studies show that after a very hard lifting session metabolism remains high and the drive to “burn” fat remains high up to 24 hours post workout. However, once you stop working out for an extended period of time and lose some muscle mass, you lose this ability for your muscle to burn fat as well as they once could.

And the myth that building muscle is too difficult once it’s gone is pure hogwash. Truly, its easier to maintain muscle once you have it, but in one study, researchers showed that in as little as 10 weeks of weight-bearing exercise, participants replaced on average 3 to 5 pounds of muscle that had been lost over the past 20 years of inactivity/lack of training.

3. You should only workout one muscle group a day.

Pause in any gym locker room and you are bound to overhear someone proclaiming that “its leg day,” or “I’m just going to do my back today.” Unless they are a professional bodybuilder, adapting to this kind of regimen doesn’t help you in really any of your fitness goals. Bodybuilders work specific muscle groups on specific days to maximize growth and tone of that specific region of their body. But most of us are trying to improve strength and fitness and the best way to do this is to employ a series of higher intensity, full body workouts, designed to improve our aerobic capacity, burn calories, and improve strength.

Muscles typically need a day to recover from strenuous exercise, true, but by varying our workouts and doing different exercises (not the exact same ones day in, day out) we are able to maximize our ability to work out. This also helps to keep working out “fresh” and avoid getting to training plateaus and suffering burnout as quickly as if you do the same workout all the time.

Related Video: The Best Exercises for a Strong Foundation

4. Weight lifting is bad for your joints.

Another common myth is that lifting puts unneeded stress on your joints. However, multiple studies have shown this not to be the case; just the opposite seems to be true. A study published in the Journal of Rheumatology showed that patients suffering from knee pain experienced a 43% reduction in pain severity after four months of weight-bearing exercises. Exercises, when done properly using correct form and technique, should never strain or stress your joints. Indeed, weight-bearing exercises help to keep joints moving smoothly by increasing the amount of synovial fluid within the joint (a fluid with egg white-like consistency which lubricates joints and allows the cartilaginous heads of joints to run over each other smoothly).

5. If you want to see results you need to lift heavy weight.

Another myth that floats around from time to time is that if you want to gain muscle and see results, you need to lift heavier weights. Now, this is a myth that is both true and untrue, and it depends on your definition of “results.” If your result is to bulk up, then lifting anything is going to work; you don’t need to lift heavy. The key to getting big with light weight is the same as getting big with heavy weight – the number of reps and going to failure. You can see that same results with light weight as with heavy if you do more reps and push your muscles to the point of exhaustion (the failure point or when you can no longer lift the weight with proper form).

However, if your goal is to improve your strength and not so much get bulky, then yes, you do need to lift heavier weights. Yet it’s not like you go out and lift your max weight every time. The best way to improve your strength is to perform your lift or exercise 6-10 times with full rest. Full rest means upwards of 3 minutes between sets, which allows your ATP (adenosine trisphosphate – our body’s energy) reserves to cycle and build back up. If rest is too short you aren’t getting the strength building effects of lifting heavy.

6. Machines are just as good as free weights.

Free weights will be forever king of lifting. Machines confine the body to one plane of motion whereas free weights force the body to use multiple muscle groups. Free weights cause the firing of connections in the brain to recruit small and individual stabilizing muscle through the back, ankles, legs, etc. Free weights can have upwards of 43% more muscle activity and activation than weight machines, as well as have beneficial effects on the brain and neuromuscular connections.

7. Cardio is better – it takes less time to burn the same amount of calories.

Some people believe that to get an adequate workout with weights that they need to spend two hours at the gym and that their time would be better spent on the treadmill, running for a half hour because they burn the same amount of calories in a quarter of the time. Firstly and lastly, no, none of that is correct. As we’ve discussed before, one of the greatest benefits to weightlifting is the post-exercise fat burn or the increase in resting metabolism. So while initial cardio work gives you a flat number of calories burned, 30 minutes on the treadmill at a steady pace does not have the same effect on long-term metabolism (if you are on the treadmill for 30 minutes and want to see results, you need to push the pace at different inclines and intensities – 5 to 6 mph isn’t going to cut it). Lifting increases your lean muscle mass which can burn 50% more calories overall than running or walking at a steady pace.

As well, weight training can be done in short, intense bursts, using any kind of HIIT model. By doing short, intense bouts of heavier weight, you can maximize your lean muscle growth without sacrificing too much out of your day. Indeed, several studies suggest that a 30-minute weight workout three times, or even twice a week can improve your resting metabolism and lean muscle mass.

Related Article: What is a High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) Workout Anyway?


The above are some of the most common myths surrounding lifting. Lifting is not scary and isn’t as daunting as it may seem (or even as many make it out to be). Gyms can be intimidating places, especially if you are just getting back into things or venturing out for your first time. But everyone there is there for a purpose, their own purpose, and they have their own workouts they are doing and shouldn’t be concerned with what you are doing. You do you and don’t buy into the many myths that still seem to be whispered in hushed tones between the weight machines by the less informed.

Hear about a myth that we didn’t cover? Let us know! Tweet us or message us on Facebook and we will be sure to do a follow-up on some of the myths we may have missed.

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Biggest Weightlifting Myths To Stop Believing

Lifting weights can bring significant physical rewards – as long as your clients know the difference between fact and fiction. Where most gym-goers fall short of achieving their goals is believing some of the common weightlifting myths out there.

We spoke to leading personal trainer John Clarke to get his thoughts on the biggest weightlifting myths in the world of fitness.

It’s best to work one muscle group a day

I’d say this is one of the biggest weightlifting myths there is. Whether you’re working one muscle group or several, one method is not evidentially better than the other.

The amount of muscle groups you train in one day depends on your goals. If you’re a bodybuilder and want to just target biceps then fair enough, but if you want to just get fitter, you might target more of your upper body. Some people will do whole upper body days and whole lower body days.

If I created a training split of chest, back, arms and legs for someone who was bodybuilding, but someone else wanted a push, pull and legs programme – either one is fine if it gets people in the gym. Look at Arnold Schwarzenegger – he continually split trained chest, back and biceps all in the same day and he turned out ok.

Another important point to make is that when you’re doing push and pull exercises, you’re working more than one muscle group anyway – back exercises work your biceps, whereas chest and shoulders exercises work your triceps. These muscle groups are part and parcel of any weightlifting programme, so there’s no need to isolate them.

Lifting heavy is the only way to look big

100% not true. Years ago, there were circus strongmen who’d pick up a heavy iron dumbbell and lift it over their head, but they never looked in great shape. Then Charles Atlas came along – he basically pioneered the idea of lifting a fairly heavy weight 10 times, instead of lifting as heavy as you could once.

That’s the method weightlifters of today use for hypertrophy, which is the term for an increase in muscle size. If size is what you want, you do 8-12 reps, whereas if you’re strength training, you’ll do around 3-5. Again, it all depends on your goals, but lifting heavy is not the only way to build muscle.

Most people gain size through time under tension and slow eccentric lowering followed by four seconds down and one second up – all of which is only really possible by performing more reps with lighter weights. Lifting lighter but doing more reps is also safer on your joints. That said, if you’re bodybuilding, it still needs to be challenging – the last couple of reps for each set should be a struggle.

Powerlifters, on the other hand, will lift up and down a lot quicker and as long as the weight’s off the ground, the lift’s counted. But there’s no right or wrong way – both methods work. If you look at the British bodybuilder Dorian Yates, he did high intensity, heavy weight training of 1-4 reps, whereas Arnold Schwarzenegger did high volume sets of up to 15 reps.

Personally, I couldn’t care less if someone can out-bench me, if I look like I can out-bench them! If I’d rather use my actual muscles to perform an exercise, rather than momentum and gravity.

Weightlifting doesn’t improve your cardiovascular health

I don’t agree with this at all. What I’d say to anyone who agrees is, put your hand on your heart after a leg day and get back to me. Any form of exercise causes your blood vessels to vasodilate, or widen, which provides more blood to the muscle and works the heart.

You can do cardio with weights as part of circuit training, so weightlifting and cardiovascular health are not mutually exclusive. After any tough session, you should be able to find your pulse and know that you’ve worked hard. An ideal BPM (beats per minute) for a relatively fit man performing a moderate intensity workout should be around 140.

Doing crunches gets rid of belly fat

I get so many clients saying: ‘I need to do more crunches because this belly’s still not going down’. The only way that belly is going down is by being in a calorie deficit. So, if you go to the gym and lift weights, that’s going to help trim belly fat. If you do cardio, that’s going to help trim body fat.

But you don’t get to decide which part of your body loses the most fat – that’s down to genetics. We’ve all got abs, you just need a low amount of body fat to reveal them. While crunches will make them more prominent and enhance core strength, you can’t target fat loss purely through sit-ups.

