I’m in the gym 6 or 7 days per week training clients or doing my own workouts. Over the years, I’ve heard too many crazy, unsupported myths, perpetuated and passed down as fact from one person to the next. I could scratch myself bald for every time I’ve wanted to pull my hair out hearing these crazy ideas. Chances are you have too. I’ve tried to tackle some of the biggies here- the ones I hear over and over. How many have YOU heard, or even better, how many have you actually believed?
WORKOUT MYTH #1: STRETCHING BEFORE LIFTING WILL HELP AVOID INJURY. WRONG! The opposite is actually true. Many people confuse “stretching” with “warming up”. Even The Center For Disease Control has come out against stretching before your workout.
SOLUTION: The best way to warm up is to take that term literally. Elevating your body temperature “warms up” the muscles, which is your best defense against injury. So, just jump on a piece of cardio equipment for 5-10 minutes. Any more than that will zap some of the energy you’ll need for lifting. Drinking lots of water is also valuable for avoiding not only harm to the muscles but dehydration as well. Remember, our muscles are composed of 70% water! And people, be mindful of those around you. I know there’s a hot guy lifting RIGHT NEXT TO YOU, but most gym injuries don’t occur when you actually perform the exercise, they happen when you pick up, or put away the weights! And let me go off a bit here. Think about what happens when you stretch? I’ll admit, it feels good. And good flexibility is important for proper form. However, when you stretch, you release elasticin, making the muscle more “elastic”. But if you understand weight training, it’s all about tearing the muscle fibers, so that our body repairs them thicker and larger. If we make the muscles more elastic, we’ll limit the tearing, and, well ,we WANT to tear them, in the proper way, of course. So stretch at THE END of your workout, not the beginning!
WORKOUT MYTH #2: LIFTING HEAVIER WEIGHTS IS THE ONLY WAY TO BUILD MORE MUSCLE. WRONG! Strength gains are finite and you WILL plateau if your plan is to keep lifting heavier and heavier weights. Chances are you will also begin to injure yourself. If you continue to lift in the same manner, your muscles become so adept at performing the movement that less and less muscle fiber will be needed to fire to move the weight.
SOLUTION: Doing things like getting more lifting done in a shorter period of time, changing your lifting tempos, varying your repetitions, altering the angles, grips and planes of motion will all shock your muscles into new growth.
WORKOUT MYTH #3: LIFT HEAVY/LOW REPS IF YOU WANT MASS, LIGHT/HIGH REPS IF YOU WANT TO TONE/DEFINE YOUR MUSCLES: WRONG! If only it were that simple!!! Maximal hypertrophy (muscle size) is achieved through a wide variety of lifting styles and amounts. Heavy weights DO assist in building mass, but so do medium AND light weights (gasp!) You cannot rely on a one-dimensional approach. And as for definition/toning, that is more a result of achieving a body fat percentage of around 10%.
SOLUTION: A sound nutritional regimen mixed with a fast metabolism and intelligent supplementation combined with a varied training program will achieve your goals, whatever they are. REMEMBER that the more muscle you put on, the faster your metabolism becomes, as muscle burns more calories than fat.
WORKOUT MYTH #4: MACHINES ARE SAFER THAN FREE WEIGHTS. WRONG! In fact, you are more likely to injure yourself on a machine. The restrictive movements of machine exercising can actually put the user at greater risk. Machines are fixed and rigid and therefore limit the natural movements of the lifter. They cannot accommodate a person’s individual limb length, which causes more stress on the joints. When you use free weights, your body naturally makes adjustments throughout the exercise’s range of motion in reaction to your strength level, speed of movement and personal lifting proficiencies.
SOLUTION: Scared of free weights? Proper form is imperative. It has to be taught by an expert. Hire a trainer!
WORKOUT MYTH #5: NEVER LET YOUR KNEES GO OVER YOUR TOES WHEN DOING SQUATS OR LUNGES. WRONG! Oh for heaven’s sake, can we let this one go finally? I STILL hear this almost daily at the gym. Where your knees end up on any lift is highly dependent on many factors, including how tall you are. Short guys (like me!) can easily do this, but tall guys find that their knees drift forward. All this does is put more strain on your hips and low back. This practice no doubt originated from the desire to work the gluteus more than the quads, which is what happens when the knees don’t fall over the toes. But, honestly, at what price? And both areas are still firing and doing the heavy lifting, so get over it! Besides, is there something wrong with a quad-centric squat?
WORKOUT MYTH #6: USE A WORKOUT BELT ON HEAVY LEG WORKOUT DAYS. WRONG! OK, this one makes my blood boil! If you use a weight belt when lifting, you are de-conditioning your midsection. You are teaching your body to get used to having that aid, and very quickly you will find that you’re unable to lift heavy weights without it. Forgoing the belt will force your abs to work harder (versus not at all!) which will build a more muscular midsection.
