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As the managing partner of the Dubai Muscle Show, Dubai’s only international bodybuilding and fitness show, a lot of people have come to me with preconceived notions about bodybuilding. They tend to think of bodybuilding as this exclusive form of exercise reserved for huge, beefy aggressive men, and while that is sometimes the case, bodybuilding is not off-limits to anyone. Anyone can become a bodybuilder if they have the will and the drive. We see bodybuilders of all levels and walks of life come together at the Dubai Muscle Show, and while many professional bodybuilders are these hulking figures with clearly-defined veins, others are more lean and toned.

Because a lot of people don’t know much about bodybuilding unless they are themselves bodybuilders, I thought I would put together some common myths about bodybuilding so that you can challenge what you think you know about bodybuilding with the truth about bodybuilding.

Myth #1: Women can’t be bodybuilders

This is absolutely untrue! While bodybuilding is generally a male-dominated sport, our 2016 show featured a handful of female bodybuilding superstars, including Andreia Brazier, Jen Jewell, and Zsuzsanna Toldi. Additionally, women’s training regimens shouldn’t vary greatly from men’s. According to personal trainer Lee Labrada, “Women develop muscle at about half the rate that men do, due to the fact that they have much lower testosterone levels.” However, the goal is the same: to build muscle. Women who are trying to get in shape often focus primarily on aerobics and cardio when they should be focusing more on weight training. Women, like men, should lift weights that offer enough resistance to build muscle mass and should implement a well-balanced diet of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.

Myth #2: You need to eat a lot to build muscle

Unfortunately, the idea that you need to bulk up and eat in excess of your recommended caloric intake to gain muscle mass has been blown out of proportion. This should only be the case if you want to gain weight without muscle, according to Labrada. The body does need to take in more calories to build muscle, but that doesn’t mean you should everything in sight. At a certain point, the body will stop converting calories into muscle tissue and start storing them as fat; this is determined by one’s P-ratio. Instead, focus on a balanced diet to ensure your body is getting what it needs for optimal muscle growth.

Myth #3: Always work a muscle to failure

Another idea associated with bodybuilding is that you should push your muscles to the limit, creating microtears so that the muscle grows back larger and stronger. It is actually true that in order to gain greater muscle mass you need to push the muscle to failure, you should not do this every time you workout or you will be putting your health at risk. It is important to have a balanced routine that intersperses intense muscle workouts with a few sessions a week where you do not overwork your muscles. You also shouldn’t be lifting weights every day- your body needs rest in between! If you’re unsure of how to go about this, you may want to consult a personal trainer.

Myth #4: You need to work through the pain

“No pain, no gain,” seems to be a popular idea associated with bodybuilding and yes, if you are pushing your muscles to their breaking points, there will be some pain. However, you need to be aware of the difference between routine soreness and intense physical pain. If you feel as though you may have a torn muscle or ligament, don’t risk it! It’s better to hold off a few days than to risk pulling a tendon, which can take weeks to heal. With any workout, if you experience any abnormal pain, stop immediately and consult your doctor if it persists. As Fox News advises, “Don’t let determination to keep progressing cause you to push through pain you know you shouldn’t.”

Hopefully this is enough to dispel any false ideas you may have had about bodybuilding, but if you’re really interested in learning more about bodybuilding, don’t let what you see reflected in the media and hear from others cloud your thinking. Do your research and consult professional bodybuilders who will be able to fill you in even more- a great place to interact with bodybuilders ranging from amateur to superstar is the Dubai Muscle Show, which will be held December 8-9, 2017 at the Dubai World Trade Centre.

Visit dubaimuscleshow.com for more information.