Common Fitness Myths Exposed

Written By Robert Forney ISSA CFT

In this paper I will discuss the most commonly heard and repeated myths. You may have heard these myths from the big guys in the gym, or from a personal trainer who has fallen for them him or herself. I will expose these myths and explain why these commonly believed fitness ideas are indeed myths. So, lets get started. 

Dumbbell

Myth #1:

If I lift weights I will become muscle bound! I usually hear this one from women.

The Truth:

If it was so easy to become muscle bound, then why isn't everyone in the gym muscle bound? It is not an easy feat to become muscle bound, and it usually requires the use of anabolic steroids.

Myth #2:

Muscle turns into fat and/or fat turns into muscle.

The Truth:

Muscle does not turn into fat or vice versa. Muscle and fat are completely different substances. Muscle is protein and fat is well... fat (adipose tissue). When you quit working out, your muscle atrophies, and gets smaller and flabbier. You use it or lose it. It does not turn into fat!!

Myth #3:

Super Slow lifting is safer than fast lifting, or ballistic exercises are dangerous!

The Truth:

Most injuries that occur during weight lifting are caused by improper form. Slow tempo lifting can be just as dangerous as fast tempo lifting. Think about maxing out, is the weight moving fast or slow? Of course the weight is moving slow. Even jogging is very ballistic, and everything you do in life is ballistic. The truth is, ballistic lifting is required for certain types of adaptation and elicits a completely different neuromuscular response than slow lifting.

Myth #4:

Lifting weights will stunt a child's growth.

The Truth:

This myth just won't die. The truth is that height is predetermined by your genetics, not by lifting weights.  As Dr. Siff says "Don't believe any tales about resistance training making you shorter or prematurely closing the growth centres of the bones. There are even some Russian studies and one Russian book ("School of Height"), which suggests that resistance training from youth, may stimulate increase in height. Use any weight training methods that you like - none of them will ever make you shorter.

Other British studies show that people who avoid imposing ballistic or shock loading on the body tend to exhibit a higher incidence of arthritis and bone deterioration (see the Supertraining archives or my "Facts & Fallacies of Fitness" book for more details). Another study has shown that lifters have the highest bone density of all athletes (like the study cited a few months ago on the superheavy powerlifters whose bones were scanned in a scientific study), so any decision to do weight training will be of great personal benefit in many ways if one simply follows the basic method of gradual progressive overload.

In other letters, I have also pointed out that many daily and sporting activities involving running, jumping, hitting and kicking impose far greater loads on the growing bones of children than even squats or jerks with double bodymass. Thus, if one militates against weightlifting for juveniles, then all sports involving those types of activity (including football, basketball, track & field, soccer and baseball) should also be banned from schools.

Some people seem to have forgotten that the body of the human adapts at any age to sensibly imposed stresses and strains. Damage is the consequence of bad training, not because weight training is intrinsically "bad" for the body."

So, lifting weights may actually be beneficial and not harmful to children.

Myth #6:

The longer or more often you train, the better results you will get.

The Truth:

This is the myth or belief that all newbies seem to fall for. If you train too long, or too often, you will burn out and WILL overtrain. Your hormones peak after about 45 minutes of training, something the Russians used to help imporive theirr training results. The Russian athletes would break their training into shorter bouts of training, and train a few times a day to increase hormone levels a couple of times a day. Quality not quantity of training is the key. 

Myth #7:

Carbohydrates make your fat.

The Truth:

Lack of physical exercise and too much fat seems to be the cause of obesity, not too much carbohydrates. The following studies found that carbohydrates were not the cause of obesity:

  1. Difference in dietary intake and activity level between normal-weight and overweight or obese adolescents.
  2. Relationship between diet composition and body mass index in a group of Spanish adolescents.
  3. Eating behavior and energy and nutrient intake in overweight/obese and normal-weight Spanish elderly.
  4. Difference in the breakfast habits of overweight/obese and normal weight schoolchildren.
  5. Obesity and nutrition in children. The Belgian Luxembourg Child Study IV.
  6. Weight loss during 12 week's ad libitum carbohydrate-rich diet in
    overweight and normal-weight subjects at a Danish work site.

All studies showed that those who were overweight actually ate less carbohydrates, ate more fat, and exercised less. So, lack of exercise and too much fat is the most likely cause of obesity, not carbohydrates.  

Aerobic Training Myth

Myth #8:

Aerobics is the best method of losing fat. This silly myth prevails mainly among females; but I have heard more and more men saying the same thing.

The Truth:

Aerobics type of training burns fat and glucose while performing the exercise. Weight training burns fat while you train and up to 24 hours after you train. Muscle uses fat for fuel, so more muscle you have, the more fat utilization, all day long. Does that mean you will get muscle bound, I think we already covered that in a previous myth.

Myth #9:

Squats are bad for the knees.

The Truth:

You put more stress on your knees running and jogging then you do performing squats. To support that squats are not bad for the knees, a study "Determinants of cruciate-ligament loading during rehabilitation exercise.Shelburne KB, Pandy MG" found that squats were a safe exercise for even those who have had reconstruction of the ACL. In another study "Sagittal plane knee translation and electromyographic activity during closed and open kinetic chain exercises in anterior cruciate ligament-deficient patients and control subjects. Kvist J, Gillquist J." Showed that squats were safer and put less stress on the knees then open chain exercises such as leg extensions.

Myth #10:

You can spot reduce fat

The Truth:

You cannot spot reduce fat. You will not lose fat on your abs by doing situps. Fat is not utilized for energy in a localized manor. Sure, you can increase the muscle in the abs, but if you have a layer of fat covering the muscle, it will still be flabby. Fat is utilized in a systematic fashion and spot reducing is impossible.

I will add more myths as needed. Now you are armed with the information to combat the myths that seem to prevail.