There’s so much misinformation out there about getting the body you want at the gym, it’s easy to find yourself working out but not making proper gains. Robert O’Connor blasts the five most common fitness myths.
Fitness is one of those areas where it’s easy to find yourself armed with all the wrong information. From listening to your mate who knows a personal trainer, to believing those late-night infomercials that promise you an eight-pack in eight minutes, it’s easy to find yourself getting nowhere fast. Never fear, I’m here to debunk the myths with the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
MYTH 1: Sit-ups get rid of belly fat
TRUTH: Trainers hear it all the time – people saying things like, “I don’t want to lose much, just a bit around my belly”. Guess what? There really is no such thing as spot removal of fat. You can’t pick and choose where it comes off, and the fat around the lower abdomen is unfortunately the last to go. Author of The Portable Personal Trainer, Eric Carr, says: “While an ab-crunching regimen might help strengthen the muscles around your midsection and improve your posture, being able to see your abdominal muscles has to do with your overall body fat percentage”. The bottom line is you can work your abs every time you go to gay church, but until your body fat is at a low enough percentage for them to be visible they’ll be hiding, and you may even look bulkier thanks to the combination of thick abs with a thick layer of fat! A six-pack is more likely to be achieved performing compound movements like squats, taking part in interval training, getting adequate amounts of sleep, reducing your stress levels, and utilising carbs correctly. See? Easy as 1-2-3.
MYTH 2: Lifting heavy weights makes you bulky
TRUTH: The most common build young gay guys are asking trainers to transform them into right now is an athletic, lean muscular one. Of course there are those who want to look like powerlifting bouncers but the majority want the elusive ‘V-taper’, with broad shoulders, peaked biceps and a narrow waist – legs are usually an afterthought. Think Abercrombie & Fitch employee as opposed to rugby prop. After much reading of fitness magazines and hearing celebrities talk about their ‘regimes’, many gym newbies feel like their route to a Ronaldo body will come via standing in front of the floor-to-ceiling mirrors, bicep-curling to their hearts’ content followed by spinning themselves into a frenzy until they hit the floor, Bridget Jones-style. Wrong! Jeffrey Janot PhD, a Professor of Exercise Physiology, knows different. “Training with free weights will help you lose fat faster and keep it off in the long run,” he says. Getting the bulky look comes down to an extreme and consistent calorie surplus including a hefty helping of carbs. So if you want to get lean, schedule your carbohydrate intake around your training and focus on fat and protein-based meals at other times. For women who are scared of looking like the Incredible Hulk, you’ve nothing to fear. Dublin bootcamp boss Alan Agusta says: “A lot of women are under the illusion that if they lift weights, they will look and sound like a man, which is not true or naturally possible. Men have 20 to 30 times more testosterone than women, meaning unless you are injecting some sort of synthetic steroid, the only result from weightlifting with be a stronger, sexier, more svelte figure.”
MYTH 3: Stretching is essential to prevent injuries
TRUTH: It is a common misconception that stretching before engaging in weight training is essential to decrease your risk of injuries. According to recent studies, it’s all lies, and the opposite is in fact true. Your fifth class PE teacher was wrong! Stretching can cause a short-term decrease in musculotendinous stiffness, and if joints are relying on the stiffness for force production or stability, this decrease will lead to unwanted joint movements and cause injury. Instead, hop on a rower or cross-trainer (don’t forget to involve your arms!) and get the blood flowing throughout your body. Follow this by beginning each set of each exercise without loading up the bar or machine with weight, start light and allow the mind to register what the body is trying to do before trying to lift your max.
MYTH 4: You can compensate for a bad diet with exercise
TRUTH: Ever hear your best skinny-fat gym buddy claiming he likes his food too much, so he just goes extra hardcore on his cardio sessions to make up for it? He’s misinformed. People are hung up on cardio – they think banking hours on the treadmill will work off the tub of cookie dough they consumed whilst zoned out watching the latest box of Breaking Bad. A solid diet plan combined with weight and interval training regimes is the way forward for fat loss, but if you’re besotted with the idea of biking the double-chocolate brownies off your waistline, save it until after your weight training session. Engaging in cardio first will reduce your glycogen levels, which will prevent you from training as hard as you need to, while weight training before cardio will increase levels of testosterone and cortisol, both of which are beneficial to your workout.
MYTH 5: The more days in the gym, the more muscular you’ll become
TRUTH: I’ve saved the most horrifying myth for last, and it’s one that’s built upon a fundamental misunderstanding – you do not grow in the gym. Tom Holland, an Exercise Physiologist and author of The Marathon Method says: “When you exercise, you are tearing your own muscle fibres and breaking down your immune and cardiovascular systems. It’s during the times of rest that follow that your body is allowed to repair and rebuild. These adaptive periods are when we get stronger and faster.” Take out those rest periods, and you will experience a gym rat’s worst nightmare, ‘Over-training Syndrome’ and its variety of side-effects, including poor performance in the gym, illness, fatigue, and ultimately, burn-out. Like a lot of things in life, it’s about finding a balance, and while there is a lot of debate about training patterns – whether to take a two-days on, one-day off approach, or otherwise, you will eventually learn the most useful trick of them all – listening to your body.
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