For every two fitness truths, there’s a lie, and sometimes it’s hard to determine which is which. (Especially when it’s something many of us have just assumed for as long as we can remember.) Letting go of these 10 fitness misconceptions will help you get better, faster, stronger, and more powerful. Flex on friend, flex on.
MYTH #1: STRENGTH TRAINING MAKES YOU BULKY
FASLE: It’s pretty hard for women to bulk up from a normal strength-training routine because they don’t have as much testosterone as men (the difference in this hormone level makes men more prone to bulking up). In fact, if weight loss is your goal, strength training can actually help you lean out, but you have to keep your nutrition in check, too. Muscle is metabolically active, simply maintaining lean muscle mass requires higher energy. So, the more lean muscle you have, the more calories your body will burn at rest. #Science.
MYTH #2: YOU CAN SPOT REDUCE BODY FAT
FALSE: Spot-training fat loss is not a thing. Fat cells are distributed across your entire body. If you want to lose fat from a specific spot, you need to lose overall body fat. High-intensity interval training can work wonders—after an intense workout, your body needs to take in oxygen at a higher rate to help it return to its natural resting state. This process requires the body to work harder, burning more calories in the process. Incorporating strength training can help you hit your goals too, since having more lean muscle will help your body burn more calories at rest.
MYTH #3: STEADY STATE CARDIO IS BEST FOR FAT LOSS
FALSE: If your goal is fat loss, logging endless miles on the treadmill, elliptical, or bike isn’t always the best approach. Yes, traditional cardio workouts will help create a day-to-day calorie deficit (in addition to a healthy diet), which is essential for losing fat. But in the long-term, since having more lean muscle mass helps your body burn more calories at rest, you’ll be adding to this deficit without doing a thing. A combination of both high-intensity cardio and strength training is a good idea. And don’t forget, when it comes to fat loss, having a your nutrition dialed in is key.
MYTH #4: NOT FEELING SORE MEANS YOU DIDN’T GET A GOOD WORKOUT
FASLE: While soreness and workout intensity are sometimes connected, how tired your muscles feel isn’t always a good indicator of a solid sweat session. Being sore doesn’t necessarily mean it was a great workout—it just means that a significant amount of stress was applied to the tissue. You can have a great workout and not be sore the next day. Proper recovery will help prevent achy muscles. Refuel within the first 30 to 45 minutes post-exercise, stay hydrated, practice SMR (self myofacial release, aka foam rolling) and get enough sleep—all of these things can help boost recovery and minimize soreness.
MYTH #5: YOU SHOULD GIVE 100 PERCENT EFFORT DURING EVERY WORKOUT
FALSE: Sort of. You should try your best to stay focused, be present, and give 100 percent during every workout. But not every gym session should require a balls-to-the-wall level of intensity. And if you are sore everyday, that may be a sign that you’re going too hard. It’s not a good idea to exercise at too high of an intensity too frequently—it limits recovery and can lead to over-training. Ideally, to avoid putting too much stress on your body, you should only be going extra hard two to three times per week, this will ensure adequate recovery.
MYTH #6: STRENGTH TRAINING MEANS USING MACHINES AND HEAVY WEIGHTS
FALSE: Strength training means using resistance to work your muscles—and that resistance doesn’t necessarily have to come from a machine or a heavy weight. (Hello, killer body-weight exercises!) Aside from your own body-weight, you can also use tools like medicine balls, resistance bands, a backpack with can goods, even your pet or child, to add resistance.
MYTH #7: SWEATING A TON MEANS YOU WORKED YOUR ASS OFF
FALSE: You sweat because your core temperature increases. Yes, your muscles create heat when you exercise so a tough workout will increase your internal temp, but it also has to do with the temperature you’re working out in. For example, you’re not going to sweat as much in 4-degree Celsius weather as you would in 35-degree Celsius weather.
The humidity in the air also plays a role. It’s not sweating that cools you off, it’s the evaporation [of sweat]. You’ll feel like you’re sweating more when it’s humid because sweat can’t evaporate. (This is also a reason to be careful exercising in hot, humid climates, because your body temperature will keep increasing.)
MYTH #8: CRUNCHES ARE A GREAT EXERCISE FOR YOUR ABS
FASLE: Meh. Crunches probably aren’t going to hurt your core strength, but they’re not the most efficient exercise you can do to strengthen your midsection. Your ab muscles are designed to work most effectively when you’re standing upright. Of course, there are plenty of great abs exercises that aren’t completely upright (for example, planks).
MYTH #9: YOU NEED TO STRETCH BEFORE A WORKOUT
FALSE: While it’s true that you shouldn’t just jump right into a workout, dynamic warm-ups are where it’s at—you can save those static stretches for afterwards. Your pre-workout goal should be to improve mobility and elasticity in the muscles. This is best done with foam rolling and a dynamic warm-up, where you keep your body moving (instead of holding stretches still). This preps your body for work and helps increase your range of motion, which means you can get deeper into exercises (and strengthen more of those ~muscles~).
MYTH #10: IF YOU STOP WORKING OUT YOUR MUSCLE TURNS TO FAT
FALSE: Definitely not true! Muscle tissue and fat tissue are two totally separate systems in the body. Meaning one can not turn into the other. That being said if you do stop working out for a while your muscles can go into atrophy and start to break down. The muscle loss from atrophy will in turn lower your metabolic rate, and if you are still consuming the same amount of calories as you were with the higher amount of muscle mass. Well there you have it, Fat gain!