Generation Iron Kai Greene LiesBy Stuart McRobert

Part 2: BIG LIES 4 through 6

If you haven’t already, please start with Part 1 of this series.

Is your training working, and building muscle?

If it isn’t, it’s time to find out why, and then make changes.

Start by understanding the BIG LIES of bodybuilding.

The BIG LIES are described in the context of drug-free, genetically normal bodybuilders, who are the target audience for this four-part series of articles.

But some of the BIG LIES are truths in the context of bodybuilders who are drug-assisted or genetically highly gifted. Especially so for bodybuilders who are drug-assisted AND genetically highly gifted.

BIG LIE #4: Isolation exercises are essential for building muscle

The primary mass-building exercises are the big compound movements including squats, regular deadlifts, parallel grip deadlifts, bench presses, dips, overhead presses, chin-ups and pull-ups, rows, and pulldowns. Each can build mass in a broad area.

Isolation exercises can also build muscle, but only in localized areas — these are the secondary mass-building exercises. To work your entire physique from isolation work alone, you would need many isolation exercises. But just a few of the big compound exercises work almost your entire physique.

In practice, most bodybuilders use a combination of primary and secondary exercises. But if they want to build a lot of muscle, hardgainers don’t have much “room” in their routines for isolation exercises.

Hardgainers nearly always include too many exercises in their routines, especially isolation movements.

Many hardgainers, at least for some of the time, would be best off without any isolation exercises in their routines.

The most responsive bodybuilders — epitomized by the pros — are another story. They can prosper on routines that comprise many of each category of exercises.

But even the pros’ thigh development owes way more to squats than leg extensions.

Their chest development owes way more to bench presses than the pec deck.

And their shoulder development owes way more to presses than forward raises.

BIG LIE #5: To build muscle, exercise machines are essential

The primary advantages of modern-day machines are ease of use, and safety.

Consider how much easier it is for a gym instructor to guide someone on using a bench press machine than it is to teach how to bench press with a barbell or a pair of dumbbells. And consider that good machines are set up so that the user can’t get pinned under a weight, and spotters aren’t essential.

Some of the better machinery can be used well, with good results. But machines aren’t essential. And some are poorly designed, don’t fit many users, and can cause chronic irritations and problems.

Traditional equipment means barbells, dumbbells, power rack or racks with safety bars, and ordinary benches. Properly used, that equipment alone has produced amazing results.

Because most commercial gyms have an abundance of machinery, including machines for isolation exercises, most bodybuilders get distracted by that equipment, and lose focus from the exercises that matter the most.

But once you’re truly savvy about proper training, you should be able to work out effectively in any gym.

BIG LIE #6: High reps produce definition, low reps build muscle mass

Both high reps and low reps can build muscle.
Both high reps and low reps can yield no muscle growth.
Both high reps and low reps can be incorporated in a program that results in fat loss.
Both high reps and low reps can be incorporated in a program that results in fat gain.

But there’s no rule that high reps definitely produce definition, or that low reps definitely build mass.

It’s not the rep number per se that’s critical, but how those reps are done, and within what overall program.

No matter what rep number is performed, if insufficient effort is delivered on the wrong exercises, or even if sufficient effort is delivered on the right exercises but there’s too much training volume or frequency (or insufficient supply of the components of recuperation), there will never be much if any new muscle growth.

Twenty-rep squats, properly performed and within the right overall program, are tremendous effective for building muscle. But so are medium- and low-rep squats.

Although there’s no tradition of 20-rep bench presses, overhead presses, and rows, muscle mass has been built on both low- and medium-rep sets of those exercises.

Doing super-high reps for the abs (or any other muscle) isn’t going to make a blind bit of difference for reducing body fat unless it coincides with a sufficient caloric deficit to force your body to draw on its reserves (stored as body fat) to supply the required balance of calories.

You can shed fat while doing high-rep ab work, low-rep ab work, or no ab work whatsoever, PROVIDED that you’re in sufficient caloric deficit for long enough. But very-high-rep work may contribute to loss of muscle.


For information on Stuart’s work, please visit

Stuart McRobert
Stuart McRobert has had over 600 articles published in major newsstand bodybuilding magazines. He has written several famous bodybuilding books, including BRAWN, BEYOND BRAWN, and BUILD MUSCLE LOSE FAT LOOK GREAT. And he published HARDGAINER magazine for 15 years, which is now being digitalized under the title of BODYBUILDING GOLD MINE. For information on Stuart’s work, please visit