If you have ever had a sleepless night and found yourself staring like a zombie at the TV, then you have probably seen those really bad late-night infomercials touting various fitness gadgets that are guaranteed to shrink your waist, rip your abs and give you a Brazilian backside!
It seems every week there’s a new miracle berry found in the depths of a remote jungle that will heal what ails you! And there are bad fitness professionals and TV shows that misinform the public and set unrealistic expectations for the Average Joe. To top it off, there is no real regulation for the fitness industry.
So with all of this potentially bad information and gimmicky products, how does one know what is true?
I have been a personal trainer for over 10 years, and below are the most common misconceptions about exercise and fitness that I’ve encountered.
Ab exercises will get rid of body fat and give me a flat stomach.
Don’t believe those infomercials. Unfortunately, you cannot spot reduce body fat. In order to lose belly fat, you have to reduce overall body fat through regular exercise and good nutrition. Ab exercises can strengthen the abdominal muscles, but some can do more harm than good.
Muscles will turn into fat if I stop working out.
Muscle and fat are two very different tissues, and there is no possible way that one can be converted in to the other. You do lose muscle when you stop working out, which can lead to a slower metabolism and weight gain.
Women shouldn’t lift heavy weights because they’ll bulk up.
Generally speaking, women naturally lack the amount of testosterone necessary to build big, bulky muscles. Most women would benefit from lifting something heavier than those pink 5-pound dumbbells! Weight training improves body composition and helps maintain bone density as we age.
Muscle weighs more than fat.
A pound of muscle weighs the same amount as a pound of fat. Simply put: a pound is a pound. Muscle is more dense than fat, which means you can pack more muscle tissue into a smaller space than you can fat.
Compare two women:
- Woman no. 1 is 5’7″, weighs 150 pounds and has 20 percent body fat.
- Woman no. 2 is 5’7″, weighs 150 pounds and has 30 percent body fat.
Woman no. 1 will appear smaller and more fit than woman no. 2 because she had less body fat.
Exercising means I can eat whatever and however much I want.
You can’t out train a bad diet, and anyone who tells you different is not being truthful! Someone who exercises regularly, but takes in more calories than they expend will gain weight.
More exercise equals better results.
You have to make time for recovery. Overtraining will result in fatigue, which will decrease the effectiveness of your workouts. Overtraining also causes a decrease in muscle strength and size because you are not giving your body a chance to repair and rebuild after workouts.
You have to work out at a gym or use machines to get a good workout.
There are almost an unlimited number of body weight exercises to choose from. You can also invest in some inexpensive home or office equipment like resistance bands and a stability ball.
With some creative program design, you can get a great workout without the gym and machines.
Stretching before a workout will reduce my risk of injury.
Stretching muscles before a resistance training session can actually do more harm than good. When you pre-stretch muscles, they lose some of their ability to contract.
You can also create some instability in the muscles. It is better to start your workouts with foam rolling and a dynamic warm-up and save the static stretching for post-workout.
Running will make me fit.
In general, the human body is designed for walking great distances and for sprinting. Our ancestors migrated to follow food sources, and on occasion had to run very fast to escape from a hungry predator.
There are some body types that predispose someone to being a good distance runner. The rest of us can force our bodies to perform like this, but most of us will likely sustain injuries.
Squats are bad for knees.
Squatting is a basic, primal movement pattern. Our bodies are made for deep squatting. Just look at a toddler squat to pick up a toy or other cultures that “sit” in a deep squat position to rest, eat, etc.
The problem with our western, modern society is that we un-learn how to perform this basic movement. Our muscles are stiff, our glutes don’t work, and our posture is terrible. With some good mobility work and corrective exercise programming, most people can safely and effectively squat.
So put aside the gimmicks, “secrets” and tips and tricks from fitness “gurus” and stick to what’s best for your body.