If your goal is to bulk up and you need calories to supplement that, concentrate on getting bigger and once you’ve reached your target or got close to where you want to be, then you can shed body fat. But building muscle and losing body fat is very difficult, unless you’re a teenage boy with hormones through the roof, using steroids, or one of these very lucky people with good genetics.

When I get people through the door, a lot of them want to get bigger yet still lose body fat. That might happen in the first few sessions if they’ve never lifted before, but in the long term you can’t sustain it.

Resting between sets is critical

There are two schools of thought on this. Supersets, where you do a set of one exercise followed immediately by another, allow you to maximise the intensity of your workout and increase muscle tension, which is conducive to bodybuilding.

However, you need a fair amount of rest in between sets for consistency and to stop yourself burning out. You don’t need to keep doing one exercise then resting, but recovery is essential for helping you give each set maximum effort. The amount of rest you take is obviously goal-specific. Powerlifters tend to rest for up to three minutes, bodybuilders will rest for around 50 seconds, and people doing fat loss circuits will have 15-20 seconds rest.

Ironically, though, the most important rest period is after a workout – that’s when you grow, you don’t grow in the gym.

Muscle will turn to fat if you stop lifting

That’s scientifically impossible. Fat can’t turn into muscle and vice versa. Fat is broken down into lipids, whereas muscle is attached to the bone. They’re two completely different things.

Where this idea of turning muscle to fat comes from is, if you’re a bodybuilder like Ronnie Coleman or Jay Cutler and you’re used to having 6,000 calories a day, but then you stop going to the gym, you’ve still got an appetite for 6,000 calories a day. The problem is, you don’t have the expenditure of weights and cardio you were doing.

So, when people think muscle has turned to fat, it hasn’t – they’ve just gained additional fat because they’re not burning off enough calories. After a few weeks of not training, the muscle will start to break down and waste away, but it doesn’t ‘turn into’ fat.

By the same token, if someone was overweight, trained at the gym and then looked ripped, it wouldn’t be because their fat’s turned to muscle, it’d be because they’d lost the fat that was covering the muscle.

Women shouldn’t do weightlifting

A common misconception among women who join a gym is that weightlifting will make them look like Arnie. That’s another myth with little truth to it. Women should definitely do weight training. If you look at Victoria’s Secret models or any professional female athletes, they’ll lift weights in some capacity.

Lifting weights makes their muscles more prominent and reduces the body fat covering their muscles. They don’t just do legs, bums and tums or Zumba classes. It’s degrading to women to suggest this is all they should be doing.

Men and women are so genetically similar. Although men find it easier to build muscle because of testosterone, men and women should still train all the same body parts. There’s definitely women out there who can out-squat me.

When a lot of women start lifting weights, they don’t change what they eat, so they think they’ve become bulky, but they’re just adding muscle to the size they’ve already got. They need to also lose body fat to look toned.

Knowing about these weightlifting myths should help your clients get the shredded body they’re looking for. However, as a PT, you are always at risk of someone making a claim against you for injuries. That’s why it’s so important to have Professional Indemnity cover to protect your legal liability if advice you’ve given leads to an injury.

As part of our personal trainer insurance, we offer up to £5 million of Public Liability, which includes up to £1 million of Professional Indemnity cover. So there’s no time like the present – get an instant online quote with us today and discover how affordable peace of mind can be.

Will lifting weights make me bulky?

Only if that is your goal. Strength training will help you lose weight faster and keep it off in the long run. It will keep you from dropping muscle along with the fat and prevent your metabolism from slowing down. As the fat melts off, your body will look leaner and firmer. Just make sure you’re lifting enough weight to build muscle

Women do not possess the levels of testosterone to create the size that you see in males. Lean muscle increases metabolism which burns fat faster. Most women benefit from training in the 12-15 repetition range with a weight that is challenging so that the final 2-3 repetitions are a struggle. You must use a weight that is heavy enough to force changes in your muscles.

I admit that lifting weights can make you big and bulky, but it certainly doesn’t have to and many people who lift weights will never come close to being considered big or bulky. Most of the time, people who are incredibly muscular only get that way as a result of very high volume of training, genetic predisposition, and a nutritional program designed for muscle growth.

Unfortunately, people who are unfamiliar with lifting weights or other forms of resistance training typically don’t realize that muscle growth is only one small part of what you can accomplish by lifting weights. It is very common for people, especially women, to be so afraid of getting big or bulky that they choose to avoid lifting weights altogether. They instead, focus on performing less taxing forms of exercise, such as walking or other forms of light cardio, which do not offer all the benefits of lifting weights.

I believe that much of the confusion over the effects of lifting weights essentially comes down to not being familiar with program design or understanding that different program designs lead to very different results. Of course, you should not be expected to understand the nuances of program design, as that is the job of qualified fitness professionals. On the other hand, some general knowledge of program design is very useful for clearing up misconceptions such as lifting weights will cause you to become big and bulky.

When I started working out with a trainer a few months ago, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but if there’s one thing I am certain of, a barbell was never part of the equation. Yet here I was, standing in front of one with my trainer off to the side asking me to do deadlifts. I was equal parts perplexed, scared, and thrilled. In all my years of working out, heavy lifting was something I had never done. Like everyone else in my life, I hopped from trendy studio to trendy studio for my workouts, and though there was a weight room at my gym, the idea of picking up a barbell on my own seemed terrifying.

I looked down at the 65-pound steel bar and then looked up at my trainer Austin (a few times in a lame attempt to stall). With no knowledge of or prior exposure to lifting, I was also dealing with the real fear that I would possibly drop this thing, along with myself, in the process. Sensing my fear, he talked me through the steps repeatedly with the right amount of encouragement, until I grabbed the damn thing and remarkably pulled it off — “with ease and perfect form,” he would later tell me. I surprised myself; I was stronger than I gave myself credit for. Austin added weight to the bar at a quick pace, which I think even surprised him.

Looking back, I am not sure why I stayed away from a barbell for so many years. Sure, I wasn’t exposed to it, but I also never allowed myself to even explore the idea. When I heard SoulCycle was coming to my city, I was in the very first class. When the new TRX studio moved in down the block, I couldn’t wait to try it! But lifting? Nope. Despite my firm belief that women are strong AF, there was a part of me that thought of lifting as a man’s world, or at least the kind of world where you go when you want biceps as big as your head. And if I am being totally honest, huge ‘ceps weren’t what I was looking for.


Double the deadlifts, double the fun (that’s me on the left and Austin, my trainer, on the right).

The kicker here is that it has has changed my body in a way that I never could have anticipated. I have lost more weight over these last three months than I have in the last few years. I am stronger and faster in just about every other workout in my life. And most recently, during a beach vacation, my partner commented on my butt. It was higher! Perkier! Lifted! Rounded! I went into heavy lifting with the very wrong idea that it would add bulk, yet here I am feeling my absolute best and more confident than I have in a long time. Even more importantly is the understanding that this confidence had less to do with how I look and everything to do with how I feel.

The thrill of doing something new mixed with a real sense of accomplishment has given me an exercise high that I have not felt in a very long time. Instead of being terrified of a barbell, I now give my trainer grief when we aren’t lifting. Through this process, I have come face to face with my physicality in a way that has never happened. There’s also a real sense of pride from seeing more weight being racked up on the bar and learning what my body is capable of handling. But more than anything, the inner confidence that I have built from this latest step in my fitness journey has helped me in all facets of my life and continues to surprise me on an almost daily basis.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Rima Brindamour

Too many avoid the weights room for fear of looking like a bodybuilder. But that’s not the case. Elite Trainer Andy Vincent explains

It’s the age-old question I’m continually asked by clients. “If I lift weights, won’t I end up looking like bulky?” And the answer is, well, if you do it seven days a week for five years then… maybe.

But what does the word “bulky” even mean? The aim of lifting weights is, more often than not, to try and increase lean mass. However to seriously “bulk” that increase would have to be . The expression “lean mass” is a bit of a giveaway when it comes to explaining why. The surface area that muscle tissue takes up on a person’s frame is actually much less than you’d think. With everything that needs to be done across spot-on training and nutrition to build 3kg of muscle, it can be a little underwhelming to see what 3kg of muscle actually looks like.

This leads me onto the variables that need to be managed in order to significantly increase lean mass. That includes training intensity, frequency and volume, nutrition and recovery. To continually see increases in muscle mass you then need to regularly change your training to stimulate new growth. It’s bloody hard, basically. Simply picking up a barbell will not make you huge. Ask anyone with a chiseled physique how long it took them and the answer is in multiples of years.

For those interested in weight training, this shouldn’t put you off. There are countless benefits to weight training, beyond filling out you T-shirt sleeves. One of them is getting stronger. Heavy weight training in particular will create a neural adaptation, which means the brain gets better at recruiting muscles to perform the job of lifting the weight. This then isn’t about adding extra muscle fibres, it’s about getting better at using the ones you already have to perform a job – lifting your own bodyweight for a first pull-up, for example. Lifting weights creates a better link between the brain and the body.

