As fitness becomes more and more popular with the increased prevalence of obesity, many fitness concepts and mantras have come and gone. Unfortunately, many people are still stuck believing some of these concepts that are slowing their progress or even pushing them in the opposite direction.
Here are 3 of the most common fitness myths and why you need to stop believing them.
No Pain, No Gain
While it sounds intense and hardcore, the truth is that getting fit doesn't require being "hardcore" or exposing yourself to pain. Working hard is important, of course, but pain is certainly not necessary.
If you're experiencing true pain while working out, there's a very good chance you're simply doing something incorrectly. Many of my clients tell me their knees hurt when they squat, so I ask them to squat. What follows is usually some odd combination of knee and hip flexion, but not a squat. Once I show them how to actually squat, the pain magically disappears. Funny how that works. So make sure your technique is correct if you're experiencing pain while performing an exercise.
Another fact is that some people just aren't structured well for certain exercises. If you know for certain that your form is solid but there is still pain, find another viable option to complete the same task as the exercise that was causing the pain.
Lastly, in regards to pain, there is lactic acid. Lactic acid is the metabolic waste product of muscular contractions, and its presence in the muscle is both good and bad. There are many benefits to lactic acid production when it comes to the results of the training session, but the fact is that lactic acid accumulation doesn't feel all that pleasant.
Keep in mind that lactic acid is the "burning" sensation you'll get from a fairly high-rep set: it's not exactly the same as pain. Learn the difference between lactic acid and pain, but realize that lactic acid accumulation is not necessary to get great results from training.
Find ways to avoid pain in your exercise routine. You'll likely see better results, and it will be a more pleasant experience as well.
80% of my female clients want to "tone." After I do my best to hide an eye roll, I explain to them that their concept of toning is likely a bit skewed. "Toning" is a good word to describe the preferred outcome of a successful and intelligently-designed exercise routine, but that's about all it's good for.
"Toning" comes down to changes in 3 things:
1. Body fat
2. Muscle size
3. Muscle fiber density
The vast majority of changes will be attributed to the first two. After a few months of working with me, women notice that they are much more "toned" than when they began, despite the lack of "toning" rep ranges in my programming. Let me explain a bit more.
Most people believe that high reps (15 or more per set) are what tone a muscle. Personally, I rarely stray above 12 reps per set with any of my clients, but with time they become more "toned." This is simply because I've worked to increase their muscle size and decrease their body fat.
In fact, I would postulate that exclusively dropping fat would get most people to the toned state they desire (that is, without the addition of any lean body mass). I can't confirm this as all my clients build lean body mass as well, but the point is that "toning" as a exercise modality is simply a waste of time.
Now I would be amiss to not mention changes in muscle fiber density and how they affect the resting appearance of your muscles. Certain weight intensities (percentages of the maximum weight you can lift once) have great effects on muscle hardness and density. This can make a muscle appear more "toned," even when it's not flexed.
The best ways to do this involve high-velocity movements with roughly 50% of your 1 rep maximum or heavy, low-rep work with 90% of your 1 rep maximum or heavier.
I saved the best for last. You'll often hear that you need to "keep your muscles guessing" if you want them to continue to adapt. There is certainly some legitimacy to this concept, but most fitness enthusiasts take it a bit too far. Let me explain with an analogy.
If you wanted to get really good at shooting free throws, how would you go about it? Unarguably the best way, assuming you already have good shooting mechanics, is to practice free throws. Simple enough. The majority of your time should be spent working on the exact thing you want to improve. However, adding in some slightly closer and slightly further shots would likely help as well because you would really be teaching yourself how much force to use at each distance. Teaching your brain how much force is required to make a 10-foot shot and a 20-foot shot will improve its ability to make a 15-foot shot as well, especially if you're practicing that 15-foot shot.
Now that amount of variation is good, but would you start doing behind-the-back, backwards, or under-the-leg free throws to improve your true free throw performance? I hope not. That's what most people are doing in the weight training realm though! They're using an excessive amount of variability, when just slight tweaks will help their progress the most.
Applying this to your weight training is simple. Using barbell bench press as an example... instead of alternating a few weeks of bench, then a few of incline bench, then a few of decline, then a few with dumbbell presses, etc... you'd see better progress in your barbell bench press if you stuck with the movement but changed up other variables. For example, do 3x8 for a few weeks and then move to 8x3. Alter the grip width from time to time. Switch between paused reps (pause for a second on the chest) and touch-and-go reps. For a few weeks, add in 10 minutes of benching after your normal bench workout and get as many reps as you can with 80% of your max. These are just a few ideas, but they will result in much quicker results.
Avoid these myths and spread the word: you'll get better results and enjoy your fitness routine more as an added bonus!