You’ve all heard the odd fitness myth, right? Let’s be honest: plenty of us have fallen for them! And there’s no shame in admitting that, as they often sound pretty plausible. So, from pre-workout stretches to ab crunches, we’ve decided to debunk 20 popular examples. Your workout routines may never be the same again…
20. Exercise cancels out bad diets
Stop us if you’ve heard the claim that a new exercise regimen can immediately counteract a so-called “bad diet.” Sounds perfect, doesn’t it? You get to have your cake and eat it, too. Well, this long-held statement is actually a myth in the fitness world. Sorry to shatter the illusion!
Fitness expert Maik Wiedenbach told Forbes in 2012, “You can’t out-exercise a [bad] diet. Your eating has to be in check. About 80 percent of what you look like is based on diet.” Wiedenbach also noted that exercisers can miscalculate the number of calories they lose during a workout and inadvertently bloat the numbers.
19. Treadmills over pavements
Do you believe that jogging on a treadmill is the best way to avoid knee trouble in the future? If so, an exercise physiologist has some advice to share. John Ford told NBC News in 2018, “This is a myth and not a myth. In theory, a treadmill can provide more give than, say, running on [the] pavement.”
Ford continued, “However, science has shown a negligible difference in treadmill impact for knees versus, say, asphalt running. Additionally, while a treadmill might feel like less impact on your knees, the automated nature of the revolving belt has been shown to add additional stress on the Achilles tendon and other lower leg muscles, ligaments and tendons.”
18. Clearing lactic acid
Ah, the “burn” – that uncomfortable feeling you get in your muscles when you push an exercise to the limit. Now what’s that down to? If you said lactic acid, we’ve got some news for you – it isn’t! This chemical comes about when your body doesn’t have the right amount of oxygen to further metabolize carbs.
The burn feeling is actually down to the hydrogen ions that are set free in your body during exercise, according to the Furthermore website. So, you don’t need to clear lactic acid from your muscles via massages or stretches when you eventually stop. It should settle down by itself within an hour.
17. Toning your muscles
Wiedenbach has some sound advice for those among you who want to “tone” your body during a workout. He informed Forbes, “Your muscles are already toned or you wouldn’t be able to move around. They’re just not visible because of the layer of fat covering them.” Simply put, toning doesn’t exist.
In truth, muscles can only grow in size or get smaller over time – you can’t tone them. Then again, that’s not to say that people won’t be able to strengthen their bodies without getting bigger as a result. For instance, exercises with moderate weights can get the job done at the gym.
16. Post-workout protein shakes
Once you’ve completed your workout, you might believe that a protein shake is just what you need. After all, the contents will aid the broadening of your muscles, right? Well here’s the thing: you don’t have to take in nutrients in the immediate aftermath of exercise to get the best results. It’s actually a myth.
According to Oxygen magazine, there’s a good chance that protein from an earlier meal will already be in your system when you start working out. Fasting exercises are slightly different of course, but other than that, you really don’t need to rush for that shake at the end. The lunchtime sandwich should have you covered!
15. Post-workout soreness
Are you of the opinion that post-workout aches are a good thing? We can understand why – surely that soreness is a sign that your muscles have received the right amount of exercise to get bigger? In actual fact that’s a bit of a fallacy, and director of teacher training Vanessa Huffman from Club Pilates has explained why.
Huffman told the NBC News website, “Recent research shows that soreness is likely a result of having over-trained global muscles, which are the larger muscles in the body like the quadriceps and biceps. Global muscles are known for their ability to develop strength, in addition to being called upon when the adrenaline kicks in during a workout. [That ultimately results] in soreness.”
14. Exercising on an empty stomach
Are you looking to lose weight? Well, there’s a good chance that you’ve seen this advice online. Exercising without any food in your stomach sounds like an ideal way to maximize the workout, as your body will turn to its existing fat for fuel. That’s not a good thing, though. In fact, it’s surprisingly counterproductive.
Maik Wiedenbach went into a bit more detail during his chat with Forbes. He explained, “Working out on an empty stomach burns more muscle, which defeats the purpose of any fat-loss diet. I also believe that working out in a fasting state is suboptimal, since the lack of nutrients will not allow for peak performance.”
13. Heavy lifting makes you bigger
There’s no denying the fact that heavy weights have a bit of a reputation in the gym. If you start lifting them, your physique will eventually transform into that of a bodybuilder’s, right? Wrong! In truth, that type of training won’t have a massive effect on your appearance. According to Oxygen, the central nervous system is largely responsible for increasing your strength – not muscles.
But that’s not to say that heavy lifting doesn’t have any impact on your body. As it turns out, large weights can play a significant role in bettering your bone mass, core stability and muscle recruitment. So, it might be worth tackling them for that alone.
12. Cardio only burns calories
Cardio exercises can be extremely challenging, yet that doesn’t stop certain people from implementing them into their workouts. You see, there’s a belief that these drills will help an individual shed unwanted calories – and that’s it. But that really isn’t true, as we’re about to discover. Cardio actually does so much more.
Cardio aids the health of your heart and metabolism, as well as your brain. The latter receives extra blood during those workouts, which should have a positive impact on its function. Your mood and bone strength could improve, too. Simply put, it covers a lot of bases!
11. Different exercises for men and women
Men and women require different workouts at the gym, right? They can’t utilize the same regiments! It’s a suggestion that’s been around for a long time now, but it’s not actually true. Wiedenbach explained that our bodies have largely identical formations, and it’s hormones which are the key difference between the genders.
