By: Martin Ebner
It never fails to amaze me what so many of us are lead to believe by so-called experts, social media and clever marketing campaigns designed to dupe us into buying a product or training a certain way. The sad truth is that the health and fitness industry, like many others, is filled with false information which makes it very difficult to differentiate between the fact and fiction. With that in mind, let's get straight to debunking 6 popular fitness myths.
Myth 01 - More is always better
While you may be anxious to get quick results, it's important to understand that more doesn't necessarily equate to better results when it comes to the quantity and frequency of your workouts.
If you truly want to benefit from your exercise routine, it's important to prioritise quality over quantity. This means paying close attention to technique and prioritising the correct type of exercise specific to your fitness goals.
Make sure to schedule days off to allow your body to recover following tough workouts. While it might seem counter-intuitive, your muscles actually recover, strengthen and grow when resting and if you continuously overwork your muscles and deprive them of adequate rest, you'll eventually burn out and that is definitely counterproductive to reaching your goals.
Myth 02 - You can target fat loss
As much as I'd love to tell you that you can target fat loss, the sad truth is, you can't. Before you ask, no, that skinny tea can't help either! To lose weight in the problem areas (most often the belly, thighs and back of the arms) you'll have to create a calorie deficit, ideally through a combination of exercise and diet that promotes overall weight loss.
Tip - while it's not possible to isolate fat loss in a specific area of the body, you can aim to improve the aesthetics of the parts you dislike by strengthening and toning these areas.
Related: How to lose those last 10 pounds of stubborn body fat
Myth 03 - No pain, no gain!
Ok ok, so, admittedly at times I'll say this to clients. However, it's more of an incentive not to give in at the first sight or feeling, in this case, of discomfort. While you don't necessarily need to feel pain to benefit from exercise if you're pushing your physical boundaries you are likely to feel uncomfortable and a little good pain (learn the difference) along the way. That said, pain should by no means be the decisive factor when it comes to determining whether it was a great workout or not. How hard you should push during any given workout is dependant on your fitness level, overall health, goals and other relevant aspects of your life such as stress level and workload.
Following a workout
Another misconception is that you need to feel pain the day/s after a workout. Muscle pain results from stress and damage to the muscle tissue and good recovery can make all the difference to achy muscles following your workout. Make sure to hydrate, sleep and always consume a healthy post-workout meal as soon as possible following a workout to reduce the risk of sore muscles.
Related article: How to speed up your recovery following a workout
Myth 04 - You should stretch before a workout
While it is true that you shouldn't throw yourself into a personal best attempt deadlift without warming up first, stretching while your muscles are still cold (aka at the start your workout) can cause your muscles to tighten rather than relax which can actually increase your risk of injury through over-stretching. Save it for post workout and get ready with a dynamic warm-up routine that aims to improve mobility, circulation, elasticity and one that mimics the workout you're about to perform.
Myth 05 - You need to give 100 percent every workout
Much like with no pain, no gain and more is always better, you also don't need to give 100 percent each and every workout to benefit and progress. Yes, you need to be focused, determined and push yourself when you exercise, but you don't necessarily need to approach every workout with a navy seals do or die mentality. Exercise should play a complementary role in your lifestyle and unless you're an athlete competing for an Olympic gold, if you push too hard, too often, you could risk injury and a range of negative symptoms such as lethargy and irritability spilling out into your day to day life.
Tip - By all means give it your all but try to listen to your body. If it's constantly sore and asking for a break, take a week off. Believe me, it will do you the world of good and you'll return stronger and more determined than ever.
Myth 06 - Machines are safer than free weights
I think I probably see more misuse of machines than free weights. Just because a machine has a fixed range of motion, it doesn't mean you can shut off and rely 100% on the machine to do it all for you. While machines are designed and built to mimic a certain range of motion, if the machine isn't properly adjusted for your weight, height and mobility, you run a similar risk of injury.
Tips: If in doubt, ask one of the personal trainers at your gym to help you set up the machine and to give you a few pointers.
Related: Six fitness myths busted - Part 1