Debunking Five Common Fitness Myths

Don't waste your time and money buying into these common fitness myths

Credit: Flickr/Tim Milburn

Muscle confusion may sound scientific but it’s just another fitness myth

I’ve heard these fitness myths repeated enough times that I think it’s time to set the record straight

As with most myths, they’re somewhat based in reality and that’s why they’re perpetuated. They sound true enough to make people want to believe them.

But as the saying goes, ‘the truth shall set you free,’ so let me free you by dispelling the following myths.

1. Muscle Confusion Gets You Fit Faster

Tony Horton, celebrity trainer and creator of the P90X workout, coined this term. Most likely the marketing department at Beach Body Inc. helped him.

You don’t need to “confuse” your muscles to get fit. You need to systematically challenge your body to work harder than it’s accustomed. Having some variety in your workouts is fine from an injury-prevention standpoint, but there’s nothing magical about doing a completely different workout each time you train. In fact, you’ll probably make slower gains if you pick workouts at random.

Include some strength, cardio and flexibility training in your program and progress gradually.

2. Pilates Gives You Long, Lean Muscles

I have nothing against Pilates itself but it really irks me when I hear this outright lie being repeated in Pilates infomercials.

You want long, lean muscles? Choose your parents wisely. Pick a pair who have wiry builds and hope you inherit those traits, just like the ex-supermodel who’s flogging the latest Pilates DVDs.

You can make your muscles larger so they’re more defined. You can lower your body-fat levels and become very lean to show off your muscles. But no training can change where your muscles attach to your skeleton or make your limbs longer.

3. Stretching Prevents Injuries

More often than not you’ll see people awkwardly bending their bodies before a workout trying to warm-up by stretching. They mistakenly think this will help them avoid getting injured.

The research is pretty clear. Static stretching by itself will not prevent injuries.

I do believe everyone needs to do some form of flexibility training. But dynamic mobility exercises and myofascial release are much more effective at developing functional flexibility.

You can add some static stretching as well to have a well-rounded flexibility program.

4. Sit-ups Will Give You a Six Pack

If it were only that simple to have a flat stomach and chiseled abdominals, but it’s not.

Sit-ups will work one of your abdominal muscles but including other exercises is a better and quicker way to develop a strong “core”. 

Then you’ll need to drop your bodyfat so you can actually showcase your abs. And sit-ups are definitely not a very good fat-burning exercise.

5. You Need to Work Out in the Fat Burning Zone to Get Lean

Every cardio machine in the gym has them. Those little heart rate charts that supposedly show you the particular heart rate zone you need to work out in to burn fat.

They’re wrong.

I’ve blogged about using heart-rate and interval training to effectively lose bodyfat. To get fit and lean you’ll need to use intensity in your workouts.

If you’re just starting an exercise program you should definitely begin at a lower intensity and progressively increase the difficulty of your workouts week to week. But once you’ve been at it for awhile, getting your heart rate up will give you more bang for the buck.