The Top 5 Lies about Exercise

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geeky man wearing headband pulling elastic expander

 “Yeah dude, these bands are the latest thing for getting jacked.”

There’s a lot of BS in the fitness industry and it seems like a “new” sensational workout program is released every day. We always hear that something completely novel is going to revolutionize the way people workout and finally solve this epidemic of obesity and sedentary lifestyles that plagues the developed world.

Yeah, right.

No shake-weight or P90X (version 10 or 11) program is actually going to do that. TRX isn’t a revolution and CrossFit didn’t create anything new (they just packaged it all with fancy marketing and powerful legal representation).

Have you bought into these five lies about exercise?:

1) “Functional Training” with stability balls, Vipr, and clubbells is better than traditional weight training.

The term functional training came from physiotherapy and has been procured by just about any new gadget that gets released into the vastly overcrowded fitness implement market.

Call me old fashioned, but what’s wrong with good ol’ weight training?

Squats, deadlifts, chin-ups, dips, lunges, bench presses, split squats, hip thrusts, chest press, shoulder presses, rows, lateral raises, and bicep curls (to name but a few exercises) build and shape your body to your preference. They make you stronger and – dare I say it – more functional – in that they train you to move in many directions, lift things, as well as push and pull heavy objects.

What could be more functional than that?

Standing on a stability ball and swinging around an Indian club is not functional for any human being I know, yet there’s a “guru” out there that advocates this ridiculous kind of training.

When you’re looking for a training system you want the greatest benefit with the lowest amount of risk, and a progressive weight training program fits the bill perfectly.

2) You need to try the latest “thing”.

No. You don’t.

You need to do progressive weight training consistently at least three (preferably more) times a week. Keep it simple. If you want to use other types of equipment for variety and you enjoy it, go ahead. Just don’t try to convince other people they need to do whole body vibrational training to get lean and fit. It’s just another option.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t use stability balls, medicine balls, Vipr, etc., but they’re really just another form of weight training. They’re not inherently better than barbells and dumbbells…they’re just a little different.

3) You need to do “Cardio”

There seems to be no desire so important as the need to do “cardio” in people who are trying to get fit. Usually it’s in a grudging manner and not at all what that particular person really wants to do.

As with functional training, I’m using “cardio” in quotes to refer to the way most gym-goers use it, rather than what it actually is (ie. your heart beating a bit faster for a while). I definitely advocate being active, walking a lot, and playing sports that you enjoy. As for spending hours each week on a cross-trainer or stationary bike…it’s not necessary.

You can be lean and healthy without cardio. Doing too much steady-state long duration cardio can actually eat away at your muscle…and muscle is what keeps your body burning more calories all day long. That’s how you get and stay lean.

It’s not as if those of us training with weights are ignoring our hearts. Do a circuit weight session with a heart rate monitor on and you’ll find that you’re working harder than most of those people spinning their wheels (hehe) on the stationary bike.

4) You need to “confuse” your muscles to get results.

Despite what the creator of P90x would have you believe, muscle confusion is a marketing creation and not actual science. Your muscles respond to progressive overload (increasing resistance over time) and NOT to being tortured to death with repetitive bodyweight movements.

I’m not saying you won’t get initial results. You will. Especially if you’re not currently training and you start working out with bodyweight exercises that challenge you (that’s a good way of starting anyway). If you’re already training with weights consistently you’ll get some results initially too because you’re doing something different than you were before. Change is good…to a point.

You need to change your workout program regularly (maybe every 6-8 weeks for newbies or 3-4 weeks for more experienced trainees) as your body adapts, but not too frequently or your body won’t know how to change. Train progressively by increasing weight and difficulty of exercises gradually. Sets, reps, and rest periods can also be adjusted to stimulate your muscles in a different way and force them to grow. No burpees or various versions of “extreme” jumping around.

5) Doing tons of Abs exercises will give you 6-pack abs.

Many people have reasonable abdominal muscles…they’re just hidden under a layer of fat. Getting rid of that fat, through diet and building overall muscle mass with weight training, will give you the defined look of abs that most people are looking for.

Yes, the abdominals are muscles and need to be stimulated to grow. There’s some work done by the abs with full-body weight training exercises like squats and deadlifts, as well as pushing weight in different directions (like overhead presses). The abdominals function to stabilize you as you move through your day.

Some direct ab work, in conjunction with an equal amount of back training to ensure balance and prevent injury, is useful if you’re lean and looking for a very developed look to your abs. For most people though, lying around crunching instead of doing the hard yards with a solid weight training program and fine-tuned diet isn’t going to help. Crunches are more likely to give you back pain than reveal visible abs.

The Truth

Look no further: the right kind of exercise to get lean and have the body you want is weight training. It doesn’t have to be complicated and you don’t have to feel like an idiot bouncing around or using some strange “modern” gadget. Functional training and muscle confusion are more marketing concepts than anything else. Get your 6-pack abs with weight training and the right diet. It may not seem as sexy, but getting the results you want is what matters, right?

Ivana Chapman 

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Ivana Chapman

Ivana Chapman

Ivana Chapman BSc BA CSCS is a Canadian fitness and nutrition coach, happy wife, and mom to an energetic 5-year-old boy. She is a writer, published fitness model, speaker, 3rd Dan black belt in Shotokan Karate, former World Cup Karate Champion, one-time marathoner, and CBBF National level Natural Bikini competitor. She loves weight training and chocolate, not always in that order of preference.
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