Top 10 Workout Myths

Posted by Jess Amaris, intern and guest blogger
February 13, 2015


Myth: Stick solely to cardio for weight loss

While it’s true you should include 20-30 minutes of cardio into your workout routine, focusing solely on cardio will not transform your body as quickly or as dramatically as you would think.

“You need to incorporate both cardio and strength training,” says David Webster, Mayo Clinic athletic trainer. “People perceive cardio as the ultimate solution because their heart rate is up.”

By adding strength training into your workouts, you begin to build your muscles, creating a more toned look and maximizing your cardio routine. 

Webster says the more muscle you have built up, the more calories your body is going to burn, especially during cardio.  Supplement cardio with strength training to maximize your routine and get the toned look.

Myth: Heavy weights will bulk me up

This myth pertains more to women. It can be heard all the time in the weight room. Women are scared to even approach weights for fear they’ll come out looking like a female Arnold Schwarzenegger. This is simply not true and needs to be debunked.

“For a female to bulk up, she would have to do a lot of strength training — and I mean a lot,” Webster says. “Women do not have enough testosterone to bulk up the way men do.”

The female bodybuilders people see are training under very strenuous diet and workout programs that likely feature use of various muscle-building supplements.

Myth: I worked out today, so I can eat unhealthy

David Webster, L.A.T.

Sure you can — if you want to undo everything you just spent an hour in the gym working on. While you should incorporate a cheat day into your fitness plans to avoid regular binging throughout the week, working out does not exempt you from the calories of your unhealthy choices.

One of my favorite quotes is: “You can’t work off a bad diet,” because it’s true. Food is fuel, and proper nutrition guarantees results. Burning off a bad diet will only maintain what you have and deny your body of proper vitamins.

“If you want to lose weight, your output needs to be higher than your input,” Webster says. “Meaning, you need to burn more than you’re eating.”

Myth: Stretching helps prevent injuries

This one may be surprising. If you grew up playing sports, team stretching before a game was a regular routine. However, stretching before or after you exercise isn’t proven to reduce your chances of getting an injury. 

“Stretching is beneficial because it helps prepare the muscles for movement and eases your workout recovery, but there are no scientific facts stating it will reduce injury,” Webster says. “That’s entirely based on your form and movements during a workout.”

Webster recommends you utilize functional, dynamic stretches like lunges and leg swings to help you move better during workouts.

Myth: If the number on the scale isn’t going down, I’m not losing weight.

Many people key in on what the scale says, but the scale isn’t always the best representation of the changes your body is undergoing.

“The number on the scale is a factor of many things,” Webster says. “Such as: how much water you’ve drank, what you ate, what time you’re weighing in, etc.”

In fact, Webster notes that after someone loses a significant amount of weight, they often see the number on the scale go up because they’re building muscle, and muscle weighs more than fat.

If you want to accurately track your weight loss and muscle development, Webster recommends taking measurements of your arms, waist and thighs. And if you’re going to use the scale, weigh in at the same time every day.

Myth: Cardio machines demonstrate burned calories with 100 percent accuracy

Many gym rats religiously depend on the treadmill to tell them an exact number of calories burned during a workout.  The truth is the machine isn’t 100 percent accurate.

“There are many factors that go into determining how many calories your body will burn on average,” Webster says. “These factors include whether you’re male or female, your age and current weight.”

Some machines ask for one or two of those, but not all. So, it’s not 100 percent accurate in what you’re burning.

For understanding your body’s average burn rate, Webster recommends looking at online sources for an accurate reading.

Myth: Sticking to ab workouts will give me a six-pack

Webster says that abdominal workouts are great for developing core muscles because they benefit your body in many ways, but it’s body fat that prevents abs from making an appearance.

“If you want six-pack abs, you have to dramatically decrease your body fat, but you cannot spot-train weight loss,” Webster says. “Your body may lose fat faster in other areas.”

To see a six-pack, body fat would need to be reduced to these numbers:

Men: 10 to 12 percent

Women: 11 to 13 percent

This is possible. It just requires a lot of dedication with clean eating and exercise.

Myth: Supplements and protein shakes after workouts are necessary

Regardless of whether or not they’re necessary, it might be tough to give up that peanut butter chocolate protein shake after a workout. Isn’t that half the motivation for completing the workout? Webster says these supplements are not necessary, and the benefits you reap from them can come from natural and direct food sources, such as chocolate milk, turkey and a scoop of peanut butter.

“It’s important to remember that nutrition companies are out to make money,” Webster says. “So, they’ll sell their product by convincing consumers it’s the only product that provides what they need before, during or after a workout.”

The truth is we don’t need a whey protein isolate shake to get proper nutrients. We can get those directly from cheaper food sources.

“It’s also important to remember that these protein-rich foods should be consumed within 30 minutes after a workout,” Webster says.  “This is important so your muscles absorb that energy as they’re still burning and working.”

Myth: If I’m not working up a sweat, I’m not working hard enough

Sweating is an inaccurate way to measure how hard you’ve worked out. Webster says there are many factors that go into the amount a person sweats, such as the environment (temperature), humidity and your hydration levels.

“Sweating shouldn’t be a gauge of how hard you’re working during a workout,” Webster says. “Your body could just be very efficient at cooling itself.”

Myth: “No pain, no gain”

Jane Fonda misleads many on this saying. While feeling uncomfortable during a workout is normal, feeling actual pain is not.

Webster says a lot of athletes live by this motto, but he always tells them pain is the way your body tells you something is wrong. 

“If you start to feel pain during a workout, stop immediately,” Webster says. “If you continue to push through it, you could end up with a serious injury.”

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Comments (1)

Very helpful. I'm 69, and used to run 2 miles a day, until I started to experience knee problems, and frankly got consumed by running a business. Now that I retired, I've started a weight reduction/ health management regimen (thanks to the "Greatest Winner" program at our local hospital, Pocono Medical Center) and work hour for an hour at the Gym 6 days a week. I was particularly interested in your comment on developing 6 pack abs (I'd have to get down to 134 pounds - seems very unlikely), resting a day in between gym workouts (I'm alternating weight lifting with cardio vascular bicycle - and hoping that will have the same benefit), and your comments about 1 vs. 3 reps having the same benefit. Thanks again. (My day was a physician, and fellow at the Mayo Clinic - have the greatest respect for you guys).

Ed Jones - 10/08/2016

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