SOLUTION: I really have to say this?? IF YOU CAN’T LIFT HEAVY WITHOUT A WEIGHT BELT BECAUSE IT WILL FUCK UP YOUR BACK THEN YOU SHOULDN’T BE DOING THE EXERCISE!!! There now, I feel much better, don’t you? Phew! The actual solution to doing great squats with a lousy back is finding exercises that don’t weight the shoulders which compresses the spine. Have a trainer show you some, after you get clearance from your doctor, of course. I like having my clients do kettle bell squats while supporting their back against the closest wall.
WORKOUT MYTH #7: WEIGHT TRAINING WILL BUILD MUSCLE BUT NOT HELP ME LOSE WEIGHT. WRONG! That’s a big screaming lie and I won’t stand for it anymore!!! Weight training builds muscle. The more muscle you pack on, the faster your metabolism becomes. It becomes a more efficient fat burner. Period. End of story. And guess what happens when you try to lose weight through dieting alone? It lowers your metabolism. The human body is a very adaptable machine. It will do every thing in it’s power to hold onto fat. That is our emergency reserves that developed through evolution. We store and we adapt. And well, sorry, but its time for another hissy fit: WEIGHT LOSS IS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE, although some weight loss products would like us to think so. If you consume more calories then you burn… you will GAIN WEIGHT. Big surprise, huh? As I tell my clients, I only have you for ONE HOUR a day at best. The other 23 are up to you. If your eating habits conflict with your training program, then we won’t see the results we are going for. I need a T-shirt that reads “I’m a Personal Trainer, not a Magician!” Oh, and one final thing: Ever heard of a little thing called PORTION CONTROL?? It works. Really.
WORKOUT MYTH #8: WOMEN NEED TO LIFT LIGHT WEIGHTS AND HEAVY REPS TO TONE AND AVOID BULKING UP. WRONG! Um, girlfriend, we need to talk. Your body cannot “bulk up” and look manly. That takes many many years of steroid use. You won’t wake up tomorrow looking like Lou Ferrigno’s twin sister. The female body does not naturally have that capability. The truth is, you (Yes, I’m talking to the girls here now) still have to lift some damn heavy weights to tone and firm your body. In doing so, you’ll increase bone density, increase the rate that your body burns calories, and help prevent diseases like cancer. So, please, girl, put down those silly 5 pound weights and start lifting like the strong, powerful woman you are!!! And while we’re on the subject, your weight is NOT the best indicator of your fitness level. Women often make this mistake. Your ratio of body fat is a far greater indicator of how fit you are. Ever heard the term “Skinny-Fat’? It’s real and it’s common. All you meth addicts out there know what I’m talking about. Great abs but barely an ounce of muscle anywhere on your body. That ain’t healthy babe, nor is it pretty. And, remember: Muscle weighs more than fat. So stop weighing yourself and start checking your body fat ratio instead. As I’m always telling my clients: Would you care if you weighed 186 pounds if you had 9 percent body fat? No! But I sure would care if I weighed 155 pounds but had 22% body fat!!
WORKOUT MYTH #9: WHEN YOU STOP WEIGHT TRAINING, YOUR MUSCLES TURN TO FAT. WRONG! Really? Who started this ridiculous myth? Muscle can’t turn into fat, just like fat can’t transform into muscle. Fat and muscle are two completely different types of tissue. When you stop weight training you will lose muscle, and your metabolism will slow down. But they are not one and the same.
SOLUTION: If you must go through extended periods out of the gym, you need to figure out ways to stay trim. Long walks, bodyweight exercises, and of course, cutting your calories!
WORKOUT MYTH #10: YOUR CARDIO MACHINE WILL TELL YOU HOW MANY CALORIES YOU’VE BURNED/PUT YOU INTO YOUR FAT BURNING ZONE. WRONG! Really? Where do I get one of these magical machines? Fairyland? Wouldn’t it be great if it were that easy? Our cardio equipment manufacturers sure would like us to think so. In order to properly count your calories, your cardio machine would need to know quite a lot about you, specifically things like how much body fat you’re carrying. A young male athlete at 18% body fat will burn far more calories than a more sedentary middle aged woman with 35% body fat. But they could potentially weigh exactly the same, couldn’t they? And please, don’t get me started on the whole fat burning zone business. There is no such magical thing. Again, somewhere in fairyland I suppose. But, alas, not in your local fairy gym.
Working with a personal trainer means you’re serious about your fitness regimen and serious about reaching your goals. The best feeling in the world is reaching those goals. Dave Kendrick can help push your limits, safely, and effectively. Benefit from his years of research and experience. Visit him online at bigmuscletrainer.com.