Ultimately, increasing muscle mass a.k.a “bulking” takes time. But your body can trick you when your muscles are constantly having to adapt to the stresses of your training, your nutrition and your recovery. This will cause muscles to either look fuller or sometimes depleted of energy. After bouts of weight training, usually more volume based training, your muscles will look larger as blood, glycogen and water are sent into the muscles to help repair tissue. This momentary increase in the cross-sectional size of a muscle can lead you to think that overnight the muscle has grown and you’ve bulked up. You haven’t. With strength training you have to play the long game and not be too reactive to a single session.

Strength training should always form a part of your overall training structure and should, like all forms of training, be varied to ensure you enjoy a full spectrum of training benefits like max strength, strength endurance, speed strength, power… the list goes on. The benefits of lean mass are so great and, unless you’re training like a bodybuilder, the gains in muscle mass are so small, that the weights room really should be your first port of call in the gym, no matter your goals.
Still not convinced? Alice Liveing, super-influencer and Third Space Soho PT, has embarked on her own journey of strength. Today it forms the bedrock of her training programme and she couldn’t be happier with the impact it’s had in all aspects of her health and fitness. Allow her to explain…

“It’s probably the phrase I hear most from women in the gym, who fear that lifting a few dumbbells will turn them into the incredible hulk. The benefits of weight training are so far-reaching that once each client is a few sessions in they almost forget that those concerns ever crossed their mind.”

“Weight training is for absolutely everyone. Whatever your goals, strength training can help you achieve them.”

“One of the benefits of weight training is that, what often starts out as an aesthetically-driven pursuit quickly becomes goal-driven instead; I want to be stronger, faster, more powerful and that’s a pretty awesome turnaround for someone who walked in wanting a six-pack and better biceps.”

Can you build muscle without weightlifting?

Your body isn’t “weight?” Forgive my patronizing, but bodyweight is weight, it’s just harder to manipulate than external weights over time. The reason it’s harder to build muscle mass without weights, isn’t something inherently different between bodyweight and other weight, it’s just that the skills required to progress are harder to express.

A one arm push up, in order to get enough load on on arm for really good pec/tricep development is a lot harder to learn than just adding load to a single arm dumbbell press.

You build muscle with just your body weight same way you build them with external weights. You find a way to create progressive overload for all the muscle groups you want to train, with whatever equipment you have available to you. You keep adding reps and/or manipulating levers to add load. Then you make sure you do that consistently overtime in a cyclical fashion. Spend time focusing on reps, then spend time focusing on the mechanical position. Mechanical positions are tough, which is why people struggle to put on muscle mass with bodyweight exercises alone. It’s not that it can’t be done, it’s just that it’s more difficult to do.

Once you’re doing more than 25 or so reps of anything, the load is now so low you likely won’t get much muscle development. You need something about 40% of your one repetition maximum (1RM) to build mass or a higher load. It also takes a lot longer to get through sets of 25 than it does sets of 6 or 8 or 10. So you typically have to do more total reps with bodyweight training; Meaning the time investment is greater.

Progressive overload is the tough part about training using just your bodyweight too. You’ll likely still need some equipment, it’s impossible to train pulling/your back without something to pull on. A chin up bar or a suspension trainer or something like that.

For isolation movements (training arms specifically) weights are generally just better. Sure you could do tricep press ups:

And suspension trainer arm curls:

Provided you had something to hang off of…

How do you progress these though without getting heavier? You could move to one arm in some cases but that’s a big leap in load (generally greater than 50% increase over the 2 arm load for rotational axis reasons). You’d train ‘arms’ in the general sense but you probably won’t get the ideal training effect for muscle mass without load being added.

There are literally books written on this (many from the gymnastics community) so I’ll just give you the gist. You have to manipulate levers for every muscle group/joint you want to train. The above two examples are two ways to manipulate levers for the triceps and biceps respectively.

Let’s use the push up as one example for a tricep/pec development perspective.

You start with a basic 2 arm pushup or maybe a hands elevated pushup if you’re not that strong. You work gradually over time, either adding reps (taking the movement to fatigue) or adding load via lever manipulation. That means progressing to feet elevated push-ups to feet being higher and higher (more load on the arms). This will eventually shift more load to shoulders so you have to come back to training single arm, you start from an arm elevated position and gradually transition again to feet elevated and you’ll eventually tap out there. Of course the easier thing to do, is just put some kind of load on your back for regular pushups but hey, you wanted something with no external load. You eventually reach limitations with bodyweight training that you don’t reach using external load to the same extent. That’s why you don’t see many elite bodybuilders who only train calisthenics.

In short, it’s complicated which is why people don’t really like going through it. If you’re committed, look up the book The Naked Warrior by Pavel Tsatsouline, it’s one of the best books on this topic. It’s more complicated, which means you’re going to have to learn more about training (specifically physics) than people who are just using external load. However, it’s not that much more complicated once you develop a basic understanding of the process.

In a perfect world I prefer to use external load and calisthenics for muscle building, but I understand that weights cost money and your bodyweight is free.

The Complete Guide To Building Muscle Without Weights

Don’t have access to a fully stocked gym replete with every machine and contraption imaginable? Bodyweight training is nothing new but the growing numbers of individuals reaping huge rewards from it are.

What’s the big deal about building muscle without weights? It’s convenient, it’s efficient and you can take it anywhere. Of course a few minor pieces of equipment are extremely helpful such as stable bars and racks and benches but you won’t have to wait in line for a bench press or leg press machine.

By carefully constructing a plan utilizing the best exercises to do without weights you will be able to actually build some appreciable muscle along with real, full-body strength. All it takes is a little know-how, perfect technique and the creativity to increase intensity and difficulty over time.

The Very Best Exercises To Build Muscle Without Weights

Below are some of the very best exercises done without traditional weights or machines. These are not only conducive to an effective muscle-building workout, they also work to get you more functional and manipulate your bodyweight in a real-world way.


Push-ups: These can be done with your feet on the ground, elevated or with your hands on a bench. Also, don’t be afraid to add in some plyometric push-ups and staggered hand placements.

TRX presses and flys: If you are capable of utilizing a TRX system you open up a new set of chest exercises impossible to do otherwise. Presses and flys using bodyweight challenges you in stabilizing during an unstable movement making your chest work twice as hard.


Pull-ups and chin-ups: Nothing can beat pull-ups and chin-ups for developing your back whether you supplement your training with traditional weighted moves or not. Wide, narrow, reverse-grips are all incredibly effective and a major challenge – but the reward is worth it.

Inverted rows and TRX rows: The inverted row will actually activate more muscle fibers than the traditional bent-over row. Increasing difficulty is easy by placing your feet on a bench and conversely you can regress the move by raising the bar.


Pike push-ups and handstand push-ups: The basic handstand push-up, although challenging, is a true display of strength and control. For those not quite at that level the pike push-up is a great place to start to build an impressive set of shoulders.

TRX face pulls: Another great advantage of the TRX system is that it not only allows you to focus on hitting your rear delts it also will work your entire upper posterior chain including rear delts, traps and rhomboids.


Inverted rack/TRX curls: The trick with an inverted curl is to keep a straight line from your feet to your shoulders. Curl up and come up for a peak contraction before returning to the starting positon slowly. The TRX will provide more of a challenge but less wrist strain.

Reverse-grip chin-ups: Not only are reverse-grip chin-ups for back development they can also be highly effective biceps builders as well – if not more so than weights. The important difference is when bigger arms are your goal to round your back and make your biceps do the majority of the work.


Rack/TRX triceps extensions: As with biceps your triceps can get a thorough workout from the rack or the TRX system. Think of it as a reverse nosebreaker. Just be sure to keep that straight posture from your feet to shoulders as you lean into the rack facedown and lower toward the bar with your forehead.

Parallel bar dips: Performed with more of an upright posture with your elbows close to your sides dips are a great mass builder for size – possibly more effective than traditional weight training.


Bulgarian split squats: With your rear foot elevated and your other foot out front lower your body in an upright position – shoulders back and back straight. Touch your knee to the floor before returning. Don’t lock your knees and focus on muscle contraction.

Step-ups and lunges: Done in seemingly countless ways step-ups and lunges do wonders for real world functionality. Static, reverse, walking and lateral are just a few examples of how versatile lunges can be. As much of a hamstring builder as a quad builder lunges work the entire thigh and shore-up your weak side at the same time.

Pistol squats: Either done on the floor or off a bench pistol squats are extremely challenging but highly effective. Balance, strength and functionality are just a few of the benefits. A good rule of thumb when attempting these is to start slowly and use assistance such as a bar or to only go half way down to gradually build strength.

