From ‘no pain, no gain’ to thinking endless sit-ups are the fastest route to a flat stomach, there are plenty of common fitness myths that could be doing your workout routine more harm than good. Here, expert trainer Darren Beale of Muscle Food reveals the 10 unhelpful gym habits you need to ditch and what to focus on instead...
MYTH: Do cardio before strength training.
TRUTH: It’s better to have a short, non-intensive warm up then do strength training.
If you do cardio before strength training, you’ll have less energy to do full sets. Try a gentle warm up, do your weight exercises and then move onto cardio.
MYTH: Doing a hundred sit-ups will lead to flat abs.
TRUTH: Doing a variety of exercises that also involve your waist are more likely to lead to flat abs.
Crunches may be iconic but they aren’t the best way to trim your tum, as they only involve a small section of your abdominals. You’ll see more of dramatic difference doing planks, bridges and roll-ups instead.
MYTH: If you’re not sweating afterwards it wasn’t a good workout.
TRUTH: Sweat is not an indicator of calories burned.
When you sweat, it’s just your body’s response to external conditions. Sweating is often caused by your body responding to an overheated gym rather than to an intense workout.
MYTH: You need to work out for at least 45 minutes to feel the benefits.
TRUTH: Anytime spent exercising is good.
Even if you have a spare ten minutes, doing a few jumping jacks or squats will immediately raise your heart rate and give you a boost.
MYTH: Lifting weights will bulk you up.
TRUTH: Not necessarily, if you are a woman.
Even if you are lifting big dumbbells, women typically have less muscle tissue and testosterone so they are less physiologically prone to bulk up.
MYTH: Cardio is the best way to lose weight.
TRUTH: Weights are more effective.
Depending on the duration and intensity of your workouts, strength training often burns more calories than cardio. You also burn the majority of calories through your resting metabolic rate (RMR). Weight training boosts your RMR by preserving lean body mass (LBM), which helps you burn more calories over a 24-hour period independent of physical activity.
MYTH: Machines are the safest way to exercise because they ensure you do things properly.
TRUTH: A personal trainer will know how to work you better than a machine.
Machines may appear to help with correcting movements, but this is only true if they are properly adjusted for your weight and height. You’re better off having a coach or trainer watch you do exercises, both on and off machines, to not only make sure you’re getting the best from your workout but prevent injuries, too.
MYTH: No pain, no gain.
FACT: A good workout doesn’t always mean aching afterwards.
While you should always try to push yourself within reason to extend the limits of your endurance, workouts shouldn’t always have to leave you sore afterwards. If you experience pain during your workout, this can actually suggest an injury or danger. You should feel a little discomfort, but not to the point where you’re hurting yourself.
MYTH: If you don’t exercise when you’re young, it can be dangerous when you’re older.
FACT: It’s never too late to start.
Whether you’re 21 or 81, a workout regime can massively improve your overall health, so age shouldn’t come into it. Exercising in later life, even if you’ve never done it before, is never going to have a negative effect, as long as you stay within your boundaries. Find a workout that offers the right level of impact, depending on your age and condition.
MYTH: Stretching before exercise can prevent injury.
FACT: Always remembering to stretch afterwards can do you more good.
You should stretch when you’ve finished exercising, as your muscles shorten while you’re working out. If you spend five minutes stretching, you’ll get them back into their original state, helping to prevent injury.