by: Vince DelMonte H.B.K. CPT
If you've been exercising for a while, you've probably come across tons of information about exercise and fitness. You've heard the phrase 'no pain, no gain' and you've probably tried to tighten up your abs with crunches. While many fitness myths are fading fast, there are still plenty of misconceptions running around and you may be following one without knowing it.
I believe in the principle of 'you don't know what you don't know.' Very powerful! I believe your success directly depends on the amount of information you have in relation to your goals. The key to your fitness success is education. I tell everyone of my clients that their first goal is to seek out a trusted fitness expert or source to guide them through the guesswork, misconceptions and uncertainties assosicated with fitness.
Here are the top five most popular fitness myths that can save you time and energy:
First, there is no such thing as 'lower abs.' The six-pack you're going for is actually one long muscle, called the rectus abdominis, that extends from below your chest to your pelvis. To work your abs, you should do exercises to target all four muscles: the rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques and the transverse abdominis. Second, doing crunches will not help you get a 'six-pack' if you have a layer of fat over your abdominal area. If all it took was cruches, I think everyone would have a `six-pack` because I think everyone has attempted hundreds of situps a day in vain. In order to see the muscles; you must reduce your body fat. You must turn your body into a fat burning machine through good old fashion, high intensity resistance training and cardio interval training.
Many people use muscle soreness as a gauge of how good their workout is. However, muscle soreness is caused by tiny tears in the muscle fibers when you expose your muscles to angles and movements and intensities they have not experienced before. While some soreness is expected if you regularly change your program, being sore for more than 3–4 days after your workout most likely means you overdid it. If you're sore after every workout, you're not allowing your body time to recover, which is when you experience the most muscle growth. To prevent soreness and help accelerate the recovery process, you should warm up before your workout and stretch before and after to flush out lactic acid and waste products. I also recommend taking a closer look at your nutrient intake, especially your water, vitamin, mineral, antioxidant, and protein intake. Insufficient nutrient intake and a lack of quality sleep will delay muscle soreness.
The general rule for weight loss is to do cardio 4 times a week for 30-45 minutes as well as weight training 2-3x times a week. Some people simply don't have the time to workout that much and they think, since they can't do all of that, why do ANY of it? Remember: any exercise is better than no exercise, even if it's only a 15-minute walk. Being physically active is proven to reduce stress and make you healthier. I always say, cardiovascular exericse will help improve the length of your life and weight training will help improve the quality of your life. So, even if you can't make it to the gym, you have no excuse not to do something active each day.
Some women avoid weight training because they don't want to bulk up. However, strength training is a critical element to maintain a healthy weight and strengthen your body. Wayne Westcott, weight training expert and PhD, researched the effects of weight training on women and found that "the average woman who strength trains two to three times a week for eight weeks gains 1.75 pounds of lean weight…and loses 3.5 pounds of fat…women typically don't gain size from strength training, because compared to men, women have 10 to 30 times less of the hormones that cause "bulking up." Also, muscles grow on calories. Unless you start eating 3000 plus calories a day and start eating 200-300 grams of protein a day, you will not bulk up! And also, your body does not bulk up overnight by simply picking up a set of 5 lb dumb bells. You will see your body change gradually and can monitor your visual changes.
Building muscle mass involves two things: Using enough weight to challenge muscles beyond their normal levels of resistance and eating more calories than you burn. With all the hype about high protein diets lately, it's easy to believe that protein is the best fuel for building muscle. Muscles work and grow on calories which should be predominately carbohydrates (40-60%). The remainder of the calories are divided between fat (15-30%) and protein (30-40%). If you consume too much protein, you run the risk of creating nutrient imbalance, kidney strain, or dehydration. Plus, excess protein results in extra calories that are either burned or stored. For muscle mass, you should incorporate a healthy eating plan, as well as a workout that combines cardio exercise as well as consistent weight training.