Box jumps: Traditional? No. A unique tool for building power in your lower body? You bet! Box jumps, depth jumps and straddles are just a few tools at your disposal. Developing power can become an incredible tool toward building bigger, stronger legs.


Ball and TRX leg curl: Stability is the game when it comes to leg curls done with your feet on an exercise ball or strapped in a TRX system. Along with hamstring activation your glutes will get a much needed wake-up call. Be sure to keep a straight, rigid body from your knees to your shoulders.

Glute/ham raises: Another challenging but oh so effective muscle-builder is the glute/ham raise. To fully perform this difficult move requires great strength and control. However, you can regress the move so you can start building that strength by using either a bar for support or by pushing off the ground for assistance.


Single-leg calf raises: Muscle imbalance is rather easy to come by especially when machines are used ad nauseam. Single limb (or unilateral) work is a simple and instant solution to this problem. Single-leg calf raises also force you to focus on the contraction and get more “in-tune” with the muscle fibers.

Squatting calf raises: As a lesser known bodyweight calf exercise squatting calf raises have you raise your heels while in a squatting position. Be sure you are on your toes and your thighs are rested on your calves. Also, perform slow, controlled reps and get that squeeze at the top.

28 Laws Of Lifting For Muscle

Each year thousands of newcomers begin some sort of bodybuilding program, but a majority of them are unsuccessful. It’s no wonder; far too many just show up at the gym and lift, which may—or, more likely, may not—be the best and fastest method to make gains.

Those who succeed tend to follow a well-formulated plan. In fact, we guarantee that if you incorporate our best mass-building training tips below—which we put together with the help of IFBB physique pro Craig Capurso—you’ll be on track to make big muscle gains.

So what are you waiting for? Let’s get bigger!

1. Lift Big By Warming Up First

If you’re looking to hoist serious poundages, you’ll sabotage your chances if you short-change your warm-up. What’s more, the stronger you are, the more warm-up sets you’ll need.

That helps not just the muscles push more weight but also the tendons and ligaments that have to support that heavier resistance as well.

A good 5-10 minutes on the bicycle preceding your first light-weight sets is an effective way to kick off your training session and get the blood pumping.

Remember, a warm muscle is better capable of lifting max weight—and less likely to become injured.

2. Reps For Muscle

A common question every beginner asks is, “How much weight should I use?” The answer depends on your goals. Warm-up sets aside, when your goal is to build strength, your heavy sets should be done for fewer than six reps.

If your goal is building muscle, choose a weight at which you reach muscle failure between 8-12 reps. And for emphasizing muscle endurance, go with a weight that allows you to do more than 15 reps.

3. Pump Up The Volume

Some folks spend hours a day working on a single body part. Others insist they need only one set per exercise. So what’s the best amount? While there’s no magic number, doing 2-3 sets of a given move works best for most beginners; 3-4 sets for more advanced athletes.

The focus here is on volume—the total number of sets and reps completed for a given muscle group. Bodybuilding for muscle growth concentrates on fairly high volume, though too much risks overtraining.

Start off with about 12 sets total—say, 3 sets of 4 exercises—for larger muscle groups like chest, back, and legs, and 6-8 for smaller ones.

As you progress, you can handle more sets (volume), but you’ll want to extend the number of days before you train that body part again.

4. Adopt An Athletic Stance

When getting into position on standing exercises, do what athletes in all sports do: Adopt an athletic stance. Your feet should be about shoulder-width apart, toes pointed slightly outward, knees bent (soft), torso erect (chest out, shoulders back, low back slightly arched) with your head looking forward.

This is a natural, stable, and strong position, and it should be a starting point for you when get into position for almost any standing exercise.

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5. Don’t Be In A Hurry

“Make sure you’re taking ample recovery time between sets in a mass-gain phase,” says Craig Capurso, IFBB pro physique competitor and Cellucor athlete. “I don’t look to limit rest times when max muscle growth is the name of the game. I want to be recovered enough to push the weight as many times as I can, not stopped by a muscle that’s not sufficiently recovered from the previous set. You need sufficient rest in between sets to be able to push maximal loads.”

6. Overload And Grow

In your efforts to stimulate muscle, you need to be somewhat aggressive. Muscle fibers adapt fairly quickly, and the effectiveness of a once-challenging workout can quickly fade. This means you should continually increase the challenge—so long as you maintain good form—and never fall into a comfort zone.

By progressively increasing the overload over time, you’ll continue to make gains in size and strength. For most lifters, changes to their training programs helps keep workouts fresh.

7. Flip Your Grip

Speaking of making changes, one very easy and effective way to do so is to simply try a different grip from what you’re used to. If you’ve typically done an exercise with a wide, overhand grip, flip it and use an underhand grip instead. This approach can work with bench presses, lat pulldowns, bent-over rows, barbell curls, and triceps pushdowns, among other exercises.

8. Get Grounded

We’ve all seen him: the poor guy doing curls while teetering on a wobble board like Mr. Magoo in an earthquake. Strength training is important, and so is balance. But when you’re trying to add size, keep them separate. Forget about doing squats on wobble boards, dumbbell presses on exercise balls, or standing on one leg while curling a weight.

Besides making you looking like a fool, neither your core nor the target body part will be fully stimulated. Your best bet is to focus on one activity one day, and the other the next. Besides, you’ll be able to push much more weight when grounded on a stable surface.

9. Get Mile-Wide

Few of us were born with low body-fat levels that give us that natural V-taper, so how do you create the illusion of a small waist if you’ve got a more blocky physique? Emphasize your upper back and middle delts to a greater degree in your workouts.

Do a few more sets of wide-grip movements on back day, and a few extra sets of upright rows and lateral raises on shoulder day. Bonus: The width will make your waist appear smaller.

10. Dumbbell Advantage

Sure, you have a number of training options when it comes to doing a particular exercise, but if you want the biggest challenge, opt for dumbbells. Unlike with barbells and most machines, which allow a stronger side to dominate, dumbbells require both sides of the body to do an equal amount of work.

Dumbbells are also especially easy to get to when the gym is busy during the early evening. If you’ve been favoring particular barbell exercises, achieve a slightly different training stimulus by substituting its dumbbell cousin.

Dumbbell Chest Workout 1 3 sets, 15 reps+ 4 more exercises

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11. Cheat Reps Can Count

A lot of folks at the gym use bad form, which usually puts pressure on surrounding joints while taking stress off the target muscle. But when done right, cheat reps can make the target muscle work harder. The purpose of cheating is to stimulate the muscle fibers with greater intensity, not less.

That’s best done by completing 6-8 reps on your own with good form, then adding just enough momentum to pass the sticking point for a few more reps. If you have to cheat right from the very first rep, though, the weight’s too heavy.

12. Running The Rack

Dropsets (repping to failure, then continuing with progressively lighter weight) are a great way to induce a deep muscle burn on the last set of a given exercise, and are especially useful for precontest bodybuilders looking to burn a few extra calories. Dropsets are a time-tested approach that really ignites a muscle burn.

For example, if you’re curling with 35-pound dumbbells, do your set, then immediately place the weights back on the rack and grab the 30s. Do as many reps as you can, then replace and repeat with the 25s.

Squeeze out as many as you can—and it may not be very many—all the way down until you reach the 15s. Light weight never felt so heavy!

13. Put Your Movements In Reverse

What makes the deadlift from the floor different from other exercises? You do it from a dead stop. With other exercises, you generate elastic energy—the energy that helps you lift the weight during the initial stages—when you reverse direction at the bottom. When you remove that elastic energy by momentarily resting the bar on the floor, the movement is much harder. This is also a great way to build strength over the lower portion of the range of motion.

Try this: Set the safeties in a power rack at the lowest point in the range of motion for a given move (i.e., the bottom of your squat). Each rep begins from the bottom—not the top. Make sure you momentarily let the bar settle on the safeties on each rep before pressing back up to remove that elastic tension.

14. Opposites Attract

Supersetting two exercises is a common method to speed up your workouts, but when you do it for opposing muscle groups, research shows you can get an added bonus: You’ll be slightly stronger than normal on the second exercise in the grouping. Pair exercises for antagonist muscle groups: biceps/triceps, back/chest, and quads/hamstrings.

15. Pre-Exhaust To Work Around Weak Links

Most of the “big” exercises you do are called compound or multijoint movements—exercises that allow you to push the most weight because more than one muscle group is involved. When doing these kinds of movements, the set commonly ends when one of the muscle groups reaches failure.

Pre-exhaust training is an approach that gets around the “weak link in the chain” that brings about premature failure. For example, when bench pressing, the smaller triceps often give out before the larger pecs muscles. To bypass this limitation, first do an isolation exercise like the dumbbell fly, which places very little stress on the triceps. This “pre-exhausts” the chest muscles.

