Often times, individuals following an exercise regimen find themselves confused by the massive amount of conflicting information they hear from self-proclaimed “experts” at the gym as well as on the Internet. This can be frustrating for beginners; getting in shape is hard enough without having to cut through rumors, pseudoscience, and outright falsehoods to find the truth. Take note of these five persistent fitness myths so that you can avoid wasting your time or engaging in dangerous exercise habits.
“Build Muscle Tone With Light Weights and High Reps”
In human physiology, “muscle tone” is defined as a constant state of muscular contraction. However, the term has been hijacked by promoters of hokey fitness products. As a result, most people confuse it with “muscle definition”, which is the visibility of muscle contours in the unflexed state. Muscle definition is the goal of most people who take up exercise, and it is primarily dependent on body fat levels.
Performing high reps with light weights will build endurance, which is a perfectly worthy goal, but it will have a minimal effect on body fat levels and muscle definition. The shape of the muscles will become more apparent as body fat is reduced through cardiovascular exercise and heavy weight training.
“This Exercise Can Reduce Belly Fat”
Fat around the stomach area is particularly hard to burn off, and it seems as though an infinite number of Internet advertisements promote some exercise as an effortless way to get a flat, shapely stomach. The fact is that such “spot reduction” is not possible. The distribution of body fat is determined by genetics and gender.
The only way to reduce belly fat, or fat from any other area of the body, is to perform cardiovascular workouts and heavy weight training while following a proper diet. It is important to have a caloric deficit of between 200 and 300 calories per day. Doing so will reduce body fat levels while maintaining muscle.
“Machines Are Safer Than Free Weights”
Machines are commonly believed to be a “safe” way to lift weights. This view is based on the notion that free weights are dangerous when performed incorrectly. However, this is true with any form of exercise from weight lifting to jogging. The effectiveness of an exercise is determined by the results when it is performed correctly, not how bad it can be when it is done wrong.
Furthermore, working out exclusively with machines could actually be dangerous. Machines isolate one muscle group and take most of the small stabilizer muscles out of the movement. The result is a physique that looks impressive, but is actually severely lacking in functional strength. Since the stabilizer muscles are underdeveloped in comparison to the larger muscles, they may be pulled or strained when attempting to lift heavy objects unrestrained by a machine.
“Deadlifts Are Bad for Your Back”
Since most people are taught to avoid “lifting with the back” like the plague, deadlifts are often intimidating for novice lifters. It may appear that the spine is bearing most of the weight, but the majority of the work is done by the lower back muscles, hamstrings, and glutes. It is true that performing the deadlift incorrectly can result in severe injuries, but that is true for every type of lift. Performing a deadlift with good form is very simple; there are numerous videos and diagrams available online to demonstrate this.
In fact, neglecting deadlifts poses a danger of its own – having weak back muscles. Most people find that they have to bend down and lift something sooner or later. This could be the action of picking up a small child, lifting grocery bags out of the car, or moving heavy boxes at work. Individuals who have not exercised their lower back muscles are more likely to experience a strained or pulled muscle. Even worse, unfamiliarity with proper bending and lifting techniques could result in a herniated disc, a painful injury requiring the services of a chiropractor.
“Cardio Kills Muscle”
Cardiovascular exercise is the most effective way to cut excess body fat, but myths circulating on the Internet suggest that cardio is detrimental to building muscle. While cardio does burn a large number of calories, it does not necessarily result in muscle loss. If a person were to perform cardio and weight training while taking in enough calories to maintain their current weight, no muscle loss would occur. Lifting weights lets the body know that the muscle is still needed, so it will not be catabolized.
On the other hand, if the same person were to perform cardio while neglecting weight training and failing to take in enough calories, a loss of muscle mass would certainly occur. This is most likely what leads to the proliferation of this myth. It is entirely possible to perform cardio on a regular basis while still enjoying considerable muscular growth. It is simply a question of sufficient caloric intake. In fact, some research suggests that the increased blood flow throughout the muscles during cardio actually helps with muscle recovery.
Basing your workout routine on one or more of these myths will result in wasted effort, lack of progress, and even an injury. Remember that the fitness product industry takes in billions of dollars per year, and many of these myths are intended to coerce people into purchasing a certain product. Others are simply pieces of misinformation that live on through locker room banter and Internet discussion. When making decisions about your exercise regimen and diet, always base them on solid scientific research, not rumors and hearsay.
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