Going to the gym and working out means that you are also going to hear different opinions about exercise, diet, what works and what doesn’t. However, not everything you hear (and do) in the gym is beneficial to your physique and health. A lot of training and diet advice circulating around is often too old or just formed on the basis of incomplete information, but a lot of the gym goers are following it and even advice others.
So let’s distinguish fact from fiction and expose the most common gym myths:
1. Spot reduction ( or also known as “lose belly fat”, “lose arms fat”, “lose face fat” etc.)
Many people are doing hundreds of crunches, leg lifts, or bodypart specific exercises and hope that they’ll lose fat in those specific parts. Well, that is not what is going to happen. Gaining fat is the result of consuming more calories than you spend. Fat is stored globally not locally and when you exercise the fat “burns” (used as energy in lack of glycogen) everywhere in the body, not just the specific bodypart.
Furthermore, fat is unequally deployed throughout the body, depending on your genes, sex, age etc. For example, men tend to store more fat on their bellies, and the belly is the last place where fat will stay when trying to get rid of it. For women this problematic area are usually the thighs. It’s just how nature works.
What about the burn you feel in the part you exercise ? That’s just lactic acid build up. So the solution is to have a good balanced workout routine that will work the whole body – not just the part you want to slim down – and combine that routine with a specific weight loss diet.
2. More exercise – better results
While more work, more studying could mean better results in life and school, this is not how things go with exercise. More exercise does not necessarily mean better results. You body needs “down time” to recover from your workouts.
Intense exercise degrades muscle tissue and causes stress on central nervous system. It’s only when you rest that the body builds back up. So if you think you need to be in the gym 7 days a week to look good, than you must be doing something wrong, either with your routine or with your diet.
3. If you are doing intense exercise, you don’t need to watch your diet.
“Exercise gets you one step forward, but a bad diet gets you two steps back”. During a regular workout you will burn around 700 – 1000 calories depending on how intense the workout is. Just as a comparison a burger and fries combo has around 1200 cals. Like we mentioned before, gaining fat is the result of consuming more calories than you spend on a daily basis, so you do the math here.
Some people assume that if you exercise you can even compensate for eating junk food, a ton of sugars daily, drink excess alcohol etc. A well balanced and healthy diet plan should be the base of your healthy lifestyle pyramid as it underpins just about every aspect of your well being.
4. A split routine will work for everybody
Nowadays almost everybody uses a split routines and a split routine is not necessarily bad. However they may not work for everybody. Split routines allow the trainee to work longer and use more volume for a trained muscle, but at the same time the large volume is the factor that prevents many trainees to progress with their training and muscle building. Only a small group of trainees, which are genetically gifted, or using anabolic steroids, can build muscle on a high volume/low frequency routine. Most of the trainees would do a lot better on a simple routine like the upper/lower split or a push/pull/legs split.
Don’t get me wrong, you can still use a high volume routine from time to time, but your basis should be a simple routine revolving around the compound lifts – at least if you are a natural trainee with average genes.
5. High Reps For Fat Burning/Toning
This myth is closely related to the spot reduction myth. For some reason people believe that if they do high repetition sets, they can “tone” the muscles. This misconception perhaps comes, again, from the burning sensation that lactic acid buildup causes. Anyway, high reps (20+ reps) will only be beneficial for muscle endurance and will do very little for “toning” a muscle.
So what is the cause of getting to failure with 30-40 reps with a weight that is too light ? If you want to really tax the muscle it’s a lot better to pick a more demanding weight and do 12-15 reps to full failure.
6. For the ladies: Weight lifting will make you bulky and muscular
Yes, weightlifting can make you muscular and bulky – IF you train in a certain way AND eat a certain way. What this means is you need to lift pretty heavy loads (heavy is a relative term compared to your own weight of course), eat a surplus of calories and protein and maybe take some “anabolic” help. Getting that bodybuilding look doesn’t happen by accident, but rather it’s very hard to achieve it.
7. Machines or free weights ?
Almost every new gym is equipped with a plethora of machines these days. Machines are good in some cases, but nothing can replace free weights. Every machine will support you and has a pre-defined range of motion which is not suitable for every type of body. If the machine does not fit a person perfectly, the body will have to make adjustments and that’s where the trouble starts. A minor change in shoulder, hip or knee alignment might not be problematic at first but after a few months could result in a serious (long term) injury.
With free weights it’s the absolute opposite situation. Your body determines the range of motion as well as the path of movement, which is a lot better and easier on your joints, and also develops other aspects of your fitness such as balance and coordination.