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Strength Training Myths & Prejudices


Training Myths

There are many training myths out there, most of which are completely unfounded. Letīs face it.

#1: Spot reduction myth.

You can experience the following in virtually every day in any given gym: People want to lose fat in a certain area, the belly for example, and do crunches and sit-ups and leg-raises until they canīt breathe. It never works, because fat burning takes place throughout the complete body, depending on several premises such as genetics (body type), age and sex, level of activity, nutrition and lifestyle. There are certain spots, for men itīs the belly area, for women often hips and thighs, where body fat is preferably stored. To get rid of that, you need decrease your overall fat percentage by training the large muscle groups on a regular basis and by maintaining a proper diet.

#2: Definition through high reps myth.

A common believe is, that by performing high reps (about 20 or even more) you burn more fat and therefore get your muscles to look more defined. Of course, doing more repetitions burns more calories, but in negligible amounts. Better have an extra cardio workout and / or cut the number of calories you take in. A low-calorie / high rep combination will force your body to even lose muscle mass, because the (white) fast-twitch-fibers arenīt stimulated enough for maintenance while the (red) slow-twitch-fibers donīt receive enough energy to grow.

#3: Cardio training burns more fat than weight training.

Muscles burn fat as a source of energy, so the more muscles you have, the more fat you burn. Any intense strength training causes your metabolism to rise and to stay at this higher level for the next 48 hours, which means 48 hours of an increased fat burning. After cardio training, your metabolism is up for only about another hour. If you want to lose fat, train your muscles. Long term fat reduction requires weight training rather than cardio training.

#4: Training changes the muscleīs shape.

You canīt change the muscleīs basic shape. The growth you see when working your muscles, is the effect of muscles cells becoming thicker, but the general shape canīt be influenced. A popular example is the biceps. Imagine the muscle an elastic band, spanned between the bones of a joint. Now if you try to pull such a band, itīs impossible to put more tension on one end, neither on the other. So when you lift a weight, thereīs the same level of muscular tension and the same impact along the whole muscle fiber.

#5: Strength training increases the number of muscle cells.

As already mentioned, muscle growth is just a thickening of the mitochondria of muscle fibers through water and amino acid absorption. The number of muscle cells remains the same, basically. Scientific studies showed that the intake of growth hormones can cause the muscle fibers to proliferate, as it happens during adolescence.

#6: Lower abs myth.

Most leg raise exercises for abdominals are actually performed by the hip flexor muscles, such as Iliopsoas. Rectus Abdominis is not able to raise any leg up. It only performs isometric contractions, without significant movement.

#7: An effective training has to hurt.

No pain, no gain? Yes, while strength training the muscles have to hurt for a moment, but a long-lasting delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) for more than three days is a sign of over-training. Have a longer rest and decrease your training volume.

#8: When you are training, you transform boy fat into muscles. And contrary, if ypou stop.

Simplified, body fat is made of triglycerides and muscles of amino acids. Two completely different chemical substances that canīt be transformed into another. Matter if fact, a good muscular workout burns fat and builds muscles. As you stop training for a longer time your metabolism drops and so does your need for calories. If you donīt adjust your nutrition, you may gain body fat. There is no such thing as transformation.

#9: Postural problems and back pain require back training.

Case 1: Most people having back pain in the lumbar spine region donīt have weak back muscles. Often itīs an abs - lower back imbalance, that causes a hollow back. The relatively strong lower back pulls the lumbar spine into an extended position, while the abdominal muscles, which are a relatively thin layer, are too weak to keep up. The challenge is to get two completely different shaped muscles in balance by strengthening the abdominals and by increasing the mobility of the lower back as well as the hip flexors, gluteus, hamstrings and calves. Case 2: As you sit a lot throughout the day, you may be a thoracic spine humpback candidate, which means that your chest muscles are shortened while your back is weakened. That requires the training of all upper back rear shoulder muscles, in combination with a regular chest and front deltoid stretching.

#10: Itīs better to use machines instead of weights.

In the beginning itīs okay to refer to machines only, because you need some time to learn all the new motion patterns. After a few weeks or months of training experience, shift to free weights more often to also train many stabilizing muscles as well as your coordinative skills.

#11: Women need to train different than men.

That’s a classic: While women stick on doing the "typical" 15-20 reps exercises with machines for gluteus, abs, thighs and so on, men keep lifting free weights like squatting or bench pressing for 8-12 reps. Why? Women donīt want to build big muscles. Although it has never happened that a woman (or a man) accidentally built too many muscles. Especially woman donīt have the level of testosterone to do so. Which is great, because women who do a relatively heavy weight training, including squatting and lunges, will develop tight and slender muscles that offer fantastic shape and help to burn plenty of fat.

#12: Good progress takes a lot of training.

After strength training the muscles are somewhat "smaller" (donīt confuse the pumped up look with growth) because of microscopic injuries. Consequently the body repairs these injuries and adds a little more thickness to prepare the muscle to do better next time (super compensation). Therefore the resting time is an essential part of a progressive training. It should neither be too short nor too long. Depending on factors such as training level or the own ability to recovery, an appropriate resting time should last about 48 hours for a particular muscle and can go up to 96 hours after a highly intensive hard training.

#13: Everyone can be a bodybuilder.

The truth is that only 20 of 10000 men have the genetics to become successful bodybuilders. Even if youīre among those 20, it takes a lot more than hard training to finally reach this a level. On the other hand you should never blame genetics for a bad shape. Depending on your body type it may be challenging to get six-pack abdominals, a huge biceps, to gain 60 pounds of muscle mass or to lose plenty of fat. No matter where you start from, thereīs one thing that will take you to wherever you want: a strong and persistent will.

#14: Sweating a lot implies a bad shape.

While training, your body heats up, but has a clever cooling system installed to avoid overheating: sweating. The amount of sweat depends on level of training intensity, surrounding temperature, air humidity and the individual size of your sweat glands. Therefore sweating a lot implies the perfect functionality of this important system. Remember to drink about one extra liter of water per training hour.

#15: Stretching is useless.

It is still part of controversial discussions, whether a balanced workout needs an extra stretching. The answer is: Yes! Stretching is useful; because it increases the muscleīs blood circulation, flexibility and capacity to regenerate. It improves the flexibility of ligaments and mobility of joints, which eventually increases the overall physical performance level. Today, stretching is often regarded not as a complement to a weight training, but is an important balance to one-sided physical stress in everyday life.