Because the chest has already been worked, the triceps are no longer the weaker muscle by the time you do bench presses and you can do the exercise to true pectoral failure rather than triceps failure.

16. Do Your Workout In Reverse

What’s the easiest way to do a workout makeover? Try doing it in reverse order. You’ll still want to start with a good warm-up, but then go right into what’s normally your last exercise. You’ll be surprised by how much stronger you are when doing it first, because it isn’t prefatigued, and you’ll be able to do more weight for more reps.

Naturally, when you get to the movements you typically do first, you won’t be able to go as heavy or for as many reps. Ultimately, you’ll work the target muscle in a way it’s unaccustomed to, which is a great way to kick-start muscle growth.

17. A Finishing Pump

“For max muscle recruitment, use a high-volume approach,” says Capurso. “When I use a very low rep range, I feel like I’m leaving more in the tank. So I’ve adopted an approach that will be mentally and physically challenging in my attempt to push a load till failure. Most people will fail in the lower rep ranges and feel satisfied, but try taking the challenge of doing multiple sets in the 15-18-rep range. You’ll find yourself completely fatigued by the end.”

Research also supports the idea of adding one last back-off set with a lighter weight you can do for higher reps, flushing the muscle with blood and water to increase strength and muscle size.

18. Speed Up Your Gains

At the end of a set when fatigue is setting in, using a slightly more explosive motion can help you do an extra rep or two when you otherwise might have racked the weight.

Remember to use a strong and controlled rep speed when starting out a set; once you near that last rep or two, start generating a bit more momentum to help you blast through sticking points.

19. Train Like An Egyptian

Rather than opting for same ol’ three sets of 10 on a given movement, try pyramiding your weight on successive sets, stepping up the weight a bit each time. Of course, the number of reps you can do necessarily falls as the weight increases, but you’ll realize better gains in strength with the lower-rep sets. Just make sure you don’t burn yourself out on lighter-weight sets; don’t encroach on muscle failure until you hit your heaviest sets.

20. Double Your Gains

What’s the best way to continue making gains? By finding a workout partner who pushes you, especially one who is bigger and stronger than you. Besides spotting you and assisting with forced reps and partials to help you train past failure, a training partner will also motivate you to hit the gym on days you might otherwise opt for the sofa.

If you’re stuck training on your own, you can still benefit from training past muscle failure; try these selected intensity-boosting techniques that work especially well for single trainers.

21. Get Belted

Weight belts aren’t seen as much in gyms as they used to be, but every serious lifter should have one. While you shouldn’t be wearing it on every set—you need to strengthen your lower back muscles—they should be worn on especially heavy sets in which your lower back needs support.

I’m talking deadlifts, bent-over rows, standing military presses, and squats. Skip the belt on your lighter-weight sets so your low back has to work and can therefore grow stronger.

22. Band-Aids

Using powerlifting bands and chains may appear unnecessary or inconvenient, but they can help you can realize big-time gains, especially when your muscles are unaccustomed to using them. What’s unique about these tools is that they provide variable resistance over the course of a single rep.

In the down position, the bands and chains unload some of the weight on the floor and are therefore lighter; as you press up, the tension on the target muscles increases. Bands and chains are a great way to attack a sticking point.

23. Strap In

You’ve been told never to use wrist straps, so you can work your grip on back day? Nonsense! Once your grip starts to become fatigued, put on those pulling straps. You’ll find you can do an extra rep or two on each set, which means greater muscle growth.

Don’t worry about forearm or grip development; do that on arm day. When it’s back day, focusing on pushing as much weight for as many reps as you can—and that means using straps.

24. Rest To Grow

Though this is in no way a “training technique”, many lifters determined to continue to push harder in their pursuit of growth actually undermine their efforts by including too few rest days in their training split. Don’t be so obsessed with missing a workout and training to utter exhaustion that you fail to give your body enough time to actually heal—and grow.

Likewise, levels of catabolic hormones like cortisol rise quickly in the body over the course of a training session; you should strive to get in the gym and get it done quickly. Work on increasing your workout intensity rather than duration.

25. Hit It Again

The frequency with which you should train a particular muscle depends in part on how much work (volume) you’re doing. Beginners who don’t do a lot of sets for a given body part can train them more frequently (say every 2-3 days). More advanced lifters who do 15-20 sets for a given muscle group can follow a split in which they train each muscle group every 5-6 days.

Competitive bodybuilders who often train balls-to-the-wall might go seven days or more before repeating a workout. In these cases, it literally takes that long for the muscle to fully recover between training sessions.

26. Go For The “Big” Moves First

When looking for the best exercise to start your workout with, steer toward multijoint exercises; you can lift the most weight early in your workouts, when your energy levels are high. They’re called multijoint—or compound—because more than one set of joints is working, which recruits additional muscle groups.

For example, the bench press recruits the triceps and front delts in addition to the pecs. Squats, bent-over rows, overhead presses, and bench presses are the best muscle builders for the legs, back, shoulder, and chest, respectively. Add on other exercises from different angles to fully work a target muscle.

Bonus tip: Really challenge yourself with weights you can only do for 6-8 reps early in your workout; once fatigue starts to set in, you won’t be able to push those very heavy weights any longer.

27. Split Wisely

When devising your training split, be careful about training a given muscle group on consecutive days because—say it with us—a muscle grows when it’s being rested in the presence of good nutrition. If you train chest on Mondays, shoulders on Tuesdays, and triceps on Wednesdays, your split doesn’t allow ample recovery time. Training back or biceps on consecutive days is also a sign of a poorly designed split. Use rest days and leg days to break up your upper-body training days.

28. Adjust Your Lifestyle To Your Goals

Gaining mass is all about taking in more calories than you burn while following the specific training advice presented here. However, if you’re a party animal and consume too many of the wrong calories from alcohol or greasy fast foods, you’ll sabotage your efforts.

Make sure your extracurricular activities (i.e., everything you do outside the gym) are in sync with your diet and your training in order to make the fastest possible gains!

The best weights for home use could save you a fortune in gym fees – or at least give you the chance to get more in shape before signing up. The best dumbbells are the ideal way to start building your very own workout zone at home. They’re notably easier to store than the best barbells, for a start. They can be used for a simple full body workout as well as helping you to get stronger.

A good set of weights is at the centre of any muscle-building, fat-shredding, sweat-inducing workout and can be used for numerous different exercises to achieve any number of fitness goals, from basic weight loss to fat-shredding High Intensity Interval Training and advanced gun sculpting.

The best home weights are a money-saver all year around. And if you’re a total newbie, here’s our Best dumbbell workout for beginners. You’re welcome.

  • The rest of the home weights kit you need
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What is the best dumbbell?

We found that the latest adjustable weight systems from PowerBlock and Bowflex are the easiest to use, as you simply dial in the required weight and the dumbbell cleverly grasps the correct plate/s.

But they can be mighty expensive, which is why the £120, 25kg units offered by Men’s Health are also a great choice. This clever adjustable plate system means it’s possible to rapidly swap weights on the fly, ultimately offering the user a 2.5kg-25kg weight spread that aids progression and is suitable for a huge array of exercises. That price is only for one dumbbell, mind, but a pair still comes in cheaper than rivals from Bowflex and Powerblock.

How to buy the best dumbbells

Invest in a top array of weights and you’ll be surprised at what you can achieve with some help from a few online workout plans and a dollop of dedication.

As with many things in life, the humble dumbbell comes in a confusing array of shapes, sizes, weights and mechanisms, so choosing the right one for you is important.

Typically, a dumbbell will either be rounded or hexagonal, the latter being the smart choice as it doesn’t roll away when you put it down. It’s also perfect if you fancy using a dumbbell for press-up variations.

Secondly, the weight is particularly important, especially if you opt for a fixed dumbbell system, which can’t be adjusted or added to.

This singular weight will make progression tricky, as it could be too heavy for certain exercises, or too light to effectively build muscle or add enough resistance to raise the heart rate.

Finally, the choice of material should also be a consideration. Matte black metal weight discs might look masculine and cool but they can also wreak havoc with wooden floors and make a racket.

Rubber coated weights tend to make less noise and, generally, less mess. Although as with a tyre on a road, if you drag a weight across a hard floor, you can end up with skid marks. Nobody wants skid marks.

We’ve got options that are good for everyone from beginners to slightly more challenging sets for when the guns begin to show.

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The best dumbbells you can buy, in order

1. Bowflex SelectTech Dumbbells

The best home weights you can buy, and worth the premium


Weight spread: 2-22.5kg or 4-41kg

Reasons to buy

+Immensely practical+Feel like regular dumbbells

Reasons to avoid

-Very pricey-Overly complex mechanism

Please note that pricing on Bowflex is often per weight – check before purchase.

