Are common exercise myths messing up your health goals? Sifting through the scads of flawed fitness theories, dated toning techniques, and wacky workout advice can be overwhelming. Knowledge is power, and unfortunately, if you’re receiving misinformation it’s enough to derail your productivity in the gym.
Your search for fitness facts stops here. This week, I’m highlighting three popular workout myths that are hindering your progress. Get your goals out of the gutter by avoiding these frequent fitness flaws:
Myth: Exercise can make up for a poor diet.
We’ve all been there. You head to happy hour with coworkers with the intention of ordering a salad and a glass of water. Two hours later, you’ve inhaled half an Applebee’s sampler platter, three margaritas, and four buttery dinner rolls. The following day, in an effort to burn the bounty of calories consumed, you hit the gym twice, toss in a few jumping jacks during a conference call. That should do it, right?
Wrong. You can’t out-exercise a bad diet. Sure we all have “bad days” and that’s OK. However, unless you’re Michael Phelps training for the Olympics, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever burn enough calories to counteract poor portion control and overindulging.
No doubt about it, abs are made in the kitchen.
Myth: Strength training turns fat into muscle.
Unless you’re David Copperfield, you can’t turn fat into muscle. They are two entirely different types of tissue. Fat is made of adipose tissue while muscles are composed of different types of protein.
First, let’s get the facts straight about fat, because it often gets a bad rap. Adipose tissue plays an important role in energy storage, heat insulation and organ protection. Fatty tissue becomes a problem only when we carry excess amounts of it, which contributes to obesity, heart disease, diabetes and many other chronic conditions and life-threatening diseases.
The only way to transform from roly poly to svelte and strong is through a combination of healthy eating and exercise. By implementing these two factors into your lifestyle, you will burn more fat and increase muscle definition.
Myth: Static stretches are best before a workout.
There is no denying that flexibility training is essential for healthy joints and muscles, and that a properly warmed up body operates best. The question of greater importance is which stretches you should perform.
For years, static stretching was the gold standard for a pre-workout warmup. Every gym teacher and high school coach instructed you to do this before physical activity. And although static stretching is valuable, it is best reserved for post-workout muscles that are loose and limber.
Dynamic stretches engage the body in functional movements, making them the most effective warm-up. Examples of dynamic stretches include marching in place, arm circles, walking lunges, and bird dogs. Aim for at least five minutes of dynamic stretches before beginning a work out.
Here’s how to add the bird dog to your warm-up:
- Position your body on your hands and knees. Place a towel or yoga mat beneath your knees for added protection.
- Position your shoulders over your wrists and your hips stacked above your knees.
- Engage your abdominal muscles and slowly extend your right arm and left leg fully until they are parallel with the floor. Your arm and leg should form a straight line from your fingers through your toes.
- Hold for five breaths and repeat on the opposite side. That’s one repetition. Aim for 10 total.
When it comes to exercise, rack your weights, not your brain.
Ashley B. Greenblatt is a certified personal trainer and wellness coach. To learn more, visit ashleyblakefitness.com.