The Best Weightlifting Practices: What If You’re Doing It All Wrong?

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  • Faulty “Bro Science” has dominated the weightlifting space.

  • The truth is this:

    • There are five basic weightlifting exercises that yield maximum results.

    • You don’t need to segment your weight-training workouts by body part.

    • Women can weight lift and not look like body builders.

    • Protein shakes are unnecessary.

    • Weight-training burns more fat than cardio.


When it comes to the best weightlifting practices, there’s a lot of mixed information that usually leads to more questions than answers. Is it best to do arms one day and legs the next? Should I be eating something special before and/or after weightlifting to maximize results? How many days a week should I lift? How heavy should the weights be? You get the idea…

In this post, I’ve synthesized resources from Mind Pump, a platform on which seasoned trainers dispel myths surrounding the fitness industry. I first heard about Mind Pump on episode #19 of the Genius Life podcast. Give it a listen!

Weight-Training Myths

MYTH #1: ALL WEIGHTLIFTING EXERCISES ARE CREATED EQUAL

In the post “5 Most Important Exercises for Muscle Growth in an Effective Routine,” trainer Sal Di Stefano names the most effective weight-training exercises:

  1. Barbell squat
  2. Barbell deadlift
  3. Standing overhead press
  4. Bench press
  5. Supinated grip pull ups

That’s it! Any other creative or fancy-looking exercises are not as effective. Further, Di Stefano recommends incorporating all of the above into an every-other-day rhythm:

Workout 1:

Barbell Squats 5 sets 8-12 reps

Overhead Press 5 sets 8-12 reps

Pull Ups 5 sets 8-12 reps

Workout 2:

Deadlifts 5 sets 5-8 reps

Bench Press 5 sets 8-12 reps

Simply go back and forth between workout 1 and workout 2 every other day.

MYTH #2: IT’S BEST TO SEGMENT YOUR WEIGHTLIFTING WORKOUTS INTO DIFFERENT BODY PARTS ON DIFFERENT DAYS OF THE WEEK

“Bro Science” has propagated the idea that it’s best to max out different muscle groups on different days. However, this method is actually impeding muscle gain.

From Mind Pump’s post “Why Can’t I Gain More Muscle?”:

NO MORE BRO SPLITS. Frequency is EXTREMELY important to muscle growth. When you train a muscle, you damage it, creating micro-tears. These tears are repaired through a process called MUSCLE PROTEIN SYNTHESIS. Protein synthesis is CRUCIAL to building muscle. (Brook et al., 2015) (Damas et al., 2016)

The timeline for protein synthesis is a bit debated, but most studies put it somewhere in the 48-72 hours range. (Phillips, Tipton, Aarsland & Wolf,1997) (Miller et al., 2005) After this, the muscle building essentially stops, NO MATTER HOW SORE YOU ARE. This means that if you’re only training a muscle once a week, there’s approximately 4-5 days in the week where that muscle isn’t growing. Use a full body or upper/lower split. These allow you to train much more frequently.

MYTH #3: IF WOMEN LIFT HEAVY WEIGHTS, THEY’LL BULK UP LIKE BODY BUILDERS

Honestly, I was in this camp for awhile. In the post “Building Muscle Vs. Toning… What’s The Difference?” the Mind Pump author explains:

It was found that women were not going to the gym because they were afraid of ‘building too much muscle’ (and many still are).  They thought that if they did any form of resistance training they would look like a professional bodybuilder.  This perception wasn’t helped by female bodybuilders, pumped full of male hormones, who did, in fact, have massive striated muscles.  These women look very masculine and that strengthened the myth that lifting weights would create a masculine looking body. To counter this perception the fitness industry came up with a genius strategy.  They would rename ‘muscle building’ to ‘toning’ or ‘sculpting’ so that women would buy gym memberships. They blamed big muscles on heavy weights and they sold women on light weights and high reps, a stupid myth that still persists today.

Basically, us women should be weight-training without fearing bulky bodies. Doing so can also improve hormone balance!

MYTH #4: YOU HAVE TO CONSUME A SPECIAL DRINK OR MEAL BEFORE AND/OR AFTER WEIGHTLIFTING TO MAXIMIZE RESULTS

Let’s switch it up a bit! Here’s a video from Mind Pump:

If you don’t want to watch, here’s the summary:

  • Protein is an essential macronutrient that your cells and tissues need to build and repair.
  • When your goal is total results (e.g., muscle building and fat loss), you’ll get 99% of the way there through proper diet, sleep, and training; any supplements you add may give you that extra 1% increase.
  • The supplement industry is not stupid; they’ve sold us on the the idea that we must consume certain powders/drinks in a ritualized pre- and post-workout manner. THIS IS FALSE. As long as you consume enough protein throughout the day, it doesn’t matter when you have it, and it’s always best to get macronutrients (like protein!) from whole foods. (Caveat: If you’re going to work out twice, it’s important to consume protein between workouts…but again it can be from food!)
  • It’s not going to hurt you to have a protein drink post-workout (unless you have gut issues), but it’s not necessary.

MYTH #5: CARDIO BURNS MORE FAT THAN WEIGHT-TRAINING

The seasoned trainers at Mind Pump debunk this myth in their post “Cardio Sucks for Fat Loss.”

Here are a couple of the highlights:

Cardiovascular exercise burns more calories than any other form of exercise hands down. This is a good thing in the short term but it’s a terrible thing in the long term. Your body doesn’t want to burn tons of calories.

Because it burns a lot of calories your body ‘learns’ to burn less both during activity and especially when you are sedentary. Since cardio vascular activity doesn’t require lots of muscle your body simply reduces muscle mass as part of this adaptation . . . In fact over time doing tons of cardio will even change hormone profiles to further slow your metabolism down.

They then go on to emphasize that weightlifting is the perfect exercise for fat loss:

As your muscles strengthen and build, your metabolism speeds up and this process continues overtime so long as your workout programming is ideal.

And there you have it! See ya, Popular Myths. You’ve been debunked!

Bottom line: Don’t believe everything you hear when it comes to weightlifting. Instead of prioritizing cardio, consider grabbing some weights!


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