Get Your Head Right: Major Misconceptions in the Fitness Game Part 2

By Spencer Garrett

Don’t let your misguided views that have been fed to you by conventional wisdom get in the way of a better you.  So many people want to feel better, get healthier, fitter, look better naked, and have a higher quality of life.  Many are willing to work for it and I applaud your efforts and encourage you to continue on your quest, but PLEASE let me help you focus your energy, blood, sweat, and tears (I assume most of you have experienced all of these) in the right direction.

Topic:  Muscular Hypertrophobia

Good morning my neighbors!

Good morning my neighbors! (in my Prince Akeem voice) This is a continuation from my last post about Spot Reduction.  The concern that many may have is the fear of building too much muscle for your liking.  Or Muscular Hypertrophobia.  And no, I don’t think this is a clinically diagnosed condition, but I couldn’t come up with anything better.  For those of you who don’t understand, let me break it down.

Oh hey there, sweet thing. What kind of supplements are your favorites?

Muscular – Muscles.  If you were stumped on that one, I’ll pause for a second while you smack yourself.  Hard.  LOL.  Sorry.  Just joking.  But if I’m not somewhat of a smart@ss, nobody who knows me will believe I wrote this.

Hypertro – Comes from the word Hypertrophy, which means enlargement of something. In this case we are talking about muscle cells.

Phobia – a persistent, irrational fear of something that leads to a compelling desire to avoid it.  For example, my two favorite phobias that start with the letter A are Arachibutyrophobia- Fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth.  And Aulophobia- Fear of flutes.  Yeah.  Scary stuff.

And now Mr. Burgundy will play jazz flute for us.

This is a concern I hear from all kinds people.  Male and female, young and less young.  Men say,  “I don’t want to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger.”  Women say, “I don’t want to look like a man.”  I will attempt to put everyone’s mind at ease, but I will say that this will be mostly focused towards the lovely ladies.

The Governator doesn’t want you to look like him either.

I hope all of you have taken the time to read the article Jordan Feigenbaum posted on the blog, titled Old Country Strong.  He also touched on the subject, so I’m going to see if I can make things even more clear.

First, I want to take everyone on a little journey into the world of hormones.  Now, I’m no genius, so I will do my best to explain this in a way I understand.  That way NOBODY should have a problem keeping up.

Let’s get started.

The male hormone testosterone ( T ) is the boss of all muscle-building hormones.  It is simply what makes hypertrophy possible.  For you sci-fi geeks out there, T is to building muscle, like the flux capacitor is to time travel.  It does this by promoting protein synthesis.  Basically, when you eat protein rich foods, (beef, pork, fish, poultry, etc.) T induced protein synthesis breaks down the proteins into amino acids and converts them into the types of proteins that can be absorbed by your muscles and make them grow.  Genetic factors definitely play a role in how effective this is per individual, but generally speaking, we can say the more T we have, the easier this occurs.

Side Note:

In my opinion, the range of normal T levels recognized by your doc is pretty ridiculous.  The ranges are just too big. For instance, the “normal” range for a male is 240 – 1000 ng/dL.

So, they are saying that 1 guy can have over 4 times the amount of total T as another guy and they are both in normal range!?  This is the difference between “optimal” and “normal.”  My point is, when did what is “common” among our unhealthy society become “normal.”  We shouldn’t be shooting for normal, because normal is unhealthy.  Let’s shoot for optimal people. Let’s thrive, instead of just squeaking by to survive.

Testosterone is involved in secondary sex characteristics like hair growth. Cavemen might’ve had some pretty healthy levels of good ol’ T.

So, how much testosterone do you have?  You would need to get your blood drawn to know for sure, but let’s look at some common lab values.  *Keep in mind that most people are on the low end of “normal” and these estimates were made based on that fact.

Male bodybuilder taking T enhancing anabolic steroids – levels have been known to be as high as 2100 ng/dL

Female bodybuilder taking T enhancing anabolic steroids – 130 ng/dL

16-24 yr old male – 475 ng/dL

25-39 yr old male – 400 ng/dL

40-55 yr old male – 325 ng/dL

56-70 yr old male – 250 ng/dL

Female – 21 ng/dL

Post-menopausal female – 10 ng/dL

*Also, something to consider.  Free Testosterone is the type of T in your bloodstream that is available to facilitate muscle growth.  You should test levels Free T for accuracy, but a simple way to estimate your levels is: 3% of total T = Free T.  Example: 300 ng/dL of total T is approximately 3 ng/dL of free T.

As you can see, there is a drastic range of T levels depending on who you are.  So when one of my female clients shows concern that the 10 lb. dumbbells I just had her pressing over her head (without much effort I might add) is going to make her “all bulky”, I point out the closest 18 yr old male, (we call them ‘young go hards’) who is in the gym 2 hrs. a day, 5 days a week, lifting weights that are way too heavy for him.  More than likely, this kid has been taking every MASS BUILDING supplement the guy at our local GNC could sell him and his parents are going broke because they can’t keep him out of the refrigerator.  Yet, despite his efforts to be as big as a house, he is 5’9” and tipping the scales at a measly 140 lbs.  Not big.  Not bulky.  Now if this kid with 20 times the amount of T running through his veins is struggling to put on 2 lbs. of muscle mass, what makes my client think that she is going look like Hulk Hogan after a few sessions?  It’s silly, but hypertrophobia, that’s what.

Don’t forget your NO-Explode, bro.

Still not convinced?  Fine.  Let me humor you a little.  Let’s pretend you have this freaky ability to put on loads of muscle mass and you want to know the best way to do resistance training without getting too muscular.  I know that most of you are under the impression that low weight and high reps is the best way to achieve this.  WRONG.  You don’t believe me?  The sole purpose of a bodybuilders program design is to stack on as much muscle mass as possible.  Increasing strength and improving health is of little importance to them.  They just want to grow.  Here’s one of Dorian Yates,’ a former Mr. Olympia, leg routine:

Dorian’s legs. Note the volume (sets x reps) in his training. The more reps per set necessitates a lighter weight. Still think light weights and high reps are the way to go?

Leg extensions 2* 10-12 1 10-12
Leg presses 2* 10-12 1 10-12
Hack squats 1* 10-12 1 10-12
Lying leg curls 1* 10-12 1 10-12
Stiff-leg deadlifts 1 8-10
Standing leg curls 1 8-10
Standing calf raises 1* 10-12 1 10-12
Seated calf raises 1 10-12

* Warm-up sets

link to original article

Here is a sample female Olympic weightlifters’s training. Notice the prevalance of HEAVY squats, pulls, cleans, etc.

Compare Dorian’s wheels to this….

Looks really bulky, eh?

or this:

Bottom line is don’t have a case of muscular hypertrophobia, it’s just not gonna happen!

-Spencer Garrett
















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About thefitcoach

An aspiring physician, I've been involved in the strength and conditioning world for over 5 years now in a professional sense. I started this blog with some like-minded individuals to share our thoughts on training, nutrition, lifestyle, medicine, health, and everything in between.

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