8 Training Myths Busted

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8 Training Myths Busted

It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.
— Confucius

The fitness industry is full of some really, really great people.

People who provide you with up to date, science-backed info that really can help you change your body.

However, the flip side to that is…there are people who say things like;

  • “You’ll never reach your goals unless you buy my supplement for insert ridiculous price here.”

  • “Bro you need to train everyday otherwise you’ll lose your muscle.”

  • “Dude you need to change your workout to confuse your muscles, that’s how you make gains.”

In my continued effort to clear out some of the bullshit that engulfs the fitness industry, today we’ll bust 7 of the biggest training myths.

 

You Can’t Get Into Good Shape Without Supplements

This one is total BS.

Now, before people start getting riled up and offended, I’m not saying supplements can’t or don’t help, I’m just saying they aren’t necessary for success. 

Generally speaking, supplements are 1-2% of your progress and it’s more than possible to hit your goals without using them at all. 

The truth is you can lose fat without fat burn supplements, you can build muscle without creatine and you can get enough protein without protein shakes.

The bottom line is, there is no magic pill or quick fix powder that will give you overnight results with minimal effort.

Real change and long-lasting results come from consistent effort toward your goal.

It’s as simple as that.

 

If You’re Not Sore The Day After Then Your Workout Wasn’t Effective

Another myth that’s been around forever.

Soreness if often seen as an indication that your workout was effective.

When in fact all soreness indicates is inflammation and the subsequent chemical response in the body to this inflammation. 

This can be a result of several factors;

  • You’ve just started working out again

  • You tried something new

  • You’re performing the exercises with bad form

  • You performed a particularly tough workout.

Whilst it’s true that training causes microscopic tears in the muscle which repair and regrow whilst you rest, the body should adjust to your workout programme and stop making your sore after the first 1-3 sessions. 

Week to week you should not be sore from your workouts.

To truly measure the effectiveness of your workouts you need to track your progress towards your goals.

A few key stats to track are:

  • Body measurements

  • Daily weight and a weekly average

  • How your clothes fit

  • Your strength in your workouts

  • Photos to give you a month by month look at your progress

 

 You Should Stretch Before You Lift Weights

We’ve been led to believe for a long time that we need to warm up, stretch and then start working out.

However, evidence now shows that stretching before you lift weights negatively impacts performance in the weights room.

  • One research study (1) shows that static stretching before weight lifting causes a significant reduction in strength, even in stretches lasting as little as 45 seconds or less.

  • Another study (2) also found that stretching the lower body before working out decreased strength and stability in the lower body during exercise.

  • Finally, another study (3) found that static stretching before working out decreased strength in lower and upper body exercises in both trained and untrained men.

Man stretching outside in the sun

You Have To Train Every Day To See Progress

Some people would have you believe that you need to train 6-7 days a week to stand any chance of seeing the results you want.

They’ll tell you that any less will not result in an increase in strength or muscle mass but is this true?

Simply put, no it’s not.

Research shows that training as little as once a week can still induce strength gains.

A study (4) conducted with 18 subjects aged between 69-75 found that “one set of exercises performed once weekly to muscle fatigue improved strength [just] as well as twice a week [did].”

I know, I know, this study was conducted with older adults what about the younger generation?

A study conducted (5) with 7 women and 12 men (average age 30 years) looked at the differences between;

  • High frequency training (HFT) group (training 3 times a week, 3 sets per muscle group per session)

  • Low training frequency (LFT) group (training 1 time a week, 9 sets per muscle group per session)

They studied them to see the effect of training frequency on lean mass and strength improvements.

After 8 weeks of training, the study concluded that there were “no mean differences between groups that were significant.”

They went on to say that the;

“results suggest that HFT and LFT of equal set totals result in similar improvements in lean mass and strength, following 8 weeks of strength training.”

These studies and others out there tend to show that strength and muscle mass can be gained and maintained with a reduce training frequency. However, the sweet spot will be different for different people, not to mention the fact that varying training goals and purposes for training will influence the frequency of sessions and the subsequent results.

The bottom line is you CAN see results without training 4, 5 or even 6 times a week, which should be great news for the average gym goer and those looking for a better gym/life balance.

