3 Fitness Myths Busted
To get good abs I need to do crunches
This is wrong on a couple of counts. Firstly, we can’t choose where our body loses weight- the idea of “spot reducing” or burning fat from specific areas just isn’t true. We have very little, if no control at all over where our bodies choose to take fat from. Doing 1000’s of reps of a core exercise won’t translate to you getting the definition in your abs that you’re looking for.
The other big issue with this thought is that crunches are an atrocious exercise, along with any variation of sit-ups and twists. The strain you put on your lower back is the equivalent of carrying 750Ibs (or 3 baby elephants) on your shoulders. That’s how much compression is happening between the discs of your vertebrae each time you perform a crunch. With regards to the twisting- your lower back is meant to be stable, like the trunk of a tree and the range of motion those discs are capable of is only about 2 degrees of rotation. Putting your lower back through the rotation forces Russian twists or other rotational exercises create is just asking for trouble.
One other thing to consider is that if you took a picture of someone doing a crunch, flipped it over so it looked like they were on their feet, would you consider that person to have good posture? Nope! They’d look like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Why would you want to encourage that? What we do in the gym should represent how we want our bodies to perform in the real world.
So, what to do instead? Think of “anti” movements. Your core should prevent flexion and extension (the very action of crunches and situps), rotation (Russian twists) and lateral flexion/extension (side bends). Anti-extension exercises include planks and rollouts, anti-rotation would be pallof press and anti-lateral flexion would be side-planks and farmer carries. The best thing for the core is to teach it to create stability.
One point that is often overlooked is that abs are made in the kitchen! We can train as hard as we want but if we don’t eat right we won’t get the aesthetics we desire.
I need to spend hours working out
The idea that we need to spend hours in the gym is an unfortunate trap that people fall into. Your body can’t tell between good or bad stress and working out is a big stress we have to moderate. In general, your weightlifting workout should contain about 15-18 working sets maximum. If you figure that you do 3 sets per exercise, that’s only about 5-6 exercises. Your cardio should be kept to 30-35 minutes maximum too. Your nervous system takes a long time to recover when it’s overworked and the other effects of over-exercising include hormone imbalances that can elicit the opposite response you are looking for like weight gain and muscle loss.
Weight lifting will make me bulky
Despite the major benefits of lifting weights, trainers often hear this response from female clients when presented with a workout program that includes strength training (and some men too by the way!). Lifting weights will not get anyone bulky if you don’t want it to and even when you're trying it's not that easy! If you lift appropriately heavy weights with an appropriate amount of volume, you will get strong, not big. Women don’t have the testosterone levels needed to “bulk up” and would really need to eat a lot to put on a huge amount of muscle mass.
Lean muscle mass is important for both health and aesthetic reasons. The word “tone” gets used a lot but it’s a made up term that just represents less fat and more lean muscle- weightlifting helps with both of those!