In the world of fitness and weight training, myths and misconceptions abounds, especially with regard to weight training and women. We take a look at 10 common training myths and debunk them for you.
Myth 1: Weight training will make you too muscular
Many women are afraid of working out on the free weights floor because they do not want to become too muscular.
As women don’t and can’t naturally produce as much testosterone as men do, it’s impossible for them to gain huge amounts of muscle mass by merely lifting weights. Gaining muscle mass is also dependent on taking in sufficient protein to repair the muscles following weight training.
Training with weights and eating a normal, healthy diet will result in a firm and fit cellulite-free physique.
Myth 2: Only cardio can help with weight loss
Many gym-goers dedicate all of their time to cardio equipment, aerobic classes and spinning sessions to achieve their weight-loss goals, as they believe that only cardio results in fat loss.
This is, however, untrue. By including weight training in your exercise regimen you will increase your muscle mass (don’t stress, see myth 1), which in turn boosts your basal metabolic rate – the amount of calories you burn in a day to keep your body functioning.
Weight training also creates a greater increase in post-exercise metabolic rate than most forms of cardio. Weight training will also improve strength, which will enable you to push yourself harder when you do your cardio exercises.
This will make it easier for you to work at higher intensities, ensuring quicker results.
Myth 3: If you stop weight training your muscles turn to fat
This is one of the most ridiculous myths, as muscle and fat are two totally different types of tissue.
What happens many times is that when people cease weight training programs, they start losing muscle due to inactivity and they usually stop following a healthy diet at the same time.
Therefore, bad eating habits combined with a lowered metabolism due to inactivity, as well as a reduced basal metabolic rate due to a decrease in muscle mass gives the impression that muscle is being turned into fat.
In reality, what is actually happening is that muscle is being lost and fat is being accumulated.
Myth 4: Spot reduction works for targeted fat loss
This is probably the most common myth, often touted by infomercials to sell ‘miracle’ exercise equipment to misinformed consumers. The truth is that there is no such thing as spot reduction. Fat is lost throughout the body in a pattern dependent upon genetics, sex (hormones) and age.
This means that overall body fat must be reduced to lose fat in any particular area. By targeting a specific area with weight training will simply develop the muscles in that area, which will assist with overall fat loss.
While fat is deposited throughout the body, the first area to gain fat is the last area to become lean.
This is the midsection and the hips and thighs.
Fat loss will usually seem quickest in the extremities, namely the arms and legs, as these carry the least amount of stored fat.
Myth 5: Women should stick to light weights and high reps
Most women follow a low-weight, high-rep weight training program as most believe this is best type of training to lose weight and burn fat.
However, working with lighter weights for more repetitions does not necessarily burn more fat or tone better than a heaver weight with moderate repetitions.
Rather use a combination, using heavier weights to add more muscle (see myth 2) and lighter weights and higher reps to get the best of all worlds.
Myth 6: I’m too old to lift weights
There is no age limit on when you can begin a strength training program and, even better, the improvements you will experience will make your life better. These benefits include: Better movement and functional strength;
Better movement and functional strength;
Improved balance and coordination;
Greater strength and flexibility;
Lower risk of falling down and the ability to get back up if you do.
In fact, the risks associated with not exercising and lifting weights are much greater than a safe, effective strength program for older women. In fact, without exercise, we could lose 3-5% of our muscle mass per decade after the age of 40, through a natural process called sarcopenia. This loss of muscle doesn’t just cause weight gain, but it also contributes to reduced function and strength.
Myth 7: I need to be sore after exercise to see results
Many people still follow the old adage of ‘no pain no gain’. This is an antiquated philosophy that no longer has place in today’s scientifically-guided world of exercise and fitness.
Moderate-intensity exercise lowers the risk of dying just as much as high-intensity exercise. For example, studies have shown that women who regularly engage in brisk walking reduced their risk of heart disease to the same degree as women who engaged in vigorous exercise. So you don’t need to run a marathon to get fit.
However, high-intensity exercise does have one advantage – it saves time. It takes less time to burn the same number of calories at higher intensities.
It is therefore a more effective means of losing weight and burning fat.
Myth 8: There is no other point to exercising if I am not losing weight
Weight training has a multitude of benefits other than weight loss and muscle toning. Weight training assists with increasing and restoring bone density, thereby preventing and fighting osteoporosis.
Weight training also prevents injury by building a solid foundation that strengthens bones, ligaments, and tendons. Strong legs and core muscles also improves posture and stability when walking, therefore improving the quality of everyday life. Weight training also helps reduce the risk of coronary disease by helping reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels. But probably of most importance, strength training, when combined with a healthy lifestyle, ensures that the ageing process is slowed and that the body is kept in an optimally functioning condition as we get older.
Myth 9: Machines are safer than free weight
Exercise-machine manufacturers often advertise that their equipment isolates and targets specific muscles and prevents injury by having the trainee perform an exercise through a preset path of motion, thereby eliminating room for error. However, the restrictive movements of exercise machines may actually increase the risk of injury.
Machines are fixed and rigid and therefore limit the natural movements of the lifter. They can’t accommodate a person’s individual limb length and strength curve, and as a result can place shearing forces on joints. When you use free weights your body naturally makes adjustments throughout the exercise’s range of motion according to your strength level, speed of movement, and proficiency at executing your reps.
Machines don’t allow for this freedom of movement and compensation.
Myth 10: The longer you work out the more calories you will burn
You don’t need to work out for two hours a day, or do 20 to 30 sets per body part to get results.
Research has shown that a medium to high intensity workout of between 30 to 60 minutes, at least three times a week can yield fitness and weight loss goals. Working out at a higher intensity for a shorter duration, as opposed to long, slow workouts means that you get the same result in a shorter time.
You are also less likely to get bored with your exercise routine and you will feel a greater sense of accomplishment, and you are more likely to do it because it is easier to fit it in with the rest of your day’s tasks.
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