As you might imagine there is far too much science to cover in this section here but if you’re after a more comprehensive review of the current literature then do check out this fantastic article by Paul Ingraham. (6)

 

You Need To Change Workouts Often To Confuse Your Muscles

You’ve probably come across this idea that after training for a while your body will adapt and what initially caused muscle growth will stop. 

At this point, you’re advised to change your training plan to ‘confuse’ your muscles and kick-start the growth again. 

This is bullshit.

You do not need to ‘confuse’ your muscles, in fact, you cannot ‘confuse’ your muscles...they do not have the ability to think.

Yes, it’s true that for a period of time an exercise will be effective and after some time it will cease to be as effective, but this doesn’t mean you need to change your whole workout.

You only need to increase the stimulus.

For example, squatting 3 sets of 8 reps with 70kg may bring your results initially but as you adapt and get stronger it will no longer be enough.

Now instead of thinking you need to ‘confuse’ your muscles and switch to lunges instead, all you need to do is increase the stimulus by;

  • Increasing the weight lifted

  • Reducing the rest time

  • Increasing reps

  • Increasing sets

Remember progressive overload rules supreme when it comes to continual progress.  

Man working out in the gym with his hood up

Training on An Empty Stomach Is Bad For You

Contrary to popular opinion you can train on an empty stomach without fainting, losing your muscle mass or having your performance affected. 

Studies have shown that training in a fasted state can provide the following benefits:

  • An increase in growth hormone which works to protect lean muscle and promote muscle building in the body (7, 8).

  • An increase in fat burnt when training fasted compared to a fed state. This is a result of increased fat utilization for energy for those exercising fasted. (9, 10)

Important note: If you’re training on an empty stomach it’s advisable to take BCAA prior to working out to help prevent the breakdown of your muscle mass which can occur when training in a fasted state. (11

All this is not to say that you must be in a fasted state to lose fat, but it does go to reassure those who;

  • Train early and don’t have time to eat

  • Don’t like to eat before training

  • Want to try and lose fat faster

That training on an empty stomach is not going to result in the loss of all their muscle mass and may even result in an increase in fat loss.

 

You Need to Have a Spotter to Lift Heavy

I’m sure this way true at some point but with the advances in self-spotting equipment such as;

  • Power racks with adjustable safety bars

  • Rubber bumper plates that can be dropped like those used in Olympic lifting.

You can now push yourself harder than before without needing a spotter. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when training heavy to ensure you avoid injury and get the most out your training;

  • Use a rack with pins and safety bars to catch the weight if you fail

  • Know your limits and don’t go to failure

  • Leave a rep or 2 in the tank on each set and work towards continual progression

  • Stop before your form breaks down to decrease the risk of injury

Whether you’re hunting for a new PB, trying to increase your strength or simply looking to test your 1 rep max you can now do this with less reliance on a spotter provided you have a safety system in place.

 

You Can’t Work Out If You’re Sick

If you’re like most people, then at the first sign of illness you swear of exercise until you’re feeling 100% better.

I understand it, it’s the common sense move but depending on the symptoms and severity you don’t have to pack it all in whilst you recover.

The general rule of thumb is to split the symptoms between above and below the neck.

Scenario 1

If you wake up with a sore throat, cough, runny and/or congested nose feel free to do some low-intensity exercise like yoga or walking and see how you feel.

If your symptoms continue to improve day by day then slowly build the intensity of your exercise back up to normal as you recover.

Scenario 2

However, if you wake up with muscle/joint pain, a fever, vomiting or diarrhea then steer clear of exercise entirely.

Monitor your symptoms and don’t return to exercise until they are cleared up.

Keep in mind these are just guidelines and if you do not feel up to exercising regardless of the severity of your symptoms then don’t force it.

 

Takeaway Point

Today we set some of the facts straight and learnt that;

  • You DON’T need supplements to achieve your goals

  • Soreness is NOT an indicator of an effective workout

  • Stretching before working out CAN negatively impact your workout

  • You DO NOT need to train every day to see results

  • You DO NOT need to confuse your muscles

  • You CAN train on an empty stomach

  • You DON’T need a spotter to lift heavy

  • When you CAN train if you’re sick


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