With all the information available and flying around the gym, the Internet, and in print, it's hard for even the most experienced fitness person to navigate through the facts and myths. It can be difficult to discern the difference between what really works and what is just too good to be true.
Add in the fact that there are so many fitness goals and so many different ways to achieve those goals, and you find there are many perfectly valid plans all designed to reach the same goal.
However, in the midst of all the available information there are many pitfalls, myths and incorrect information that still gets passed around as common practice. Let’s dispel a few of these myths once and for all.
5 Common Fitness Myths
Myth #1 - Doing ab exercises will result in a flat stomach and well-defined 6 pack abs.
This is a common misconception that I hear from both guys and girls. “I gotta lose this gut. I need to start doing crunches…” This is not quite how it works.
Yes, you must work the abs with solid ab exercises, strengthen and build the muscles of the abdominals, obliques, and even lower back to build and have a strong core, but this does not directly result in a flat stomach or chiseled 6-pack.
A popular phrase floating around the Internet these days is, “abs are made in the kitchen.” This is partially true. Diet is an essential part of the equation to having that flat and defined mid-section. Clean and healthy eating is essential to any healthy and fit lifestyle, but not simply for the fact of having nice abs.
Covering the abdominals is a layer of fat. Plain and simple, this fat is what stands between the results of all the hard work you put in building strong ab muscles and being able to see the results of that hard work. Healthy eating is the key to minimizing fat stores around the midsection.
The other key to seeing definition in the abs is cardio workouts. You must burn the extra calories and extra fat. Revealing the abs will be achieved through a strict healthy eating plan and a consistent cardio plan to lower bodyfat levels.
Myth #2 - Muscle will turn to fat or fat will turn to muscle.
This is a common misconception even among the most seasoned gym goers.
Muscle is muscle and fat is fat. The two are not interchangeable. If you look like Hercules and stop lifting your muscles will not turn to fat. You will lose muscle mass which will increase your percentage of bodyfat that is already on your body. Plus you will probably gain some fat weight from inactivity, but your muscle tissue will not turn to fat.
Likewise if you have weight to lose and start following a solid exercise program. The extra fat your body is carrying is not going to be transformed into lean muscle mass. Yes you will increase your lean mass through resistance training, but the fat loss is a result of increased calorie expenditure and the new lifestyle changes.
Myth #3 - It is possible to spot reduce one area of the body.
The rationale of the first two myths now rules out the possibility of myth #3. There is no such thing as spot reduction.
Doing ab workouts will not give you washboard abs and make your belly fat disappear. Yet, I still hear this statement over and over again.
I need to lose my gut – I have to start doing crunches. No, you should be doing crunches in combination with other core exercises to strengthen your core. This includes lower back strength and abdominal strength.
When we lose weight, we lose fat from our entire body. There are areas of our bodies where fat loss is more visibly noticeable sooner than others. Likewise, we all have our sticking points which tend to be around midsections, butts, and thighs.
We can’t reduce our midsections or make our thighs leaner no matter how many crunches, butt lifts or squats we do. These areas are just the stubborn areas that hold more fat which means further fat loss is required to see the results in these areas.
When I prepare for a contest, early on I will see my upper body arms and even my upper arms getting leaner. If I focused just on my legs and lower abs I would think I am making no progress at all. This is not the case. It is in those final weeks when I suddenly notice the definition and sharpness coming out in my lower abs and thighs that I have seen in other muscle groups for weeks leading up to this point.
Myth #4 - I don’t want to get too big.
This is one statement I hear more from the ladies, but it is still a myth and completely false. Simply lifting weights will not give you big muscles. I for one wish it was just that easy!
Weight training is a great way to increase lean muscle, increase your metabolism, lose body fat, and improve overall health. The benefits are numerous. However, increasing lean body mass, i.e. muscle mass, is not the same as suddenly developing huge muscles.
Do not avoid free weights out of fear of getting big muscles. Instead embrace free weight workouts to build and sculpt the body you want.
Myth #5 - More is better.
More is more. More is not always better. More is simply more. Sometimes less is more. Eating healthy food is great. Eating more good food from healthy recipes will still make you gain fat. More is not better.
Doing 2 or 3 sets of an exercise with strict form and controlled reps is more effective than 4 or 5 sets with less than perfect form and half-assed effort. More is more, not necessarily better.
When it comes to fitness goals, whether it be eating, lifting, training, or cardio workouts – the more accurate rule of thumb should be “more efficient is better.” Who cares how much someone can bench press, unless they are involved in a lifting competition.
For muscle building, the best bench press is the set that works the chest muscles just beyond their limit through a controlled and full range of motion. This set will also require those muscle fibers to recover and adapt, i.e. grow larger and stronger, to handle the stress just placed upon them.
The amount of weight on the bar is just providing a resistance. More weight does not mean a more effective workout. The same goes for any other aspect of fitness. More cardio doesn’t always result in better results. A carefully developed cardio plan will be most effective in reaching ones goals.
Final Word on Fitness Myths
This list could go on and I am sure we each have heard and learned of several myths that still persist but are not accurate in achieving our fitness goals. The more we learn about all areas of fitness the better able we are to create and implement information, exercises, and techniques that will help us achieve our fitness goals.
However, we must be careful to fully understand the principles behind the information we find to truly know if it is accurate and true or just another fitness myth.