Halting a workout to unscrew unwieldy metal spin collars and replacing weight plates can break flow, while those who are really looking to bulk up will need plenty of weight options to choose from, which means a surplus of storage space.

These beasts from Bowflex pack 2-24 or 4-41kg in each dumbbell, depending on the model you go for, with weight selection as easy as spinning a dial. When paired with a simple weights bench, they offer an effective alternative to a gym floor, yet don’t require an entire rack to house.

• Read our Bowflex Selecttech review

Compared to Powerblock, the rival modular weight system (see below), the Bowflex weights look and feel far more like classic dumbbells, although a lack of colour coding does mean you have to pay a little more attention when piling on the kilograms and it’s best to avoid launching them across the room.

That said, the spinning dial is easy to navigate and the included plastic stand makes it simpler to guide the weights back into place when you’re finished, although with certain configurations, you do have to be quite careful.

Overall, a great solution for those who like to push on with intensive ‘drop set’ workouts or for those who are tight on space. In fact, our only real reservation is the price, which will make you sweat before you even try to lift them.

  • Also available: the Bowflex 560 ‘smart’ dumbbells. They have a movement sensor to count reps and an app that helps with workout suggestions and encourages good form. We’re not convinced it’s worth the extra,

2. York Fitness Cast Iron Dumbbell Spinlock Set

Best old-school dumbbell set

Weight spread: 2-20kg +Cheap as chips+Will last a lifetime -Serial destroyers of flooring -Noisy buggers, too

These must surely be the most-used weights in the UK, and are a staple of Argos and Amazon’s websites. And little wonder.

You just can’t beat a good old pair of cast iron weights, and a testament to this is the fact they can be found under the beds of dads and granddads up and down the country. Just don’t go looking for them, there’s probably stuff under there you really don’t want to see.

Get your own and they will last a lifetime and for all of their noisy, palm-chafing downsides (get weight-lifting gloves or pay the price), there is a kind of nostalgic loveliness to the spin collar set-up. Even though at least one weight will nearly always comes loose mid-workout, it’s never so much so that you feel endangered. The overtly rough grip and stupidly masculine cast iron finish have a lot of charm and even more longevity.

For less than £40 you get a not-particularly-heavy 10kg per arm maximum that is built to outlast civilisation as we know it. Honestly, a cast iron weight set is a modern day fossil… but a fossil that can keep you fit.

3. Men’s Health Adjustable Dumbbell 25kg

Best affordable Bowflex alternative

Weight spread: 2.5-25kg +Covers a huge weight spread+Takes up little space+Cheaper than individual weights -Strange shape makes certain movements tough-Can feel unbalanced

• Buy 25kg Men’s Health adjustable dumbbell (single) at Argos

• Buy 40kg Men’s Health adjustable dumbbell (single) at Argos

Thankfully, the fitness buffs over at Men’s Health have noticed the benefits of a modular weights system, and have fashioned their own that nicely undercuts he competition on price but retains the benefits.

You might think £120 for a single dumbbell is expensive, but this Men’s Health beauty packs 2.5kg-25kg weights in handy 2.5kg increments, making it one of the most compact and versatile systems money can buy. It’s a lot more affordable than the Bowflex system, most importantly.

The overall build quality is great, with thick plastic used for all of the grippy bits, while the spinning weight selection collar is easy to use and neatly clicks into place for added safety and peace of mind.

Alas, there are some downsides to these systems, including the inability to drop them on the floor if gunning for a one-rep max (you’ll break the weight selection mechanism if you do that too often), as well as the slightly unbalanced feeling thanks to the wide weight plate area.

But these are factors that are easy to adapt to and seem a small price to pay for such a versatile workout package, which will help gun-shapers and fat-shredders easily progress to the next level thanks to the easy incremental weight system.

• Read our Men’s Health Adjustable Dumbbell review

(Image credit: Wolverson Fitness)

4. Wolverson Fitness Rubber Hex Dumbbell

Best gym quality dumbbells

Weight spread: 1-10kg +Extremely tough+Contoured handles+Withstand punishment -Really requires a rack-Takes up space

Composed of a cast interior with a solid black rubber dumbbell body, these ultra-tough bad boys are the sort of thing you’ll find in a commercial gym but are just about affordable enough to squeeze into a fancy home set-up.

The weight spread maxes out at 10kg, which might be too low for serious body builders, but these dumbbells are a lot more versatile than they look. A solid rubber outer coating is resistant to cracking and chipping, while the nifty hex shape and shock absorbing outer makes them great for push-ups and more explosive dumbbell workouts.

You’ll probably want to invest int he storage rack, though, which means you’ll also need a decent amount of floor space at home to use them properly.

Buy direct from: Wolverson Fitness

5. Escape Fitness Classic Urethane Dumbbell Set

Best premium dumbbells

Weight spread: 1-10kg +Solid build+Storage stand included+Gym quality product -Very expensive-Limited weight range

Escape is a name that regular gym-goers will likely recognise from their local sweatbox, where the brand can be found supplying all manner of weight-related fitness gear.

This ridiculously expensive Urethane upright rack and weight kit perfectly highlights the true cost of investing in a spread of individual dumbbells, which are absolutely brilliant for maintaining perfect form but may require you to take up unlicensed boxing to fund their purchase.

The dumbbells are extremely well put together and will happily survive a lifetime of being dropped from a height and generally punished, but the weight spread is very limited and will only suit those with precision sculpting and cardio work in mind.

6. PowerBlock Sports 5.0 Dumbbells

High-tech dumbbell alternative to Bowflex

Weight spread: 2-22.5kg +Good spread of weight+Relatively compact package -Expensive-Can be noisy 

Although pricier than simpler dumbbell systems, the PowerBlock Sports combine great design with a solid range of weights, and are far cheaper than the comparable Bowflex.

These space-saving puppies replace 10 pairs of fixed dumbbells, offering a spread of 2kg to 22.5kg per hand in 2kg increments.

You rapidly swap weights simply by moving a pin up or down, with handy colour coding offering visual assistance for quick changes between sets.

The ergonomic grip and clever design mean these things can be used for a range of exercise movements, from chest pressing to squatting, while the compact proportions equate to the size of two shoeboxes.

Granted, the cost may prove a stumbling block for some, but there’s very little else out there that offers so much in such a compact package.

7. Bodymax Deluxe 40kg Hammertone Dumbbell Kit

More old-school dumbbells

Weight spread: 5-20kg +Hardy Hammertone coating+Decent selection of weights -Fiddly spin collars

Everything about this set harks back to the glory days of bodybuilding, when Arnie was Pumping Iron and Gold’s Gym was the place to hang out.

Finished in a robust Hammertone coating, these beefy metal plates resist wear and won’t crack when dropped (although they may crack your tiled floor), while the rubber grips provide excellent traction even when hands are sweaty.

The 20kg per hand weight spread via a variety of 1.25-5kg weight plates is heavy enough to give both arms and legs a good workout, no matter your fitness level.

However, changing weights requires unscrewing the metal spin collar, which can be more time consuming and fiddly than you really want, mid-workout.

8. IronMaster Quick-Lock Set

Great compromise between techy, rapid weight change and classic ease of use

Weight spread: 4-68kg +Indestructible+Compact rack stand -Slower weight changes than Bowflex

• Buy direct from IronMaster UK

Where the bulky units from Bowflex and PowerBlock promise ultra-rapid weight changes, they don’t take too kindly to being thrown across the home gym when you’ve just repped out a super set, and it can be a little fiddly to go from low to high weight settings.

The Quick-Lock system from IronMaster, on the other hand, is basically indestructible, but offers a similar kind of compact weight spread that’s perfect for those lacking space.

A unique locking nut system allows the thin and tapered plates to be loaded on and secured with a couple of twists, rather than awkwardly spinning a collar for ages, only for it to then come loose. The entire system stacks in a storage unit that measures just 53cm wide, 38cm deep and 61cm tall, while the dumbbells measure just 36.5cm when fully loaded.

IronMaster’s kits can be a bit pricey but the price does includes a stand and with the full set, not only are able to pump each dumbbell up to a substantial 34kg, you can then add a 74kg add-on kit, if you’re a monster. That actually represents great value when you consider the cost of a similar rack set-up.

9. Body Power 12.5kg Rubber Hex Dumbbells

Best non-adjustable weights

Weight spread: N/A +Cunning hexagonal shape+Reduced noise+Comfortable handles -Not adjustable at all-Hence expensive

The hexagonal shape and rubber coating mean it is possible to use these dumbbells for more than simply pumping iron.

They can be placed on a flat surface and used for tricky dumbbell press-ups, renegade rows and more, without risk of damaging your floor or, hopefully, face.

Available in a variety of weights, this 12.5kg model seems to be the go-to number for your average fitness fanatic. Since the weight is not adjustable, costs soon mount up if you want more. A four-weight (12.5-20kg) will set you back well over 200 quid, but is arguably worth it, if you have a lot of space.

