7 Exercise Myths
Disclaimer: This site is not offering medical advice. Do not change your exercise or diet without consulting with your doctor.
1. Women shouldn’t lift heavy
This is one of the most frustrating myths out there. Not only does this myth hinder many women’s weight loss progress, it also means that they lose out on the health benefits of gaining bone mass and strengthening tendons.
To start off with, women just aren’t designed to be that bulky. The fear of having “man arms” or “looking like a guy” is physically impossible for the average woman. This is because testosterone is the primary hormone need for muscle growth. Since a woman has 15 to 20 times less testosterone than men, the fear of bulking up just isn’t realistic. On top of that, men have a higher concentration of Type 2 muscle fibers than women. These Type 2 muscles fibers are much larger than Type 1 muscle fibers. So, woman just aren’t made to be bulky like men.
Now, on to why you should lift heavy! When you lift heavy, you burn more fat than when you do high reps of a light weight. Your body wants to hold onto that fat that it’s stored. To force it to break down that fat, you have to push your body past what it is comfortable. The only way to burn any significant fat with high reps and light weight is to workout for hours, but who really has time for that? On top of that, people who lift moderate to heave weights have been shown to have lower blood pressure, less cardiovascular risk, and have stronger bodies.
That isn’t to say that you want to lift such heavy weights that you injure yourself. If you can’t keep good form with a 8-12 set rep, then you need to drop weight. If you can easily lift more than 12, then the weight isn’t high enough. The important part of any exercise is to push your body to a challenging point so that it can change.
2. Spot Training Determines Where Your Lose Fat
This is another weight lifting myth that is usually directed at women. Just pull up Pinterest and see how many workout routines claim to help you burn fat off your stomach or promise to tone your legs!
The problem is that you can’t tell your body where to lose fat. Doing a lot of ab exercises, doesn’t mean you are losing fat off your abs; it means you are gaining stronger ab muscles. If you want to lose the midsection, then you will have to continue to lose fat until your body gets rid of the fat there. Unfortunately, everyone is different on where they lose fat first.
The other problem with this idea is the idea that you can “tone” muscles. Muscle either get larger or smaller. They don’t get tighter or “toner”. People that you see that are “toned” just have a lower body fat percentage and higher muscle mass.
3. Static Stretches are Good Warmups
If you’ve ever been in sports, then you probably remember the first 10 minutes or so going through a series of stretches under the guise that if you didn’t stretch you’d pull a muscle.
Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of science behind this. If you’re doing static stretching like bending over and touching your toes, then you’re not lowering your risk of injury. These stretches don’t warm your body up or engage your muscles in a range of motion. In fact, a study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that static stretches that last longer than a minute could be detrimental to performance.
Saying that, dynamic stretches and light warmups have shown to be helpful to activity performance and decreases your injury risk. One study from the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research found athletes who practiced dynamic stretching had more range of motion than when they only did static stretches before practice. This is because dynamic stretching preps your body for work and increases range of motion and elasticity.
4. You Should Drink a Sports Drink After Exercising
“Replenish your electrolytes!” “Stay hydrated longer!” “Gives you energy!” These are all great marketing phrases and ideas associated with sports drinks, and they’ve worked. In 2014, there were 20.68 billion liters of sports drinks sold worldwide.
The problem is that most sports drinks are about the equivalent of drinking a can of soda. They’re high in sugar, calories, additives, and sodium. Overall, there isn’t any reason for the average person or most athletes to drink sports drinks.
There are times when sports drinks can improve performance, but these are high-intensity exercises that last longer than an hour (marathons and triathlons). See, sports drinks were designed to give athletes a boost of sugar and electrolytes to refuel the body during very high intensity sports where they wouldn’t have a chance to refuel.
5. Treadmill running puts less stress on the knees
For some, running is the fresh air hitting your face and feeling the ground beneath your feet as you get to escape the craziness of work for a while. For others, it is pushing your speed up and the music in your ears to drown out the gym and the people around you.
Whether your preference is the treadmill or trails, you have probably had the argument on which is better for your joints and knees. People that enjoy running outside will tell you about how it is natural for the human body to run and the body will naturally adjust so that you absorb the shock of the strides. Those that prefer treadmills will remind you how concrete and asphalt doesn’t absorb the impact of your stride like treadmills, which have padding beneath the belt that softens the blow. But who is correct?
The truth is that there is a risk to joint and knee pain with either option.
Even though treadmills are designed to absorb more of your impact, not all treadmills are designed equally. Cheaper versions (usually purchased for home use) rarely have enough padding to absorb enough of the impact to make a difference and a lot of gym treadmills don’t have their belts or padding changed often enough. On top of that, most people tend to bounce more on treadmills and ends up increases the impact on the heel and knees.
The problem with running outside is that there is no shock absorption on concrete and asphalt, which over time can cause arthritis or pain in the knee and joints. Another problem with trail running is that the ground is rarely even and can cause extra stress on the foot strike.
The real truth is that if you have bad knees, you should probably consider an exercise or machine that has low impact such as an elliptical, rowing machines, or bikes. If you’re set on running, make sure that you have good shoes with a cushioned insole and make sure to stop when you feel pain in your knees.
6. BMI is a Good Indication if You Need to Lose Weight
Body Mass Index, better known as BMI, has been around for over a hundred years and has been used by doctors and trainers to determine if a person is overweight. The problem with these numbers is that they are calculated using a ratio of your height to weight and doesn’t measure the amount of fat vs muscle on your body.
Weight doesn’t determine your health or even if you are overweight. There are many athletes that are considered overweight or obese according to BMI charts but are lean and have a body fat percentage well under twenty percent.
A lot of problems with BMI is that it doesn’t take into account that muscle weight more than fat. Two men who are each six feet tall and weigh 215 lbs will have the same BMI, but the one with 10% body fat is a lot healthier than the one with 25% body fat.
If you really want to know if your weight is good, find out your body fat percentage.
7. The Calories Measured by Cardio Machines are Accurate
As you pump your arms and move you legs on the elliptical, you are awarded with the climbing amount of calories you are burning. Unfortunately, those calories counters usually overestimate a person’s expenditure and are rarely accurate. In fact, one study found that the elliptical machine overestimates the amount of calories burned by 42%.
To truly figure out how many calories you burn doing something, the machine would have to take into account more than just your height and weight to give an accurate calculation. The calories you burn is also based on your age, gender, body fat percentage, heart rate, and BMR.
According to Mark MacDonald - personal trainer and author of “Body Confidence” - the numbers that cardio machines tell you “doesn’t mean anything” since it’s not taking into account your body composition.
A better way to monitor your expenditure is with a heart rate monitor so that you can see when you are starting to slack and when you are in optimal fat burning range.