MYTH #1: Cardio training is the best way to lose weight.
This is a major myth: It is true that losing weight relies on expending energy, but an important component of weight loss is the neuroendocrine system which regulates hormones in our body. Hormones are chemicals that control cellular actions. Too much cardiorespiratory exercise can elevate the hormone cortisol — which can convert protein, normally used to repair damaged muscle tissue, into energy, which lowers the amount available to repair and grow new muscle tissue. Strength training with weights is an important component of weight loss not only because it can burn excess calories, but because it can elevate levels of growth hormone which help metabolize fat for fuel as well as promoting the growth of new muscle. Muscle is more metabolically active than fat, 1 pound can burn 5-7 calories/day at rest; adding 5 pounds of muscle can help increase your resting metabolism over 200 calories a week, which is the equivalent of an additional 2 mile run.
MYTH #2: Muscle definition is the result of using light weights for a lot of repetitions.
FALSE. Muscle definition requires activation of the larger type II muscle fibers. Type II fibers are recruited when an external resistance is really heavy OR after the type I muscle fibers fatigue. Using lighter weights will rely on the aerobic type I fibers (meaning they use oxygen to produce energy), the type II fibers will not be activated until the type I’s fatigue. You CAN use light weights for high reps ONLY IF you do enough reps that you reach momentary fatigue — meaning not capable of doing another rep. If you do 20 reps but feel like you can do more, guess what? You won’t be using the type II’s which give your muscles their sexy shape. Which would you rather do, 25 reps of a light weight or 5-6 reps of a heavier weight? Either way to achieve definition you should lift to fatigue; if you have a busy, fast-paced lifestyle doing 5-6 reps takes a LOT LESS time than 25.
MYTH #3: Crunches are an important exercise for tightening and toning the abs.
NO, they’re not. The default pattern of human movement is walking — meaning that all the muscles in your body are designed in a way to work most efficiently as you’re walking upright over the ground. Think about how you walk, you DO NOT lean forward as you take each step, therefore doing crunches works in opposition of how the rectus abdominus (six pack) muscles are actually designed to function. When walking, the RA will decelerate anterior rotation of the pelvis (for more specific details read this article) as the leg moves behind the body, meaning the best strength training exercises for the RA will challenge the muscle to lengthen, not shorten. Examples include: forward lunges while raising both arms overhead (see photo above); inchworm walkouts or pikes where your hands are on the floor and legs on a stability ball (see photo below). Each of these exercises causes the abdominal muscles to lengthen under tension.
MYTH #4: High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is the best way to burn calories.
It can be, but remember that exercise is stress applied to the body; the type of stress (exercise), the amount applied, and how frequently the body is subjected to the stress will determine the adaptions. HIIT can be effective for burning calories but it is also extremely effective at causing metabolic fatigue (meaning depleting all energy stores within a muscle) and mechanical damage (the actual physical damage to the involved muscle fibers). Muscle fibers will replenish energy (via glycogen) and initiate repair (via hormones and satellite cells) during the recovery time after a workout. Doing HIIT workouts too many days in a row will not give your muscles time to repair, replenish, and recover. You can do a HIIT workout, but the next day should be a different type of lower intensity activity. Here’s a great schedule: a high intensity cycling class on Monday, a yoga flow on Tuesday, dance class on Wednesday, HIIT strength circuit on Thursday, rest on Friday, your favorite HIIT workout on Saturday, and a nice long walk or yoga class on Sunday — your muscles will be working everyday, but with different types of loads and forces applied so you can reduce the risk of overtraining while promoting tissue repair.
MYTH #5: Taking a rest day will keep me from reaching my goals.
No, all top athletes schedule rest into their workout programs because that’s when your body repairs itself from the damage done by exercise. Exercise is only part of the equation, how you recover from your workouts is essential for ensuring that they deliver the desired results. Taking a day to allow your body to recover from exercise doesn’t mean avoiding any physical activity, it simply means doing a lower intensity workout that places a different stress load on your body. Another important component of recovery from exercise is how you sleep: Your muscles repair themselves during your REM cycles; if your sleep is interrupted or not long enough, you run the risk of insufficient recovery which could lead to overtraining. Doing a HIIT workout, running a race, or going for a PR on a Saturday? Don’t make that your big night out because you will need at least seven hours of good, deep sleep for a full and proper recovery. Had a big night out? Don’t try to push through a hard workout the next day — be active, but working too hard while fatigued is a great way to get injured.
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Written by Pete McCall, MS, CSCS. Pete is a contributor for The Sweat Life- check out his original post here.