There are a number of myths and misconceptions when it comes to fitness. Here are some of the ones I hear the most, and why they are simply not true.
- You can spot reduce fat
You absolutely cannot spot reduce fat. If you have extra fat in your abdomen, you will not lose that fat by doing a million crunches. People lose fat from adipose deposit areas in the reverse order that they accumulated that fat. Adipose deposit areas are largely genetically determined. Many women first gain fat in their hips and thighs, while many men gain fat first in their abdominal region. So wherever your body gains fat first as you gain weight, that is the last place you are going to lose it from. The only way to lose that stubborn fat from your abs and thighs is to lower your overall body fat percentage.
- Women who lift weights will get bulky
I think I hear this one the most lately and it just makes me laugh. A very small percentage of women actually possess the genetic potential to experience significant hypertrophy or “bulk-up”. This is because women typically have less muscle tissue and lower levels of anabolic hormones than males. If gaining large muscle was so easy, everyone would be walking around really jacked, and as we know, they are not. Building muscle is very hard work. Even if a woman did want to bulk up, its extremely difficult. So you are certainly not going to accidentally get bulky simply by adding resistance training into your fitness routine. Lifting weights is actually extremely important for women, and everyone to do, but we’ll save that argument for another article.
- You should use light weights and high reps to improve muscle tone and heavy weights and low reps to increase muscle mass
Many women tend to stick to light weights with high reps for fear of bulking up. And many men, with the intention to build muscle mass tend to lean towards heavy weights and lower reps. Again, genetic factors play a large role in an individual’s responses to resistance training. With that being said, research shows that resistance training with lighter weights and higher reps or heavier weights and lower reps produce similar muscular responses, as long as the exercise set fatigues the targeted muscles within the limits of the anaerobic energy system (less than 90 seconds). Bottom line, is it is important to use enough weight to produce a reasonable degree of muscle fatigue within that 90 seconds. Training at 5 reps in 30 seconds, 10 reps in 60 seconds, or 15 reps in 90 seconds all have the same effects on muscular endurance, strength and size, as long as you’re going to fatigue. However, training with extremely light weights where you are able to performs repetitions for 2 minutes, has very little benefit as it exceeds the limits of the anaerobic energy system
- You’re too young/old to lift weights
This one is something I actually too believed until recently, at least the “too young to lift” part. Many people believe that preadolescents are too young to strength train and in doing so many cause some kind of damage to their bones, muscles, or growth. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Numerous studies have shown that children can significantly increase their muscular strength and physical abilities through progressive resistance training. Strength training is actually the most effective way for young people to build bone density. Youth who perform regular strength training may experience numerous health benefits including improved cardiovascular risk profile, better body composition, weight control, stronger bones, more proficient motor-skills, reduced injury risk, and positive psychosocial outcomes. Resistance exercise actually works about equally well for people of all ages. Older muscles are very responsive to progressive resistance exercise, as evidenced by the nearly 90 year old nursing home residents who added 4lbs of muscle in just 14 weeks of basic and brief strength training (Westcott, 2009a).
- Free weights are always better than machines
Both free weights and machines provide resistance training that involves dynamic muscle actions and fatigue the prime mover muscle groups and stimulate strength development. Machines have relatively controlled movement patterns while free weights may be moved without restraint and require more balance and stabilization. Machines can help to isolate specific muscle groups more easily than free weights. Also machines can sometimes be a safer choice especially when trying to push your limits and use heavier weight in a more controlled environment. You can’t get trapped under a barbell or injured by a dropped plate when using a machine. However free weights are more cost effective especially is your don’t have a gym membership. Machines and free weights have different advantages and should ideally both be incorporated into your strength training however, its mostly a matter of personal preference which you use.
- After you stop lifting, muscles turns to fat
Let me start by saying, this is physiologically impossible. Muscle and fat are each unique tissues and cannot transform into the other. Often when you are training, you gain muscle and reduce fat and then once the program is discontinued for a significant period of time, muscle mass will decrease and fat will increase due to lower energy expenditures. The way to avoid this is simple. Make weight lifting a lifestyle. Make a commitment to your health and fitness and incorporate strength training in your workout routine.
I hope this was helpful in busting a few of the myths you may have heard in regards to fitness and weight lifting. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments below.
Resources: American Council on Exercise