Due to that, our muscles aren’t exactly the same. Yet in Wiedenbach’s opinion, exercises shouldn’t differ for that reason alone. He also raised another intriguing point. The expert told Forbes, “Men tend to focus on abs, chest and arms, and women tend to focus on glutes and legs. They’re each forgetting one half of their bodies.”
10. Easing off workouts turns muscle to fat
There’s always a fear that your hard work in the gym can be undone by a few weeks away. The horror stories all say the same thing – your muscles will seemingly transform to fat when you ease off the workouts. It’s just a myth, though, according to certified exercise physiologist John Ford.
Ford told NBC News, “The confusion for people probably comes in that when they’re inactive, their muscle size and productivity decreases. This results in less of a demand for ‘fuel’ or energy from food consumption. When your body has excess fuel from unused food, its default is to convert it into long term storage – aka ‘fat.’”
9. High-intensity interval training
Of all the cardio exercises to implement into your workout regimen, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) might sound like the perfect choice. And these drills more than live up to their title. They push you to your limits in sharp bursts with short rests in-between. But this exercise should never be your only option.
It’s a fallacy to suggest that HIIT is the be-all and end-all of cardio drills, though. Sure, it’ll make you fitter, yet there are simpler exercises that can help your body too – like walking or staying on your feet. Don’t be afraid to mix the regimes up from high to low intensity, either. After all, you’ll be putting less strain on yourself!
8. Working up a sweat
As most of you will be able to attest, strenuous activity can lead to plenty of sweating. Perspiration should be a decent indicator of a good workout, right? Well, not quite. To explain why, the creator of Affirmative Fitness spoke to Self.com and noted how your surroundings play a role in generating sweat.
Tracy Hafen said, “You sweat because your core temperature increases. [But] you’re not going to sweat as much in 40-degree weather as you would in 80-degree weather. [And] 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.”
7. Bodypart training
Looking to build up one particular area of your physique on a certain day? Well, bodypart training is surely the best way to go wouldn’t you say? Why work on your legs or abs when your arms are the focus of attention? On paper it sounds ideal. But in practice, these separate workouts aren’t that great.
Oxygen notes that the human body gets its so-called functional strength from places like the shoulders, ankles and knees. If you’re choosing to focus on different appendages every day, though, the aforementioned areas don’t get the workout they need. So, there’s a good chance that you’re not making yourself stronger. Try grouping a few exercises together instead – it’ll be better!
6. Stick with what works
If something works, why would you alter a winning formula? Those words could be applied to several different aspects of our lives – including gym routines. Mind you, the odd change has the potential to be very beneficial when it comes to fitness. That’s because our bodies find a way to adjust to the exercises, according to Oxygen.
You might start to notice that your muscles aren’t progressing past a certain point. So, why is that? Simply put, your body’s sussed out the exercises and has adapted to the strains being put on it. To stop that from happening, you just need to alter the exercises every now and again. Indeed, a divergent set could make the world of difference!
5. Moderate weight reps
If you’re looking for tips on how to build up your muscles at the gym, you’re sure to have seen this piece of advice. Yes, budding fitness enthusiasts believe that moderate weight reps will get the job done. Specifically, between eight and 12 for every individual set. But that’s actually a myth, according to Oxygen magazine.
In fact, any kind of weight or rep routine has the potential to strengthen your muscles over time – even with the smaller dumbbells. The trick is to push yourself as you get acclimatized to the weights, which means you should eventually set your sights on heavier loads. This is apparently sometimes referred to as “progressive overload.”
4. Ab crunches
What would you say the best abdominal workout is? Crunches? They’re certainly the most recognizable, but do they actually make you stronger? Well, not really. As fitness expert Pete McCall told Self.com, “Your ab muscles are designed to work most effectively when you’re standing upright.” Okay, then what drills line up with that?
The “core stabilizer” is a simple example – all you need is a dumbbell. Just stand upright and grasp the weight ahead of your sternum. Then, turn your upper body from side to side. Repeat that ten times and it’s job done! But there are a few other exercises as well, so don’t be afraid to vary it up.
3. Cutting out sedentary behaviors doesn’t help fitness
We’re all guilty of becoming a little lazy at certain points in the year. Hey, it happens! And that behavior is somewhat enforced with the idea that our fitness won’t be boosted by culling it. For example, what difference will it make if we don’t sit in front of the TV for an entire afternoon?
As it turns out, your physical fitness can get better if you’re not sitting down all the time. Sure, the resulting motions might not seem like much, but it’s still exercise. And that means you could shed some excess pounds as well. So, just remember that when you next fancy a day of non-stop TV. Give those legs a stretch instead!
2. Yoga isn’t a workout
Are you of the opinion that yoga doesn’t count as a viable workout regimen? We can kind of see why. It seems to be a pretty serene practice when looking at it from a distance. Yet that’s a big misconception. To back that up, a certified strength and conditioning specialist spoke to Self.com.
Adam Rosante said, “People who write off yoga probably have an image of [it] as a series of gentle stretches. They clearly haven’t taken a tough yoga class. The first time I took one was at Jivamukti Yoga Center, and [it] was a radically humbling experience. It’s been one of the best additions to my routine – both for my body and mind.”
If a pre-workout stretch is one of your go-to routines, we’d advise you to potentially think again. Though why is that? Well, you could actually be setting yourself up for a bad injury! As Vanessa Huffman told NBC News, “Stretching has historically been prescribed for tight muscles as a way to get the body to relax.”
“But recently the fitness industry has discovered that stretching a ‘cold’ body could have negative impacts,” Huffman added. “Research has shown that when people are forcing their cool muscles to relax by overextending, it creates a surge of Glucocorticoids (stress hormones) that flood the body. [This] is the opposite reaction expected from people trying to relax a stiffened area.”