Five common myths heard in the gym

In my first column for The Lincolnite, I feel it’s prudent to address many people’s misconceptions of how to get fit and healthy. With people’s work and home lives getting ever busier, less and less time is available for physical activity or sport.

In my experience as a personal trainer, people often look for a quick fix or a “magic bullet” that will get them the results that they want — and fast. The truth however is that this is rarely the case; at the very least it’s ineffective, and at the worst extremely dangerous.

There are also a number of misconceptions surrounding fitness too. The top five I hear:

“Weight training will make me too big”

This is possibly the most common statement I hear in the gym, and it’s completely false – usually women shy away from the weights in fear of getting too muscular or “bulky”.

Lifting heavy will not make you look like an Olympic weight lifter.

Men would struggle to put on more than 7lbs of lean muscle per year whilst following a strict weight training routine, so with women’s naturally lower levels of testosterone, this could be halved. Strength training is the most effective way to burn fat, and having a slightly higher level of muscle will result in more fat loss and a higher metabolism.

“I want to tone my stomach up – I’m going to do some sit ups”

Again, a lot of people spend most of their gym sessions working their core muscles in the hope of getting that dream six-pack. The truth is “toning” doesn’t exist – you can either build muscle or drop body fat.

Low body fat means more visible abdominals. By focusing on all the compound exercises such as squats, dead lift and military press, the core muscles are worked heavily anyway, and the amount of calories burned from using the large muscle groups of the legs and the upper body will result in much quicker fat loss.

Remember, you cannot target site specific fat loss.

The slow burn

Traditionally, gym users and fitness enthusiasts believed that to burn fat you need to operate inside “the fat burning zone” which is based on a crude heart rate formula. It’s simply not the case. Fat burning is purely down to how many calories burned.

Fat loss is very similar to using petrol in a car — the faster you go, the more petrol you use — the harder and more intense you train, the more calories you burn. Try to include some sprint interval training into your routines to turbo charge that fat loss.

Short fast bursts of exercises always win the fat loss race.

Stretching before workout prevents injuries

We all remember those PE sessions at school where we spent five minutes doing static stretches before the beginning of each session. However, research now shows this to not only be ineffective, but could actually increase chances of injury as the muscle is being lengthened and destabilised.

Instead, try a five-minute pulse raiser, which gets the heart rate pumping and muscles warm. Stretching after exercises is always recommended too.

“I want to turn fat into muscle”

Not going to happen! Treat muscle and fat like two different matters. They may not be related, but by exercising and creating a calorie deficit, you can effectively burn the fat off, and with a well-structured weights training routine, increase the muscle mass you currently have.