10. TNP Accessories Vinyl Dumbbell Set 40kg

Best budget dumbbells

Weight spread: 5-20kg +Vinyl coated for floor protection+Multi-use weight discs -Feel a bit cheap-Take up space

This affordable weight set might not boast the same neat finish as the more premium products here but the innovative grip handle shape means the weight plates can be used for a number of exercises on or off the provided bar.

You can either load up the 18-inch, non-slip metal bar for typical dumbbell curls, overhead pressing and weighted squats, or remove the weight plate to assist with ab crunches or weighted squat twists.

They also boast a floor-friendly plastic covering, which has also been designed to last.

As well as the 30kg set, there are various other maximum weight options from TNP in the same range.

Will weightlifting make you shorter? (The science)

Lifting weights has the potential to spur some pretty amazing changes in your body.

You’ll develop better conditioning, more muscle, less fat (provided your diet is good), and improved athleticism.

But some people, especially young people, worry that lifting weights will stunt their growth and impact their height.

Let’s put this to bed.

Will weightlifting make you shorter? No, more than likely not.

But let’s dive in and take a closer look at why people are worried about this phenomenon, and what the science says.

Why people are worried about weightlifting and height

This is a huge topic in the lifting and bodybuilding community, especially among young people.

Just check out these results from the Bodybuilding.com forum section.

There are three primary reasons people worry about this:

1. Myth & Rumor

The idea that weightlifting stunts your growth is simply a myth that has persisted for years, and it sounds just true enough to hold on in people’s minds for a very long time.

You can kind of see it, right?

Lifting heavy weights puts enormous stress on the body, muscles, and joints. It could kind of make sense that this sort of exercise might hinder your bone growth and development.

So the idea has spread and spread.

You’ve probably also heard that you need to eat 300 grams of protein a day to build muscle (most science these days suggests .8-1.0g per pound of bodyweight is plenty.)

It’s just one of those bro myths that won’t go away.

2. Misinterpreted science

There have been many studies over the years that suggest excessive physical labor by young people and children has an adverse effect on their growth and development.

In the 1800s, they studied kids who labored in coal mines. More recently, they’ve studied child laborers in India and found all kinds of problems with their growth as they age.

It might lead some people to believe that intense exercise is one of the key culprits.

But there are a LOT of other factors in play.

Child laborers work in horrid conditions, breathe toxic air, work inhumane hours, and often have access to only very poor nutrition and sleep.

They also don’t have the opportunity to play and socialize, which are absolutely crucial for development.

There is a world of difference between proper weight training a few days per week, eating nutritious food, sleeping well, and living a normal life, versus spending your childhood in a labor camp.

Let’s not conflate the two.

3. Heightism

There are a handful of things that can legitimately stunt your growth, most of them involving some kind of heavy substance abuse.

But there’s also a fear instilled in many of us that we won’t grow up to be “big and strong.”

Read: Tall.

Yes, God forbid we don’t eek out every last centimeter of height from our genetic predisposition.

For young people, and young men especially, growing up short is probably one of the worst things that can happen to you socially.

There’s a deep fear there, so it’s no wonder that many young men constantly run every physiological decision they make through the filter of: “Will this make me shorter?”

The answer is almost always No.

How height actually works

So, what determines how tall we get?

For starters, most of it is completely out of your hands.

According to Scientific American, about 60-80% of your final height is genetically predisposed.

The other 20% or so comes from environmental factors, mainly getting enough quality nutrition in your formative years.

Of the majority of your height that’s genetically determined before you’re even born, most of that is hereditary (around 80%), meaning the more your family has a history of tall/short/medium people, the more likely you are to share that trait.

(Thanks mom and dad!)

But how does our growth actually work once the genetic markers are in place?

  • Your body has a number of “long bones” in it, like the bones in your thigh, leg, arm, and forearm. These bones form the majority of your frame and height.
  • Each long bone has something called a “growth plate” at each end of it, or the epiphyseal plate. It’s an area of soft growing tissue that allows the bone to grow longer and longer as you age.
  • The growth plates determine the final length and shape of the long bones.
  • When you’ve reached your full frame growth (around age 16 or so for boys, a little younger for girls), the growth plates close and become solid bone.

Malnutrition can slow or hinder this process, ultimately harming your growth.

Though there is some interesting research that indicates poor nutrition can also slow down the degradation of your growth plates, meaning once the right nutrition is restored, some “catch-up” growth may occur.

OK, so can injuries affect growth? What about weightlifting injuries?

Injuries can definitely harm your bone growth.

The ends of your long bones, where the growth plates lie, are extremely weak in adolescence and are therefore super vulnerable to injuries.

When the long bones are injured during this developmental period, growth of certain limbs can be affected.

So the worry about weightlifting is not completely unfounded.

However, growth plates are FAR more likely to be injured by trauma and collisions during play or sports rather than strain from lifting weights.

It’s very unlikely to damage your bones during weightlifting, though straining or tearing a muscle is possible if you’re not using proper form and safety.

Tearing a bicep, for example, is not going to impact your height as you grow. Although it certainly wouldn’t be a fun injury!

Just be safe when you’re lifting and you won’t have to worry about stunting your growth.

A few tips:

  • Always use a spotter when lifting heavy
  • No ego lifting… use weights you know you can handle
  • Use safety bars during squats and other heavy rack exercises
  • Learn proper form! Watch YouTube videos or consult a strength training coach to make sure you’re doing the exercises right
  • Film yourself lifting and watch it back. Look at your form and compare it to tutorials.
  • If something hurts or doesn’t feel right, stop and don’t force the issue

Can weightlifting make adults shorter?


But I can see where the question comes from. It’s all a matter of visuals.

A lot of us have this image of weightlifters as wide, squatty boulder-like people, which makes them appear short to us.

So there’s a chance if you develop an overly wide frame (back, chest, and arms), along with too much “fluff’ or bodyfat, you could APPEAR shorter to some people.

(I’m a big fan of staying lean while building strength for this exact reason. You can check out my favorite diet and workout program for getting shredded here.)

Some people also claim that squats and deadlifts can make you shorter due to spinal compression. This is highly unlikely.

Your posture may change as you build strength in your lower back and core, and this could account for some of the anecdotal differences in height from doing these lifts. Better posture may actually make you seem taller. Worse posture (from muscle imbalances) could make you seem shorter.

But the actual size of your bones is extremely unlikely to change from lifting weights.

Wrapping Up

The evidence is pretty clear that there’s no correlation between lifting weights and being shorter as an adult.

Barring some kind of catastrophic injury to one of your long bones during adolescence as a result of heavy lifting, there’s just absolutely no reason lifting weights would impact your overall height.

You should be way more worried about collision sports and high-impact activities (though growth plate injuries are pretty rare overall).

The health benefits of lifting weights far, far exceed the potential risks. The strength, confidence, athleticism, and conditioning benefits are out of this world.

Just make sure you’re being safe and using proper form.

Hope this helps!


Will weightlifting make me shorter or stunt my growth?

Almost definitely not! There is no evidence of this.

What if I get injured?

High impact injuries to your bones can hurt your growth. Weightlifting is pretty unlikely to cause such an injury.

What age can I start lifting weights safely?

With proper supervision, good form, and light weights to start, there’s really no age too young. 7-8 should be fine. But to be safe, it’s probably best to wait until your early teens.

What DOES affect height?

Genetics, mostly. 80% of your height comes from your parents and is completely out of your control. Getting the right nutrition as a kid takes care of the other 20% or so.

What about for adults?

It can make you wider, which might make you appear shorter. But it won’t alter your height.

Do squats and deadlifts make you shorter?

No. They can alter your posture, however, for better or worse.

Squats can, however, make your legs pretty sore!

Is lifting weights too dangerous?

No! Not if done properly. If you’re being safe, using proper form, not ego-lifting, and eating properly, the health benefits far outweigh the risks.

Trisha Cluck/Getty Images

Back in the 1970s, researchers in Japan studied child laborers and discovered that, among their many misfortunes, the juvenile workers tended to be abnormally short. Physical labor, the researchers concluded, with its hours of lifting and moving heavy weights, had stunted the children’s growth. Somewhat improbably, from that scientific finding and other similar reports, as well as from anecdotes and accreting myth, many people came to believe “that children and adolescents should not” practice weight training, said Avery Faigenbaum, a professor of exercise science at the College of New Jersey. That idea retains a sturdy hold in the popular imagination. As a recent position paper on the topic of children and resistance training points out, many parents, coaches and pediatricians remain convinced that weight training by children will “result in short stature, epiphyseal plate” — or growth plate — “damage, lack of strength increases due to a lack of testosterone and a variety of safety issues.”

