Top 5 Exercise Myths and Misconceptions
As a personal trainer, I have heard countless myths and misconceptions about exercise. A majority of these come from beginners who, as Marvin Gaye would say, “heard it through the grapevine” that exercise….
Some of the myths I have had the pleasure of hearing are harmless fallacies, but some of them can cause great physical harm if believed and followed. My goal is to help clear the air and rid the belief and spread of these myths.
#1 – I don’t want my kid to weight train/lift weights, because it will stunt his/her growth
I have heard this myth multiple times from both kids and adults. There is some truth, but also misinformation with this myth. First off it is essential to understand the type of strength training the athlete will be doing. Are they performing moderate or vigorous intense exercises? Are they using just their bodyweight or do they perform strength training with external weights such as dumbbells and barbells? How often are they strength training? The answers to this question do make a difference.
Truth – Again, there is some truth to this myth. It depends on the type of activity and intensity of the activity being performed. Some research has shown that large amounts of activities such as gymnastics and long distance running at young ages can effect adolescent growth. Moderate amounts of physical activity and weight training performed at a moderate intensity can actually improve the growth process of adolescents. In conclusion, a well-designed exercise plan can greatly benefit youth. Don’t be afraid to have your kids begin an exercise program!
#2 – I heard that lifting weights will get me bulky like a guy
I’m not sure how this myth began and spread like wildfire, but I wish it never did. Let’s clear the air. For the majority….Women CANNOT get “bulky” like a man can. When it comes to gaining muscle mass, testosterone and other hormones like it are key! Men have 20-30 times more testosterone than women. As always there are some outliers – some women do have the ability to get an increase in muscle mass, but in order to do that one must perform a strict, high intensity training program and have an abnormal hormone balance. Most women do not perform such a program to get the muscle mass a man can.
Truth – Strength training builds muscle, which in turn will help you lose weight. The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism! This is one reason as to why men typically lose weight faster than women.
#3 – I heard that stretching before a sporting event will reduce my risk of injury
WRONG! This goes out, especially, to coaches who continue to do static stretching before practices and games with their athletes. STOP! For those who do not know what static stretching is, it is a stretching technique in which the person holds a stretch for an extended time (usually 20-30 seconds) in order to “lengthen” the muscle and “warm up”. Static stretching has not been proven to reduce the risk of injury before sport. Static strength has, however, been shown to decrease athletic performance. This is especially seen in sports such as track and football where athletes must move explosively. The muscle simply does not have the ability to create the same amount of power after being stretched. Instead of having your athletes perform static stretching, have them go through an extensive dynamic warm-up!
Truth – Static stretching does have a purpose! Static stretching is good stretching technique to use AFTER a workout/sporting event.
#4 Stubborn Belly Fat!!
Number four is not a myth, but a huge misconception that I have heard numerous times! It all begins with a new client coming in for a fitness evaluation or their first personal training session.
Trainer – “What are your goals?” What would you like to accomplish from the training sessions you have?”
Client – “I want to get rid of this” as they grab their belly fat to show me what they are talking about. “I need/want a lot of core work to get rid of this tire around my waist.”
This theory is called “spot reduction” or “spot training”. Spot training is the idea that you can cause weight loss or muscle definition/tone in one area without affecting other parts of the body. INCORRECT! The muscle doesn’t care where it is pulling fat from for fuel. It does not pull it from its most immediate and closest source. Therefore, doing core work does not mean you are going to get rid of that “tire” around your waist.
Truth – While doing a lot of core/ab work will improve your strength in that area, it will not reduce fat solely in that area. The best way to get rid of that stubborn belly fat is by doing whatever exercises burn the most calories the fastest, which are generally aerobic activities such as running, cycling, and kickboxing. Continue to do your core work to gain strength, but if you are interested in getting a more toned stomach, it is essential to get rid of the fat covering that area which is done best by aerobic activity.
Ah! The infamous “No Pain, no gain” saying. This myth is starting to die down a little bit, but I do hear it every now and then. The idea that you should make your body and mind feel horrible during and after a workout is nonsense. Exercise and the aftereffects of exercise should feel discomforting, but it shouldn’t be EXTREMELY painful, especially for those just beginning an exercise program.
It is essential for you to know the difference between good pain/discomfort and bad pain. Exercise should be challenging but should not leave you bedridden for a week. It is normal for one to feel sore for a couple of days after a workout if they challenged themselves. It is not normal to be in PAIN for weeks after a workout.
Truth – Again, know the difference between discomfort and pain. Pain is bad! Discomfort and muscle soreness is normal and means you pushed yourself during that workout. If you are cautious about exercise because you do not want to feel pain, start off slow and work up the intensity and/or the duration as you begin to feel more comfortable.
If I were to give any advice to those beginning an exercise program for the first time, or have been exercising for a while, but do not know what they are doing or if what they are doing is right….Have a couple of sessions with an EDUCATED personal trainer who will teach you correct mechanics and give you a well-designed exercise program that is right for YOU!
If you have any questions, comments, or would like to sign up for a FREE one-on0-one training session to get you started send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.