Dear Earth, we’re screwed.
Right now, as you and I hurtle through space, some people believe that the Earth is flat. Yes, something that’s been a scientific fact for a few hundred years, is now, utterly bogus according to Flat Earth Society experts.
As if that isn’t astounding enough, 1 in 4 Americans are certain the Sun orbits the Earth. Sorry Isaac Newton, but when that apple fell on your head, it must have knocked a few screws loose. Because 25% of Americans believe the greatest scientist in history is wrong.
But hold on dear reader, because I’m about to make your mind vomit with disbelief. The Centers for Disease Control recently issued a warning that you should never wash and reuse condoms. I mean, what the freaking eff dude? Seriously? People exist who think washing condoms is a good idea?
My God, man, people will believe in anything I guess. Of course, when it comes to fat loss, building muscle, or nutrition, there’s a whole lot of fitness myths and misconceptions floating around the Internet. And you’re in luck, my friend. I’m going to unravel and bring to the light the most bullshit-laden fitness myths on the web today.
Buckle up, bucko. You’re in for a wild ride.
Myth: Soreness equals a great workout.
If you don’t feel your muscles screaming in agony the next day, you didn’t work hard enough, right?
Fact: Working out is akin to sex.
Some nights passions run wild, and every single centimeter of your skin is buzzing. Oh, absolute ecstasy!
Then there are nights where you put on some slow jams, take your time, and enjoy the connection with your partner. And then there are those times where you’re just going through the motions and hoping for the best in the end. But then the end isn’t the magical ecstasy unicorn that you rode last week. And you roll over asking yourself why you even put yourself through that disaster.
And working out is exactly like that as well. It won’t always be pure ecstasy, and you won’t always feel sore the day after a great workout. But just because your mind isn’t blown and your legs aren’t wobbly doesn’t mean what you did wasn’t good.
Myth: Lifting kills your joints.
Heavy, and I mean like heavy weightlifting, does place a strain on your joints. But if you’re not acting like a 20-year-old gym bro who only thinks with his schlong while lifting, this is total bollocks.
Fact: Intelligently designed weightlifting programs strengthen your joints thanks to something known as Wolff’s Law.
When you lift heavy weight, your muscles have to build more fibers to handle the increased loads placed upon them. But your body also builds stronger connective tissue and bones while building more muscle.
According to Wolff’s Law, this phenomenon happens only when you slowly increase weight. Or what we fitness pros call “progressive overload.” Basically, every week you’re in the gym, you want to attempt to either add 5 more pounds to your previous lift(s) from the last week or use the same weight but perform 1-3 more reps.
Slow and steady always wins the race.
Myth: Weightlifting is bad for you if you’re “old.”
This crap makes me want to punch a wall every time I read something about how older people should avoid lifting weights.
Fact: Weightlifting is good no matter your age.
As you age, your body naturally begins the process of sarcopenia — the loss of muscle mass with aging. But, here’s the great thing about lifting weights: It helps you retain muscle mass.
Oh, and before anyone tries to tell you otherwise, it is possible for men and women above the age of 30 or 40 to build muscle. You may not build muscle like you did when you were 20. But lifting as you age helps you retain more of the muscle tissue you already have, which is a big deal. According to one long-term study, those who maintained (or built) more lean muscle mass as they aged live longer than those who do not.
So, uh. Start (or keep) lifting, old timer.
Myth: You have to lift heavy to build muscle and lift light(er) to tone.
This bullshit is why far too many women are worried about getting “bulky” when they lift weights. And fitness personalities for decades have promoted this false claim when they suggested that women should use smaller weights and perform higher reps.
Ladies, you can lift heavy. You won’t get bulky. Oh, and my fellow dudebros, training with lighter weights and higher reps, you know, “toning,” is something you should be doing as well.
Fact: Lifting in ALL rep ranges builds muscle
Muscle hypertrophy is what happens when you increase the size of your muscles via resistance training. And the size of your muscle(s) will increase when you lift for 5 reps or 12 reps or even 30 reps.
