While there are many great and useful bits of information out on the internet to help you achieve your health and fitness goals, there are just as many fitness myths being spread. To help prevent you from spinning your wheels and getting frustrated (or injured), I have some of the most common fitness myths listed below. Don't fall victim to these mistruths!
1. You Can Spot Reduce Body Fat Through Exercise
One of the most common fitness myths I'm sure you have heard is that you can spot reduce an area of your body if you train it hard enough and make it your focus. Unfortunately, this is untrue. Your body doesn't know where to burn fat nor where to distribute it. Your body simply pulls from your fat stores to convert fat into a usable source of energy and fuel.
Sure, training a particular body part CAN help you add lean muscle tissue, but by merely hitting your chest, abs, arms, or legs does not mean body fat will magically disappear from the area.
2. Cardio Is the Best Way to Lose Weight
Cardio is definitely a great tool to pull out of your fat loss tool chest, but it's not the "best" method. While cardio can help you lose weight, if it's the only method you utilize and fail to leverage the benefits of resistance training, you risk losing lean muscle mass and slowing down your metabolism. In fact, it could cause your body to break down your muscle to be used as energy. Not good!
The best thing for you to do is to combine cardio WITH resistance training so you can put yourself in the best position to effectively burn calories while allowing your muscles to boost your metabolism and increase your metabolic rate even while you sleep.
3. Women Will Get Bulky If They Train with Heavy Weights
If I had a penny for every time I heard this, I'd be rich. Ladies, this is probably one of the most commonly heard fitness myths out there in your circle of friends. I have good news for you – it's not true. Unless you have extremely high testosterone levels (which would be extremely rare and uncommon) or you're injecting testosterone, there is no way you will ever get big and bulky (naturally).
That being said, hitting the weights is a great way to burn fat, get lean, and create an impressive and toned physique that turns heads. Don't be afraid to venture into the weight room at the gym, it's not just for the guys.
4. No Pain, No Gain – Keep Pushing
This is one of the dumbest things I've ever heard and absolutely one of the fitness myths that I hear quite often. The fact of the matter is, you should feel discomfort from your workouts. Pain is an entirely different animal. Pain signifies something else is going on, and you could have injured yourself.
The lactic acid buildup in your muscles when you train with weights will cause your muscles to "ache" and even "burn" but will not cause severe pain. Know the difference so you can tell if the feeling is normal or if you pushed yourself too hard and damaged a joint or muscle.
5. Free Weights Are Better Than Machines
This is one of the fitness myths that I see go both ways. Some say free weights are better than machines and others want to claim machines are better than free weights. Who's right? Both are correct.
Both free weights and machines serve their purpose and can activate muscle fibers and effectively break them down. Free weights allow for accessory muscles to come into play while machines tend to be on a fixed plane and can do a great job of targeting the specific muscle you are trying to hit.
Which is safer? Both when done correctly. Many assume free weights put you in a more compromising position because you have more freedom of movement when completing a repetition. That is true, but when proper form is used, the risk is minimized. Then when you hop on a machine, due to the fixed plane, if your form is off, you can put your joints in a compromised position and injure them. No matter which method you prefer to use and implement into your resistance training routine, be safe, and maintain proper form when executing your sets.
6. You Should Exercise Daily
While this definitely needs to be on the list of fitness myths commonly abused, it's not entirely incorrect. If you were to exercise every day and hit the same muscle group day in and day out, that's a no-no. You need to leave at least 24-48 hours between your workouts to allow a muscle group to fully recover and allow the muscle fibers to grow back bigger and stronger. In some instances, you may need even longer than 48 hours, depending on if a muscle group is still sore.
This myth is only partially incorrect because you CAN exercise seven days a week if you wish, assuming you are hitting different muscle groups or alternating resistance training days and cardiovascular days.
7. When the Number on the Scale Increases, You're Putting on Body Fat
The last of our fitness myths on this list has to deal with the scale. Most people have a love/hate relationship with the scale. One day they love the number it reads, and the next they're contemplating throwing it out the window. The biggest misconception with the scale is that when the number on the scale goes up, it's body fat. Not true.
Many factors can cause the number on the scale to increase. It can be that you aren't weighing yourself at the same time of day, you put on lean muscle mass (a good thing), you weigh yourself with clothes on (that weigh more than your previous measurement), you are "backed up" and haven't eliminated waste in a while – the list goes on and on.
Don't get upset when you see the number on the scale increase. Recheck it another day and then reevaluate things. Or better yet, get your body fat tested instead to see if the weight increase is due to muscle or if it is actually body fat.
PS – Share this and spread the word, so others don't believe these fitness myths and wind up frustrated and ultimately give up on their goals.
By: Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN