Here we are back again with the 3rd instalment of 50 Fitness Myths to take us over the halfway point.
If you missed the earlier parts then check those out first.
Let’s get right to it.
Squatting is bad for the knees
Ah squats, some people consider them the king of the lower body, others swear that they’ll ruin you and then of course there are some people in the middle, but what’s the actual answer?
The truth is squats are a fantastic exercise for building muscle and strength in the lower body but if you perform them with bad form and a weight that’s too heavy for you they can cause knee problems.
However, if you work with the correct weight for your ability and focus on good form and control throughout the movement you can squat pain free and without any risk to the knees.
This is back by a research[i] study that concluded that “the squat does not compromise knee stability and can enhance stability if performed correctly” and another study (1) that found squatting and no negative effect on knee stability in high level powerlifters and weightlifters.
However, if you simply cannot get on board with squats for whatever reason that’s ok. There are plenty of alternatives you can use to train your legs.
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 (2) 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 (3) with 7 women and 12 men (average age 30 years) looked at the differences between a high frequency training (HFT) group (training 3 times a week, 3 sets per muscle group per session) and a low training frequency (LFT) group (training 1 time a week, 9 sets per muscle group per session) 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” and that the “results suggest that HFT and LFT of equal set totals results 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 from painscience.com.
Not everyone can get a six pack
I was told this by one of my instructors way back when I was doing my Personal Training course and it really stuck with me.
I mean sure, not everyone may have the desire or dedication to follow through and get a six-pack and of course our bodies vary from one person to the next which means some people may have an 8-pack whilst other might have a 4-pack.
To suggest that someone is either physically incapable or doesn’t possess the correct musculature to get a six-pack is absurd. Everyone has the ‘six-pack’ muscle, exposing it is just a matter of smart training and nutrition.
Intermittent fasting is bad for you
I’m not sure where this myth comes from, maybe it’s from the false idea that skipping breakfast is bad for you or the idea that if you fast for any period of time then you’ll enter starvation mode, but whether it’s one of these or something else entirely the fact is intermittent fasting is not bad for you.
In fact, numerous studies show that there are in fact numerous benefits to intermittent fasting;
- Fasting was shown to increase fat oxidation after both 12 and 36 hour fasts. (4)
- Research (5, 6) has shown to increase both total and pulsatile (7) growth hormone concentration in the body after fasting.
Note: Growth hormone is responsible for facilitating fat burning, muscle gain and more. (8)
- Intermittent fasting (9, 10) has also been seen to increase metabolism by up to 3.6 – 10%
- Research (11) also shows the intermittent fasting may be superior to standard calorie restriction when it comes to the retention of muscle mass when eating in a calorie deficit.
Now none of this is to say you have to use intermittent fasting, but at least now you won’t dismiss it out of hand based on a myth.
You don’t need to train the abs directly
Why is it that so many people desperately want to build a beach worthy set of abs for the summer or a solid six-pack to look great naked yet neglect to directly train their abs, assuming they get enough work from the rest of their routine.
Would you neglect to train your calves thinking they got enough work from squats and lunges? No I didn’t think so.
So why would you do the same to your abs?
Just like any other muscle they need to be trained, stimulated and overloaded to grow. However, this doesn’t mean you should start smashing sets of abs crunches every day of the week.
Be smart, aim to do 2 – 3 solid abs sessions a week, consisting of 1 – 3 exercises of 2 – 3 sets. Most of all remember that a well-developed six-pack is the result of smart training AND good nutrition.
Hard-gainers can’t gain muscle
It’s kind of like saying overweight people can’t lose weight…it’s ridiculous.
Sure, some people find it more difficult to lose weight, whether its mental, physical or both they just seem to struggle more than most to effect a change. The same goes for “hardgainers”, it’s not that they CAN’T build muscle it’s more that they have a harder time doing it.
It’s true genetics play a role, (12) which is why some people can look at a barbell, eat a mere 2000 calories and be ‘jacked’ in no time, “hardgainers” on the other hand may have to eat up to 4000 calories or more just to see a change on the scale.
However, if you combine an effective eating plan with a progressive and well-structured training plan there is no reason why a “hardgainer” can’t gain muscle.
If you miss a training session, you’ll lose all your gains
We’ve all been there, training 3+ times a week in the gym and things are going great.
Then out of nowhere work gets unexpectedly busy and you find you can only get to the gym once or twice a week. Panic sets in and you starting thinking that you’ll regress on all your lifts and your hard-earned gains will diminish…
But is this actually the truth or an unfounded fear? Let’s look at what the science says.
A study conducted by Graves et al (13) found that reducing training frequency from 2 – 3 times a week down to either 2, 1 or 0 times a week resulted in 70% strength loss in those who train 0 times but no loss in strength for those training once or twice a week.
Another study (14) looked at the retention of strength at reduced training frequencies and also found that 1 session a week was sufficient in maintaining strength in trainees.
Finally, a study (15) comparing strength in 2 groups of untrained women who either performed one or two weekly sets of leg press found that results were “statistically similar”.
There you have it. You can easily maintain your strength with a reduced training frequency, so if you need to drop down to training 1 or 2 days a week for a while don’t sweat it.
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 in order to ‘confuse’ your muscles and kick start the growth again.
Let me get this out the way now, it’s 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 probably 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 increase the weight lifted.
Remember progressive overload rules supreme when it comes to continual progress.
Losing weight and losing fat is the same thing
Ok so perhaps this one is more of a mistake than a myth but you’d be surprised how many people overlook a simple distinction that makes a huge difference.
Fat loss vs. weight loss.
Think about it, fat loss is, well, it’s fat loss.
Weight loss on the other hand can be achieved through the loss of fat, muscle, water and even hair.
When it comes to body composition this difference is a big deal. No one wants to train hard to build muscle only to lose it all through ineffective dieting. Imagine how you’d feel if you’d spent a solid 8 months building muscle and were excited to lose the fat you’d gained to see what you truly look like, only to end up skinny fat having lose a lot of your muscle in the dieting process.
The point is, if you set up your diet to lose fat but preserve muscle mass you’ll look awesome but, if you just lose weight without caring where it comes from you’ll always be disappointed with the end result.
You can’t gain muscle just using bodyweight exercises
I’m calling bullshit on this one.
The whole idea that you can’t build appreciable muscle mass using just bodyweight exercises in unfounded. Think about all the factors that come into play when building muscle with weights. Now ask yourself can you do all these things with bodyweight exercises?
- Can you apply progressive overload?
Of course, you can manipulate your reps, sets, rest times or even exercise variations
- Can you be consistent?
If you can find time to weight train regularly then the answer here is obvious
- Can you train the whole body?
Think press ups, pull ups, handstand presses, squats, lunges, etc..
- Can you use compound movements?
- Can you challenge yourself?
Unless you can already do one arm press ups, one arm chin ups, muscle ups, paused handstand presses, a back lever, front lever and more then you can most certainly challenge yourself.
To be honest even if you can do all those things they are still other ways to challenge yourself by manipulating your rep ranges or rest time.
Now sure it may be easier and quicker to add weight to a bar to apply progressive overload and the learning curve is lower for barbell exercises than it is for some of the more advanced bodyweight movements but ultimately the same principles apply for building muscle. If you train progressively and eat correctly you can and will build muscle without touching a barbell.
There we go, another 10 myths down, over the halfway point and only 20 left to go. If you missed the earlier parts then check them out:
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[i] Knee biomechanics of the dynamic squat, Rafael F. Escamilla, Michael W. Krzyzewski Human Performance Laboratory, Division of Orthopaedic Surgery, Duke University Medical Centre, Durham, NC 27710