Dr. Brad Schoenfeld and a few other colleagues published a meta-analysis in 2018 on strength and hypertrophy. They wanted to answer this question: What rep range is best for building muscle?
After combing through more than 21 different studies on the effects of hypertrophy, Brad and his colleagues found that muscle hypertrophy occurs across all rep ranges.
Your goals will always dictate what and how you should train, always. But training across all rep ranges — 5 reps, 8 reps, 10 reps, 20 reps, etc — is the best way to get the results you want no matter what.
Side Note: What is “toning” then? Is it really a thing?
Think of toning like sculpting. When a sculptor uses clay to make a figure, sometimes the sculptor has to add clay (muscle) to get the desired definition of the piece. And sometimes the sculptor needs less clay and has to chisel it away (lose fat) for the finished product.
Toning is really a mix of taking away clay (fat) and adding clay (muscle) to bring out the desired results.
Myth: More (lifting/cardio/exercise) is better.
Are more Michael Bay films a good idea? Nope. We should have less. But when it comes to strength training, more isn’t always better.
When you’re in the gym, you’re breaking down muscles. And you have to break them down before they can be rebuilt. Then you have to make sure you’re feeding your body with the right nutrition so that it can send the necessary materials to your muscles for repair. The protein you consume in your diet is important, but protein consumption alone won’t help you recover.
Fact: Your body repairs and builds new lean tissue when you’re at rest.
Rest is when your body adapts and makes the changes necessary to build new muscle and keeps you progressing in the gym. Days off from the gym are just as important (if not more) than the days you’re hoisting the iron.
Myth: Cardio is the best way to lose body fat.
Far too many people think that you need to put in arduous, never-ending minutes on the treadmill to lose weight.
Look, cardio is important. It helps your ticker run a lot better and aids in improving your recovery time from intense exercise due to improved blood flow and crap. But when it comes to weight loss or fat loss, cardio is not what you need to do.
Fact: Cardio is the worst way to lose body fat.
Pay close attention to what I’m about to say; tattoo it to your left forearm, scribble it on sticky notes, and plaster your walls with it:
Nutrition drives fat loss; workouts support it.
If your goal is to lose body fat, you have to take control of your nutrition. Exercise helps, but the battle of the bulge is 80% nutrition and 20% exercise. Look at it this way:
Fat burning changes our body’s composition levels while retaining as much muscle mass as possible.
Weight loss loses both fat and muscle while only caring about what a hunk of plastic and metal tells you.
Oh, and all that “fat burning zone” and those “burn fat faster workouts” are (kind of) bogus. Sure, higher-intensity exercise means you’ll burn more total calories due to what you’re putting your body through. But none of that matters if you’re not in a calorie deficit. Because no matter what you think or how hard you try, you can’t go to the gym and out work a bad diet.
Myth: Weightlifting isn’t good for cardiovascular health.
Compared to steady state cardio, weightlifting doesn’t keep your heart rate at a constant level. But, weightlifting does affect your cardiovascular health and it can improve it.
Fact: Your heart will benefit from weightlifting.
In a roundabout way, weightlifting is a kind of HIIT training. You lift, and your heart works harder; then, you rest, and it slows; then you do another set so your heart rate goes back up; and then you rest again.
Steady state cardio is important. I break that down here in an old podcast episode. But if you hate running, you don’t have to do cardio. You’ll still get cardiovascular benefits from tossing around the iron.
Myth: Exercise is good for your immune system; so you should exercise when you’re sick.
Ah, Winter, the time for the flu, colds, and dozens of other maladies. But your latest sickness has come right in the middle of your attempts to lose a few pounds. And you know that exercise is good for your immune system. So is it okay to workout when you’re sick?
Here’s Robbie’s Quick Guide to Knowing if You Should Workout When You’re Sick:
Do you have congestion from the neck up? No? Cool. Workout but keep it moderate and don’t try setting PRs.
