When it comes to achieving health and fitness goals, it pays to be careful where you get your advice and which tips you choose to follow.
Unfortunately, there’s a good bit of misinformation out there, including some long-time “fitness myths” that are still being confused with sound advice. Here are five myths that need to be put to rest once and for all:
1. In strength training, low reps with heavy weight bulk you up; high reps with light weight get you toned.
Neither is true.
Excess food will bulk you up. Lack of food will get you toned.
Your muscles will grow after you break them down with intense strength training (including a combination of low-rep, moderate-rep and high-rep exercises) and then rebuild them with rest and a surplus of calories.
Conversely, you will get toned by reducing your food intake, thereby creating a calorie deficit. After you’ve burned enough fat through calorie reduction, your body will appear more toned and sculpted, particularly if you continue to strength train (including low reps with heavy weight) so you don’t lose the muscle you already have.
Aesthetic changes (like muscle gain and fat loss) are created by a combination of training and nutrition, but mostly nutrition.
2. If you want to lose fat, do less strength training and more cardio.
The primary function of cardiovascular exercise is to strengthen the heart and lungs. Cardio exercise does burn fat, but it also burns muscle. Don’t believe me? Look at marathon runners. They are not muscular, and yet they do more cardio exercise than any other athletes.
Strength training is more effective at reducing weight because it burns a higher percentage of body fat while allowing you to hold on to most of your lean body mass.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do any cardio. Most of those marathon runners have incredibly healthy hearts and lungs. The best programs combine effective strength training and cardio exercise.
3. Women shouldn’t lift heavy weights because they’ll bulk up.
“Bulking up” is not an easy thing to do. Ask any bodybuilder who has spent years or decades trying to grow muscles. As stated earlier with myth No. 1, muscle cells (and fat cells) grow bigger when they are fed a surplus of calories.
Body parts grow stronger (and sometimes more dense) with strength training, but growth in size all comes down to what you eat, not what you lift.
4. Group exercise classes aren’t for men.
Decades ago when group exercise classes first became popular, they were attended equally well by men and women. As the years went by and the classes evolved into a series of dance steps, men drifted away from the classroom.
Many group classes now feature intense strength training done at a cardio pace. And they still have the group dynamic that many men and women like. That’s why programs like Cross Fit have become so popular.
Group classes should not be the only exercise you do, but they can be part of an effective fitness routine, even for men.
5. If you find a workout routine you like, stick with it.
The quickest path to stalled progress and fitness plateaus is a workout routine that never changes. The human body adapts quickly to the stresses that are placed on it.
If you want to continue to make progress (be it with weight loss, muscle gain, increased strength, cardio vascular endurance or overall improved health), constantly change your workouts, constantly search for new challenges and constantly evaluate and re-evaluate what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.