In the exercise industry there are many things you hear from your clients that sound good but are not exactly true. I’m not sure what to call it, but I would call it exercise conventional wisdom or myths. I would like to take the time to debunk and clarify some these I have heard.
1. Muscle weighs more than fat. What weighs more, a pound of marbles or a pound of feathers? A pound is a pound is a pound, so how is it any different in the human body? It is not. What everyone is thinking about is density. A pound of muscle (or marbles) is very dense and does not take up as much room as opposed to a pound of fat (feathers) which would take up 8-10 times more space as muscle. Look at someone who is 200 lbs of muscle compared to someone who is 200 lbs of mostly fat and has 35% body fat. The overweight guy will be easily up to 1 1/2 times bigger than the muscle guy.
2. Fat turns into muscle. This can not be more wrong. You can not have one thing and have it turn into another, that only works for Transformers. Just because you are working out, this special physiological process does not happen to where your fat cells switch over and say ” hey, I’m gonna be a muscle cell today.” It does not happen. You can exercise, lift heavy and increase your metabolic rate by increasing your lean body mass with strength training, making your muscle cells larger and stronger. Not by having your fat turn into muscle. The more lean body mass you have the less body fat you will usually have. The two are usually inversely related. As one goes up, the other goes down. Oh and by the way, those fat cells, those nasty little stubborn bastards, they do not convert to muscle or disappear but just shrink in size. So if you were once heavy as a youngster and acquired a lot of fat cells, those cells are in your body forever. They will be very small and the only real way to get rid of them would be through surgery.
3. Spot training. We have all heard it and seen it, hundreds of infomercials promising great abs or buns in just 10 minutes a day simply by using their special product the AB/Butt blaster 5000. If you have problem areas you wan to get rid, the best solution for that is a disciplined diet and full body workouts. You are not going to get a 6 pack by doing hundreds of sit ups or crunches a day, you are going to get a sore neck and back. Spot training does not work. Yes, you will get stronger in that specific area but without good nutrition and a great balanced workout program, you will never get results. Stop believing what you see on TV it is crap. Anything that guarantees results in 10 minutes is all BS. What you need is good old fashioned hard work and a proper diet. All of these models do not look they way they look by using product X. They got it by kicking their asses in the gym and eating right.
4. Training for gender. I see this a lot in magazines and seminars, heart rate training for females or weight training for females. Men and women are physiologically the same with a couple of exceptions: Hormones- Men have testosterone, women have estrogen. Reproductive organs – given and women have wider hips for child bearing. Other than that we are the same. So if we are the same then why differentiate the training styles? What is good for men is good for women and vice versa. You do not need to specialize it. I don’t want to hear how lifting heavy is bad for girls because they don’t want to get big. First off, you know how hard it is to gain just 1 pound of muscle? It is extremely difficult. It takes a lot of eating, very heavy lifting and lots of rest to gain 1 lb of lean body mass. If it was that easy then I should be 300 lbs of solid muscle because I have been lifting for 15 years. Secondly, girls you do not produce testosterone which is key for muscle stimulation and growth. So stop worrying and start lifting, it is good for all us regardless of your sex.
5. Cardio. I hear this a lot after I have given my clients a good weight lifting circuit “this is good cardio”. Yes and no. First off cardio is shortened for either cardiorespiratory or cardiovascular, both referring to the heart. While yes, heavy lifting is great for your heart health and gets you out of breath, it is not cardio. There are two different systems used: aerobic and anaerobic. Aerobic means with oxygen. Any activity you can do and breathe regularly for an extended period of time is considered aerobic. These activities include walking, jogging, running, swimming, biking, hiking, etc.. Anaerobic means without oxygen and these activities include heavy lifting, sprinting, jumping and anything explosive. Anaerobic activity usually lasts anywhere between 10 – 40 seconds. Lifting weights raises your heart rate and your cardiorespiratory rate but it is not cardio like everyone seems to think. Yes you do get great benefits from lifting weights and it is great for your conditioning because it raises your heart rate and then you have to recover and get your breath back. The better condition you are in the faster you can recover from exercise and the more work you can get done.
These are the common things I hear at the gym so I hope I helped clarify and educate you. Go to the gym, train hard, lift heavy, eat right and most importantly recover. If you can find a way to get some sunshine and play in there as well then you are well on your way to greatness.