Debunking 8 Common Fitness Myths

Aaron Runner, November 7, 2016

Ever watched a fitness infomercial and felt a renewed motivation to improve yourself? We all have. It’s the emotional goal of the sales process to make you think you need something. The problem is that the people feeding you the fitness products on these programs don’t care whether you actually get better or not. They’re just there to make a sale and because the information is on TV, it is accepted as true. Like these infomercials, there are a lot of common myths out there that are too good to be true. As we all know deep down, if something seems to good to be true… it probably is.

  1. MUSCLE CONFUSION.
    This concept has been around since the 70’s but has only garnered widespread recognition in the last 15 years or so. It is based on the theory that changing your workouts by type, duration, intensity, and frequency at random will keep the body guessing and in a constant state of adaptation in a futile effort to keep up. This is true for beginners and people who exercise very infrequently… although even seasoned veterans will feel some effect initially. However, once you move out of the beginning learning period (neurological adaptation), you need to be able to progress in difficulty or risk your body catching up. With these kinds of programs, there is no way to keep track of load or progression because it is, by definition, random and confusing. There comes a point where you’re not prioritizing or specializing at anything… so you’re getting better at nothing.What to do instead: Find your focus. Decide what YOU want to get better at and gear each workout toward that goal.
  2. YOU CAN LOSE WEIGHT BY DIETING WITHOUT EXERCISE.
    There are plenty of commercials in radio, TV, print, etc that offer you all the weight-loss benefits of traditional programs without all of that cumbersome exercise. You’re being sold a bill of goods. First off, a strict fad diet is notoriously tough to stick with if it’s even safe to undertake in the first place. Second, if you’re not exercising, you’re losing weight inefficiently. Nobody wants to hear it but a good diet and a focused training program go hand-in-hand. Increases in muscle mass and strength lead to a higher rate of metabolism, even when at rest. A well-trained cardiovascular system aids in recovery between and during workouts so you can continue to burn calories.
  3. YOU DON’T NEED SOUND DIET IF YOU’RE TRAINING HARD.
    See above. If you’re not putting the right food in your body, you’re working as inefficiently as the people who follow #2. You can work and work and work and wonder why you’re still carrying weight around your mid-section. Without the proper fuel, you can’t train at a high intensity for a long enough time to spur sustained fat loss. Diet and exercise are partners that do not split up no matter what people might have you believe.What to do instead: Only combining diet and exercise will yield the best results. There is no magic pill. Try to progressively train a little harder each week and eat healthy!
  4. KIDS CAN’T LIFT WEIGHTS.
    I have more than a few problems with this one as well as the rest of the “common knowledge” about when kids should start lifting weights. First, Where are these 200lb freshman running backs coming from? Some people don’t stop growing officially until their early 20’s and there is no way that these kids got that big because they’re genetic freaks. These guys got on a program early and are reaping the rewards with scholarships and possible future NFL deals. Second, research has shown over and over again that children as young as 7 can begin resistance training if they are mature enough to listen to professional instruction. As long as it’s done properly, the growth plates won’t close prematurely. Third, this thinking has translated into youth fitness classes based solely on movement, balance, and coordination. While these are great traits in their own right, a sprinter that has good control over his/her body but lacks the ability to produce force and power is still a slow sprinter. It takes a long time to develop muscle mass suitable for elite athletics.What to do instead: Start early and get out in front of it.
  5. OLYMPIC LIFTING IS FOR EVERYONE.
    Let’s walk this one back for a second. Everyone can benefit from Olympic-stye lifting such as the snatch and clean, but that doesn’t mean everyone should do it. These are highly complex movements involving multiple joints and muscle groups synchronizing at high speeds to produce incredible amounts of power, and requiring technical acumen that can take years to master. Despite this, many gyms and coaches are overprescribing reps and sets of these lifts. It isn’t uncommon to see people doing 30 snatches immediately after doing 50 box jumps. The nervous system needs to be fresh when performing these lifts and working in a fatigued state does nothing good for your technique. The long term damage of snatching and cleaning improperly comes in the form of compressed discs, pinched nerves, as well as a laundry list of shoulder problems. If you’re interested in learning these lifts, do yourself a favor and find a coach qualified to teach them, not someone with a weekend certification. Your body will thank you in the long run.
  6. SIT-UPS HELP YOU BURN FAT AROUND THE MID-SECTION.
    It has also been said to do tricep kickbacks to lose the hammocks under your arm. This is a concept called local fat burning… and it’s made up. Your body pulls from fat stores all over your body seemingly indiscriminately to supply fuel for training and exercise. While blood flow moves toward the local muscles that are initiating whatever movement you’re performing, that shouldn’t be mistaken for the source.What to do instead: Instead of focusing on one part of your body, focus on all of it. The bigger the muscle group used, the more calories are burned to send you quicker toward your goal.
  7. IF I LIFT WEIGHTS, I’LL GET TOO BULKY.
    This is something I hear mostly from women and athletes who are in more specialized sports. Their concern is that they’ll look like MR. or Mrs. Universe once they’ve completed their program. Getting big is mostly about 2 things, your training volume and your genetics. Women simply do not secrete enough testosterone to initiate massive muscle growth without “assistance.” Even men have a difficult time with it. Bodybuilders use very specific set and reps schemes to train with a very high volume per muscle group per session. Sometimes this comes in the form of light weight. The truth is that lifting weights at lower volumes increases bone mineral density, teaches you to recruit the muscle you already have, and improves joint health… all within the learning phase. The initial spike in the weight you can squat is mostly neurological. You’ve only managed to find your current potential. It takes years of proper hypertrophy training and diet management to look like the guys on stage. The greatest majority of recreational lifters are not at risk.What to do instead: Nothing! Lift away. Many early gains are found only in number. If you start to notice muscle growth within the first several months, it’s more likely you’ve shed some unwanted fat and are just noticing the muscle you already had underneath. Keep up the good work.
  8. VIRTUALLY EVERY FITNESS INFOMERCIAL OUT THERE.
    That’s as much as I can narrow it down. These commercials promise huge gains with little to no time commitment from you. These promises come in the form of a pill or piece of equipment and sold to you by fitness models who found success through modes of exercise they’re not even selling. The Shakeweight, 7-Minute Abs, P90-X, and various commercial products have all flourished off the dollar of the uninformed consumer. We all want as much reward for as little effort as possible. That’s just being efficient. There’s some things in life that don’t have an appealing shortcut and health is one of them.What to do instead: Anything. There many affordable instruction options popping up every day. Bootcamps and group fitness classes are making quality training more affordable. Are there some dud coaches? Sure but not every doctor is an ace either and frankly, it’s going to be better than the Shakeweight.
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