Kids, in other words, many of us believe, won’t get stronger by lifting weights and will probably hurt themselves. But a major new review just published in Pediatrics, together with a growing body of other scientific reports, suggest that, in fact, weight training can be not only safe for young people, it can also be beneficial, even essential.

In the Pediatrics review, researchers with the Institute of Training Science and Sports Informatics in Cologne, Germany, analyzed 60 years’ worth of studies of children and weightlifting. The studies covered boys and girls from age 6 to 18. The researchers found that, almost without exception, children and adolescents benefited from weight training. They grew stronger. Older children, particularly teenagers, tended to add more strength than younger ones, as would be expected, but the difference was not enormous. Over all, strength gains were “linear,” the researchers found. They didn’t spike wildly after puberty for boys or girls, even though boys at that age are awash in testosterone, the sex hormone known to increase muscle mass in adults. That was something of a surprise. On the other hand, a reliable if predictable factor was consistency. Young people of any age who participated in resistance training at least twice a week for a month or more showed greater strength gains than those who worked out only once a week or for shorter periods.

Over all, the researchers concluded, “regardless of maturational age, children generally seem to be capable of increasing muscular strength.”

That finding, which busts one of the most pervasive myths about resistance training for young people — that they won’t actually get stronger — is in accord with the results and opinions of most researchers who have studied the subject. “We’ve worked with kindergartners, having them just use balloons and dowels” as strength training tools, “and found that they developed strength increases,” said Dr. Faigenbaum, a widely acknowledged expert on the topic of youth strength training. (His most recent book is in fact titled “Youth Strength Training.”)

But interestingly, young people do not generally add muscular power in quite the same way as adults. They rarely pack on bulk. Adults, particularly men but also women, typically add muscle mass when they start weight training, a process known as muscular hypertrophy (or, less technically, getting buff). Youths do not add as much or sometimes any obvious muscle mass as a result of strength training, which is one of the reasons many people thought they did not grow stronger. Their strength gains seem generally to involve “neurological” changes, Dr. Faigenbaum said. Their nervous systems and muscles start interacting more efficiently. A few small studies have shown that children develop a significant increase in motor-unit activation within their muscles after weight training. A motor unit consists of a single neuron and all of the muscle cells that it controls. When more motor units fire, a muscle contracts more efficiently. So, in essence, strength training in children seems to liberate the innate strength of the muscle, to activate the power that has been in abeyance, unused.

And that fact, from both a physiological and philosophical standpoint, is perhaps why strength training for children is so important, a growing chorus of experts says. “We are urban dwellers stuck in hunter-gatherer bodies,” said Lyle Micheli, M.D., the director of sports medicine at Children’s Hospital Boston and professor of orthopedic surgery at Harvard University, as well as a co-author, with Dr. Faigenbaum, of the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s 2009 position paper about children and resistance training. “That’s true for children as well as adults. There was a time when children ‘weight trained’ by carrying milk pails and helping around the farm. Now few children, even young athletes, get sufficient activity” to fully strengthen their muscles, tendons and other tissues. “If a kid sits in class or in front of a screen for hours and then you throw them out onto the soccer field or basketball court, they don’t have the tissue strength to withstand the forces involved in their sports. That can contribute to injury.”

Consequently, many experts say, by strength training, young athletes can reduce their risk of injury, not the reverse. “The scientific literature is quite clear that strength training is safe for young people, if it’s properly supervised,” Dr. Faigenbaum says. “It will not stunt growth or lead to growth-plate injuries. That doesn’t mean young people should be allowed to go down into the basement and lift Dad’s weights by themselves. That’s when you see accidents.” The most common, he added, involve injuries to the hands and feet. “Unsupervised kids drop weights on their toes or pinch their fingers in the machines,” he said.

In fact, the ideal weight-training program for many children need not involve weights at all. “The body doesn’t know the difference between a weight machine, a medicine ball, an elastic band and your own body weight,” Dr. Faigenbaum said. In his own work with local schools, he often leads physical-education class warm-ups that involve passing a medicine ball (usually a “1 kilogram ball for elementary-school-age children” and heavier ones for teenagers) or holding a broomstick to teach lunges safely. He has the kids hop, skip and leap on one leg. They do some push-ups, perhaps one-handed on a medicine ball for older kids. (For specifics about creating strength-training programs for young athletes of various ages, including teenagers, and avoiding injury, visit strongkid.com, a Web site set up by Dr. Faigenbaum, or the .)

As for the ideal age to start weight training, Dr. Faigenbaum said: “Any age is a good age. But there does seem to be something special about the time from about age 7 to 12. The nervous system is very plastic. The kids are very eager. It seems to be an ideal time to hard-wire strength gains and movement patterns.” And if you structure a program right, he added, “it can be so much fun that it never occurs to the kids that they’re getting quote-unquote ‘strength training’ at all.”

5 Reasons Why Lifting Heavy Weights *Won’t* Make You Bulk Up


Finally, the women’s weightlifting revolution is building momentum. (Didn’t you see Sarah Robles win bronze for the U.S. at the Rio Olympics?) More and more women are picking up barbells and dumbbells, increasing their strength and power, and banding together because of it. But even with its increasing popularity, there’s still a camp of firm believers in that whole “weightlifting will make me bulky and masculine” BS.

We’re here to crush that argument once and for all. Being a woman who lifts heavy weights won’t make you bulky, manly, or look like a she-Hulk. In fact, it’ll do just the opposite: It’ll tighten and tone all over your body, burn fat, and shape your curves exactly how you want them. (These strong and hot-as-Hell women are proof.) Yes, it’s true-just ask Jacque Crockford, CSCS, spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise.

She shared five specific reasons why you won’t turn into Arnold overnight, and why strength training is for every woman.

1. You’ll burn more calories.

Lifting weights doesn’t only affect your muscle tissue. Resistance training also increases the release of testosterone and human growth hormone (although the amounts may be different depending on your gender and workout), says Crockford. But, more importantly, your metabolism gets a boost.

“Lifting weights can increase your lean body mass, which increases the number of overall calories you burn during the day,” she says. So by adding more lean muscle, you’ll be burning more calories outside the gym, even when you’re chillin’ on the couch or typing away at work.

2. You’re shaping your body-not making it bigger.

“Lifting heavy weights is a great way to get the shape of the body that you may be seeking,” Crockford says. You could churn away at the elliptical, bike, or on the trail for hours, trying to burn fat. But the secret to a tighter body isn’t in burning off every ounce of jiggle with cardio-it’s in creating a solid, muscular base.

“Want a perkier bum? Do squats and deadlifts. Want more defined arms and back? Do some shoulder presses and pull-ups,” says Crockford. Bench presses and snatches aren’t necessarily required-you can work with a trainer to find a strength training routine that works for you and your goals. (Although, this four-week beginner plan is a great place to start.)

3. You train for the results you want.

“Women can use resistance training to reach all types of health and fitness goals, and this includes aesthetics,” Crockford says. Sure, you could use weightlifting to train for competitive powerlifting (like these badass girls on Instagram), Olympic-style weightlifting (like these strong AF female athletes), or for a bodybuilding competition, or you can just use it to be fit, healthy, and confident. There are plenty of plans to suit your needs.

“If you’re simply looking to improve overall shape of your body and improve your body composition, then lifting weights is also a very important component of a well-rounded fitness program,” she says. If you want to gain significant amounts of muscle mass, you’re looking at four to six days of lifting a week, versus one to three days of lifting for general health.

4. You’d have to bulk up your diet to bulk up your body.

You don’t expect to lose weight just from working out-you know that a clean and healthy diet is part of the equation too. Well, same goes for getting bigger.

“Gaining muscle mass comes from a combination of heavy weight training and an excess in calories,” says Crockford. “If you perform resistance training one to three days per week and you’re not eating more calories than you expend in a day, you probably won’t see a ton of muscle growth.”

5. You won’t wake up with insta-muscles.

If you do a few bicep curls and eat some spinach, you’re not going to wake up looking like Popeye. Think: it usually takes months just to see some average fitness progress (like more toned muscles or decreased body fat). To get to a bulky or body-builder level of muscularity, you’d not only have to train and diet in an extreme fashion, but you’d have to keep at it for years. Those types of athletes work extremely hard to look the way they do; you won’t end up there by accident, we promise.

That being said, to reap any benefits of strength training (even if you just want to stay lean and fit) it takes dedication and hard work.

“Consistency is key when it comes to reshaping your body and making lifelong changes,” says Crockford. (And that is exactly why strength training just once a week won’t cut it.)

If you’re still nervous about grabbing a pair of dumbbells, your best bet is to get some personalized advice from a trainer who can tailor a strength training program that works for you. Then stick to it. Guaranteed, you’ll be feeling stronger, sexier, and more badass than ever.

  • By Lauren Mazzo @lauren_mazzo

Bulking up without weights

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