Updated: Jan 28
The internet is awash with advice and opinions from fitness experts and "fitness experts" trying to sell their methods and products. The amounts of contrasting opinions and advice can leave us scratching our heads and not knowing who, or what, to believe. In this article we will look at the 5 most common fitness myths:
#1. Long distance cardio is good for a fit physique
It is a common sight; the gym newbie trying to get in shape, pounding away on a treadmill in the hopes that hours of tedious cardio will sculpt that lean, athletic physique they so desperately require. The problem is, it doesn’t. In order to build an athletic physique it is important to focus on building a good foundation of muscle through resistance training and interval training. Resistance training effectively builds muscle whilst helping to burn fat and should be a priority in anyone’s exercise programme when looking to make aesthetic changes - this is true for female and male athletes alike. Compared to High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), medium-long distance steady state cardio was less effective at burning fat (1) (2). HIIT also increases the amount of post exercise oxygen consumption meaning you burn calories at a higher rate after a session. Just compare the physiques of long-distance runners to sprinters and you’ll understand where we are coming from.
Have a look at The Evolved guidelines to exercise here.
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#2. Bench press is the best way to build a big chest
Ah, chest day. Join the queue for the bench (you are 5th in line). At the end of the day, the bench press is the ‘king’ of chest exercises right? Not quite. First and foremost, when trying to build muscle, the more muscle fibres recruited the greater the potential for muscle growth, and the dumbbell press recruits significantly more muscle fibres than a standard bench press (3).That in itself should be enough to disprove this myth, yet we will go a bit further. The dumbbell press is also healthier on the joints as it allows for more natural rotation in the shoulder and wrist joints - the straight bar ‘locks’ the joints into one position which can lead to strains. Dumbbells are also safer if you do not have a spotter as they can be dropped without crushing your sternum and demand a higher degree of motor skills to balance.
#3.The more you train, the quicker the results
The whole point of exercising is to force the body to adapt to the stresses placed upon it. If you are training to increase the size of your muscles, you need to adequately stress your muscles which, in turn, stimulates them to grow. If you are training to improve your cardiovascular fitness then you stress your cardiovascular system which, in turn, stimulates your body to improve it’s efficiency at transporting and utilising oxygen. The thing is, these changes happen when you don’t train. The body needs to recover from the stresses placed upon it and these changes happen predominantly while you are sleeping. So while it is true that you need to train if you want to make changes to your health and/or physique, it is equally important to recover. If you lead a relaxing life with low stress levels and good sleep, you could get away with training more frequently than someone who does not. If you train hard and often without allowing your body to recover, you run the risk of over training and may end up doing more damage than good. Be smart, if you notice steady improvements in your performance then you are on the right track. If you reach a plateau, then you might need to train less instead of more.
#4. Squat to parallel
Squat as low as you can without pain or discomfort. If this is above, or only to, parallel then you may have a problem. The human body is designed to move and joints are supposed to be able to move through their entire range of motion. Flexibility issues are most evident in multi-joint movements such as the squat, overhead press and deadlift with the squat being the most challenging for the majority of people. This is because:
1 - it is a natural movement we stop performing correctly once we begin sitting on chairs or stools
2 - flexibility issues arising from our lifestyle changes (tight calves, inactive glutes and hamstrings, rounded upper back) all play major parts in the squat movement.
If you are having problems squatting then it is worth reading our article on the squat, speaking to a qualified, experienced trainer and re-learning the movement.
#5. Yoga is all you need
Yoga is a fantastic tool to add to your ‘exercise tool-kit’. It is, however, only part of the tool-kit. While yoga provides fantastic benefits in terms of balance, coordination, a degree of muscular strength and mental health, we need other aspects of fitness for overall health. Functional training is an effective model for exercise programming and by looking at the principles described in functional training we see that a few elements are not fulfilled by any one training method. We need resistance exercises to build effective muscle and strengthen joints and muscles and to reinforce healthy movement. We need to work on locomotion (moving) which includes walking, swimming, climbing and sprinting. There is also an argument for working on ‘fighting’ skills as, unfortunately, sometimes it is needed. As always, it is important to utilise many different training styles and sports to gain the most benefits from exercise.
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ABOUT THE AUTHORS
John Maitland is the co-founder of 'The Evolved Way.’ A personal trainer with over 10 years’ experience, he has worked alongside a wide range of leading CEOs, entrepreneurs and medical professionals. John is a keen athlete and holds a black belt in Shaolin Kung fu. A fan of the great outdoors, he can often be found exploring the British countryside and mountains...or breaking pine boards with his fingers.
Co-founder of 'The Evolved Way', and experienced personal trainer, Samson practices what he preaches. His own healthy lifestyle, which informs this site, is based on understanding the right way to eat and exercise, not excluding of course going out and enjoying life knowing you can still feel and look good.