Do you have congestion from the neck down? Yes? Damn. That sucks. You should skip the workout and rest.
Do you feel like you’re gonna vomit? Can you barely walk/stand/move without thinking about vomiting? If you answered yes to either of those, go the fuck to sleep. Drink plenty of liquids and eat some chicken noodle soup when you wake.
The weights will still be there when your body heals. So rest, recover, eat whole food sources and use this downtime to read cool stuff online or play some video games.
Myth: Strength training equals lifting weights.
If you want to build muscle or gain strength, you have to lift weights. So, if you can’t afford a gym membership or you hate the gym, you’re shit out of luck when it comes to strength training.
Fact: Resistance is your body fighting gravity.
Strength training is more than dumbbells, barbells, or kettlebells. Pole Fitness is huge right now, and it requires massive amounts of strength. But the only resistance you have is your body.
There are millions of people around the world who only use their body weight for exercise. And there are thousands of others who use resistance bands or TRX to challenge their bodies to get stronger. Strength is the adaptation your muscles make to the tension they’re placed under. Those adaptations will vary depending on the external forces you place on your body, but you don’t need to lift weights to strength train.
Strength training is nothing more than you fighting gravity. If what you do helps you fight gravity’s pull on your bones, then you’re strength training.
Myth: It’s best to work one muscle group a day.
For 99.99% of the population, this is a myth. In fact, training every body part in some capacity three times a week is more effective in terms of fat loss, muscle building, and general fitness.
When an online coaching client starts with me, 99% of them start with full body workouts three times a week. Beyond saving time, my clients hit the major muscle groups more often, which elicits more stimulus to the bigger muscle groups, and forces their body to adapt more quickly than if they worked only one group every day.
Fact: Faster workouts don’t always mean better workouts, and slower movements aren’t always ideal. But focused work matters most.
Context is always important in terms of what you do in the gym. What you’re doing might be good for you, and it might also be really bad for you. But it ultimately depends on your goal(s) at the end of the day.
I coach my online clients to slow down and feel each rep. There’s no need to attack the weights in the gym like a horny chihuahua humping your ankles. What you do in the gym is dependent on the context of why you’re doing what you’re doing.
Are you trying to get a pump and really feel your muscles? Good, then slow down and focus on creating more connection between your mind and your muscle.
Trying to sweat your face off and want to challenge your metabolic pathways? Awesome, speed it up a bit and focus on moving lighter weights faster.
Myth: You have to confuse your muscles.
Do you wanna know what your muscles don’t have? A brain. They have no way to reason or deduce fact from fiction. They do whatever your gelatinous 3-pound mind tells them to do. So, no, you can’t “confuse” your muscles.
Do you know what actually builds muscle? Tension. And there are numerous ways to increase tension in muscles:
- Lift heavy;
- Keep rest short;
- Increase time under tension.
1 is rather self-explanatory. But 2 and 3 need more clarification.
Shorter rest periods (2) place more tension on your muscles’ ability to recover and refuel. So, muscles that aren’t fully recovered have to work harder to perform an exercise without all the fuel from a full recovery. Sticking with time (3) in regards to increasing tension, the longer you keep a muscle under a load, the more tension you place on the fibers.
Fact: Consistency and progressive overload are what your muscles nee
When you continuously apply tension for 4-6 weeks, and practice progressive overload, then your body can adapt and change. But if you’re changing up workouts every week because you’re trying to “confuse” your body, then you’re never going to place your muscles under the constant tension that they need to grow.
Look, working out is the easy part. And maybe you can’t confuse your muscles, but you can get really goddanged confused when it comes to nutrition. One day protein is good for you, the next day it’s terrible. One day potatoes are cool, the next day they’ll add ten pounds to your belly overnight.
And don’t even get me started on sugar and how addictive that substance is. Have you seen all the people out on the street performing sex acts to get their sugar fix, bro? It’s insane. In part two of this myth series, I cover the 14 biggest nutrition myths and show you with freaking science what’s true and what is total freaking bullocks.
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