Top 5 Fitness Myths / by James Leath

The perpetuation of bogus myths in the health and wellness industry are why I will always have a job as a personal trainer. The most notable (and laughable) is the idea that muscle weighs more than fat. You will notice it is not in my top 5 myths simply because the laws of the universe I live in. 5 pounds of muscle are equal to 5 pounds of fat. See? Next time someone says that, punch them in the face then defriend them on Facebook. Or, if that is too violent for you, politley explain to them that 5 pounds equals 5 pounds, regadless of what it is, and explain to the that muscle takes up less room than fat. (see featured image) So, other than the great weight debate of muscle vs. fat, here are some other myths I hear people repeat about fitness:

Myth 1: To avoid getting “bulky” I should only use light weights and do high reps.

Fact 1: It is actually not that easy to gain muscle mass. In order to gain girth that makes you look bulky you would need to eat a large amount of extra calories from your normal diet. If you train hard, even with heavy weights, and keep your calories in check there should be minimal gain. The “bulkiness” comes from thickening your muscles with the fat still on top of it. Once you get your nutrition in check and consistently work out your fat will start melting away and the muscle will be more defined. By using light weight with high repetitions you may increase your strength endurance a little bit, but you do very little for strength levels. If you want to get strong, without an increase in muscle size, shoot for 60-80% of you 1RM and shoot for 2-3 sets of 4-6 repetitions. Remember: the idea of “toning” or “being firm” has more to do with the kitchen than the gym.

Myth 2: I hike and cycle so my legs are getting plenty of work; I don’t need to do any strength training for them, just the abs and arms.

Fact 2: Hiking and cycling will not develop an appreciable amount of leg strength and can act to create muscle imbalances if no leg strength training is done. Also, the repetitious motion will lead to losses in flexibility if there is no flexibility plan in place. Adding exercises such as one-legged squats, step ups and downs, lunges, and squats will help you up and down the steeper parts of the terrain and will go far in protecting your hips and knees from the long-term wear and tear of long mileage and extra pack weight. Strength training will help you hike and run further.

Myth 3: Squats will hurt my knees.

Fact 3: This statement is incomplete. It should be followed with “when I improperly perform squats.” IF you can sit down in a chair and stand back up again without knee pain, you can safely include some form of squats in your strength routine. However, the leg press machine is a great place to start to practice the form of a squat and to build strength. When you d squat, be sure to keep your chest lifted, weight back in your heels, and center of gravity divided evenly over both feet, front/back and side to side. When in doubt, though, have a qualified trainer check your form.

Myth 4: You are getting fitter and stronger while you are training.

Fact 4: Yes and no. Actually, during training you are causing your muscles to temporarily weaken and fatigue. Rest and restore is an important component for you fitness goals. It is not until recovery time after intense training that your muscles must work hard to repair themselves from the damage you have inflicted on them with your exercise. Adequate nutrition, rest and time off from heavy training are all components vital to recovery so that your body is ready for the next round of training in another day or two.

Workout: growth stimulus. Rest and nutrition: growth.

Myth 5: You burn more fat when you exercise at a lower intensity for a longer period of time.

Fact 5: The confusion in this myth comes from the fact that we do, indeed, burn a higher percentage of fat at lower exercise intensity, BUT we burn more calories while exercising at a higher intensity. The post-exercise calorie burn that we get from both high intensity training and strength training does more to improve our overall body composition than any amount of slow and steady exercise. The best and most efficient way to burn fat is to carry out high intensity exercise combined with a healthy, nutritious diet. However, that said, it would be discouraging for the very unfit and heavy exerciser to jump right into a session of high intensity intervals training (HIIT) without a baseline of cardiovascular endurance at lower intensity, so the best model for conditioning is to build baseline first, to at least 30 minutes of sustainable exercise, before adding any higher intensity effort.