Have you ever purchased a book on diet, health or fitness and realized after reading 50 pages that the author is still talking about what you are going to learn once he or she reveals all? This is a sure sign that the author’s outlandish claims were merely made to capture your attention and get you to buy the book. The same strategy is often at play in popular magazines where the title promises the world and the content either delivers nothing you haven’t heard many times before or is filled with conflicting or even incoherent advice.
To protect yourself from misinformation, make a mental note of these six fitness myths your personal trainer wishes you would stop believing.
1. “Lifting weights will make me bulky!”
It is nearly impossible for women to get “bulky” or “muscular” from lifting weights. This is due to the fact that large, defined muscles are a product of both testosterone levels and a long-term, intensive lifting program. The vast majority of women lack the testosterone levels needed to “bulk up” in any meaningful way. While it is possible for women to achieve a physique marked by obvious athletic muscle, the time and effort required means that you would have to pursue this goal very consciously to ever get there.
Lifting will result in hormonal and metabolic changes that make it a bit easier to shed bodyfat (although diet is still key). It will also give you an athletic, healthy glow that you will not get from hours of cardio exercise. If you are a woman who is interested in gaining an strong, athletic physique, your program will largely mirror the guidelines for men below. Even so, you won’t pack on the same quantity of muscle due to hormonal differences.
2. “This program will pack on rock-hard muscle overnight!”
Men usually have the opposite complaint: “why am I not gaining muscle quickly enough?” Again, hormones are important – it is easier to put on muscle in your early 20s than it will be in your 50s. However, any man at any age will be able to add significant muscle if he eats right and consistently engages in a challenging strength development program.
Breaking that down, “eating right” is all about plentiful unprocessed foods and appropriate amounts of protein. The Alliance food log can help you understand your personal protein needs. Note that, at most, 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (0.9 grams per lb) are required to meet the body’s protein needs – and that is only if you are lifting heavy and often. Eating more will do nothing to spur additional muscle growth.
With respect to gaining muscle, the three keys to success are workout consistency, challenge and rest. First, you must be very consistent for months or even years to build significant muscle (again, age and testosterone levels control the rate of improvement). If you wander into the gym once every week or two to lift then you won’t add significant muscle or strength even if you tear it up every time.
Second, your workouts must be challenging enough to push your limits. The “anabolic” or muscle-building response that leads to additional strength and size occurs only when a muscle has experienced some degree of “microtrauma” from the demands of a lift. If your program is not challenging, then you will not add muscle. Since too much stress will also interfere with progress, we strongly suggest that you talk with a fitness professional to get the “right” level of challenge. As you grow stronger, of course, your program will need to become more challenging as well – a principle known as progressive overload.
Finally, you don’t grow stronger while lifting – you grow weaker. You grow stronger and more muscular during the rest between workouts. It is vital that you have adequate recovery time between workouts.
3. “The more calories I burn, the better.”
A 180 lb person would burn roughly 573 calories if they jogged for an hour. That same person would burn roughly 245 calories if they lifted weights for an hour. The best option for weight-loss appears obvious, but caloric burn is actually a simplistic measure of an exercise’s effectiveness. Lifting weights increases your metabolic burn for up to 36 hours after a training session. As an added bonus, your calories will be used to build muscle (not store fat), as long as you don’t get carried away with it. It’s okay to jog if you enjoy that activity, but you need to understand that weight lifting is a key ingredient of a balanced fitness plan.
On a more general note, it does no good to engage in long, grueling workouts to maximize your calorie burn or strength gains only to burn out in a few weeks or get injured. You must pace yourself to achieve your goals.
4. “As long as I exercise, I can eat whatever.”
If you’re not willing to address poor eating habits, no amount of training can save you. An hour of exercise, no matter how effective, can only accomplish so much. The calories you burn during a workout are a mere fraction of your daily consumption, so you won’t get very far if you’re not willing to accept personal responsibility for your dietary decisions. Not losing weight as quickly as you’d like to? Look in the mirror before you blame your personal trainer. Keeping a food journal in the Alliance for a week might help you identify your limiting behaviors.
5. “I’m not sore, so I didn’t work hard enough.”
Soreness is not an accurate indicator of whether a workout was effective or not. You will get sore when you present your body with a new challenge like lifting weights for the first time, trying a brand new exercise, or increasing training intensity. However, this feeling should dissipate as time goes on. The more consistently you train, the stronger your body will become, the less soreness you should experience.
6. “I need to confuse my muscles to keep my body guessing.”
“Muscle confusion” is simply a buzzword to sell hyped-up products to a gullible public. Yes, it is beneficial to change your routine every now and then (how often depends on your goals and experience level), but that doesn’t mean you need to “keep your muscles guessing” or “shock your system” in every single training session. It is better to perform an exercise consistently, because it takes practice and patience to understand proper form. Don’t worry about changing your routine until you find it almost impossible to increase the weight any farther on your current workout or you just want to work on something new.
Have you been tricked by any of the lies on this list? Don’t feel bad if you have. I had to learn the hard way! If you’d like to save your friends some trouble too, please share this article with them.
About the Authors
Daniel Wallen is the CEO (Chief Empowerment Officer) of the Wallen Way. He is a personal trainer, Lifehack contributor, and author of, “The Busy Woman’s Guide to Getting Fit, Fierce, and Fabulous.”