Article of the Month
Exercise Myths: Separating Fitness Fact from Fiction
By Brad Schoenfeld, CSCS, CPT
As a personal trainer, I am constantly required to dispel myths in respect to various fitness "theories". A day does not go by when I am not involved with counseling a client on the realities of exercise. Many of these myths are recurring themes that clients will relate time and again. The following are some of the more common misconceptions that people have in respect to fitness, but there are many, many others. When it comes to training, one should heed the old adage to "believe nothing of what you hear and only half of what you see". Ultimately, your results depend on sifting through the myths and developing a sound training philosophy.
MYTH 1. You shouldn't perform resistance training until you get down to your ideal body weight. Many women feel that adding muscle to an overweight physique will make them look even fatter. They mistakenly try to diet their way to fat loss while avoiding weight training. The fact is, weight training helps to promote fat loss. Muscle mass increases your metabolic rate, which directly aids in the burning of fat as fuel. Studies have shown that for each pound of muscle added to your body, you burn an additional 30 to 50 calories a day at rest. Moreover, the calories burned are more apt to come from fat rather than glycogen stores. Thus, weight training is one of the most important activities that you can do to help to lose body fat, arguably even more important than cardiovascular exercise.
MYTH 2. Performing abdominal exercises will give you a flat stomach. Many women believe that if they perform exercises for their abdominals, they will get a flat stomach. Television "infomercials" for abdominal exercises further help to promulgate this myth. The fact is, the only way to get a flat stomach is to strip away the fat around the midsection. This is accomplished by having a proper nutritional regimen, increasing muscle mass to increase metabolism, and performing cardiovascular exercise to help burn calories. Abdominal training will help to build muscle in your midsection and is certainly beneficial to overall health and well being. However, you will never see the abdominal muscles unless the fat in this area is stripped away.
MYTH 3. You should train your abdominals every day for best results. This fallacy goes hand-in-hand with Myth 2. It is widely believed that the abdominals exercises can and should be trained on a daily basis to achieve maximum effect. The fact is, abdominals can be overtrained just like any other muscle group. Muscle tissue is actually broken down during training, and therefore needs adequate rest and recuperation in order to regenerate. When your abs are trained too frequently, the recovery process is shortchanged, resulting in diminished muscular development. Moreover, your abdominals are worked indirectly while training other muscle groups. They are stabilizers for virtually every movement you perform. Exercises such as triceps pressdowns, lat pulldowns, squats, etc., heavily employ abdominal assistance. In effect, you get an ab workout every time you train with weights! Considering these facts, you need only train your abs a maximum two or three times per week. If you do not see proper results, train more intensely and/or use weighted abdominal exercises. Don't forget, if you have excess bodyfat in this area, you will never see the muscle that you have worked so hard to build!
MYTH 4. You must train for hours on end to achieve a great physique. People look at bodybuilders and fitness competitors and believe that they attain their physiques by spending six hours a day in the gym. The fact is, it's not the quantity of training that matters, but the quality of training. Short, intense training sessions are the way to achieve a terrific body. If you train too much, you'll enter a state of overtraining and actually reduce the quality of your physique. Sixty to ninety minutes of intense training, three or four days per week, is all that's required to develop a great physique. Further, keeping a strict nutritional regimen is paramount to supplementing this training style. Without proper nutrition, no level of training will make you look great.
MYTH 5. Women should train with light weights so they won't bulk up. Many women feel the way to a great body is to lift very light weights that do not put a strain on the muscles. The fact is, the only way to achieve great muscle tone is to challenge your muscles. Your goal should be to choose a weight that causes you to struggle on the last few reps. If you're not struggling, you won't tax the muscle sufficiently to adequately stimulate results.
MYTH 6. If you stop training with weights, the muscle that you have will turn to fat. There is a prevailing sentiment that all the hard work that went into developing one's muscles will turn to fat if training is ceased. The fact is, muscle and fat are two separate and distinct properties. Muscle cannot turn to fat and fat cannot be converted into muscle. When a person stops weight training, their muscle will gradually atrophy (get smaller), ultimately returning to pre-exercise levels. Generally, the longer a person has been training, the longer it will take to lose muscle tissue. Unfortunately, many people don't adjust their caloric intake when they cease weight training. Since muscle increases metabolic rate and allows the body to burn more calories, weight training affords you with the ability to consume more calories. When training is discontinued, you must reassess your eating habits and take in fewer calories to account for a slower metabolism. If calories are not reduced, you will ultimately gain weight and give the illusion of having your muscle turn into fat.
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