Despite the advancements in exercise research, there are still many myths that seem to stick with us. Women especially seem to be caught up on old perceptions about exercise. Whether it’s trying to prolong their cardio workout in order to lose those last stubborn 5 or 10 pounds, or being afraid to train with weights for fear it will end up making them look big and bulky, the old dogmas are still alive and kicking.
The fact is more recent exercise research points to shorter, more intense workouts that combine weight training and cardio in the same session are superior for burning off those stubborn fat pounds and changing one’s entire body composition. So debunking some of these old exercise myths may be just what you need to help you achieve the body and health you truly desire.
Myth #1: Lifting weights will make you bulky
Many of my female clients have a deep fear that if they train with weights they will end up getting large muscles and look bulky. This misconception could not be further from the truth, and in fact this type of thinking could actually hold you back from achieving the body and look you desire.
Simply put, women do not have the necessary anabolic machinery or hormones to develop large muscles, like testosterone and growth hormone. In fact, weight training will not only give you a metabolic advantage due to the fact that muscle is the physical place where calories and fat are burned for energy, muscle is 25% more dense than fat so increasing your muscle mass will help you look smaller than someone your same weight having less muscle mass.
Myth #2: You’re thin and perceived healthy and therefore don’t need to exercise
These people are often the envy of their friends because they can eat whatever they want and not gain a pound. Unfortunately, many thin people who do not exercise are in fact categorized as obese based on their body fat percentage. They may have a normal Body Mass Index (BMI) according to their height and weight, but clinically they have what’s called sarcopenic obesity, or what a lot of us refer to as skinny fat. (1, 2)
Although they may appear thin on the surface, they lack the muscle needed for proper metabolic stimulation and generally have loose skin lying on top of bone. On the inside, however, their physiology is similar to that of someone who is severely over-weight or clinically obese and at risk for chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and high cholesterol. (3)
Exercising regularly has been shown to lower the risk of developing these chronic diseases and thin, out-of-shape people need to be exercising just as much as the rest of us to remain healthy and metabolically stable.
Myth #3: You will first lose weight with cardio and start lifting to tone up
When I hear this one it confuses me because it gives me the impression that many of us believe that lifting weights will in some way hinder fat loss while in fact it’s quite the opposite. Weight training along with intense cardio will accelerate results and the two should be done simultaneously.
The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research published a study that examined 2 exercise protocols. The first protocol called for a weight workout done first, followed by a cardio workout. The second protocol took the same amount of exercise and intermixed the two so that each participant would do some weights, then immediately jump on cardio, and then cycle back to weights, and then to more cardio, etc. The total workload in each protocol was the same, though the order was different. In the second protocol, the exercisers burned close to 10 times more fat than the group that separated weights and cardio. (4)
This provides some fairly clear evidence that combining weight training and cardio together is a superior method for fat loss. This is why my training methodology revolves around High Intensity (HIIT) and Cardio Acceleration (CA). This powerful combination not only boosts metabolic stimulation during your workout but has an after burn effect for up to 72 hours after the workout is over.
Myth #4: Working your abs every day will give you a visible six-pack
We see tons of infomercials demonstrating the latest fitness gadget that takes a new spin or twist on an old-fashioned abdominal exercise, mostly because consumers still think that by targeting the abs we can get rid the excess flab and trim our waistline. There are two problems with this method.
First, while doing an endless amount of abdominal work may harden and strengthen your mid-section, without burning the fat that’s covering your abs, your six-pack will remain hidden. Instead, consider abdominal training as only one piece of a comprehensive full-body weight training routine that will help burn body fat and change your over-all body composition.
Second, training the same muscle group every single day will not produce faster results, and in many cases will actually suppress the muscle’s response as a result of overtraining.
To help develop the abs and assure they will shine once the overlying fat is gone, choose 1 to 2 abdominal exercises and perform them 3 times per week. You must understand the theory that although abs can be strengthened in the gym, visible abs are made in the kitchen.
Myth #5: As long as the number on the scale is going down you’re fine
One of the most misunderstood revelations in exercise and one that I continually preach about to my clients is that weight loss is not necessarily synonymous with fat loss. Just because you are losing weight, does not guarantee you are losing fat. For example, when someone loses weight, the scale neglects to show where the weight is coming from. Therefore you will be unsure if its water, muscle or fat you’re actually losing.
Your goal should always be to lose body fat while preserving lean tissue or muscle. For example, research suggests that prolonged periods of exercise may raise cortisol to levels that increase muscle breakdown for fuel. Therefore keeping your workouts shorter and more intense will help you spare muscle tissue, while burning your undesirable body fat. (5)