We hear them every day and we continue to ask ourselves are these things true? We read about different outlooks and insights towards weightlifting but question the value. Should we do more cardio to lose weight? Should I just train in the hypertrophy rep range? Is squatting bad for our knees? Do I need 6 meals a day? All of these things plague the fitness community on any given day and are thoughts that may not hold merit. Things we read in magazines, things we hear from personal trainers, and aspects and outlooks from person to person will vary. Not to mention social media is constantly finding ways to broadcast false information, and TV shows like Dr. Oz are portraying a negative scene to all supplement and nutrition truths.
It is quite often that the wisdom and preaching we seemed to have been taught or picked up may not hold its merit. Not to mention that merit may have been wrong from the start. As studies and research continue to evolve and expand, the fitness industry will continue to change. Below are some of the things I heard on a daily basis that made me script this article.
1. Squats are bad for your knees
Possibly one of the worst the worst aspects to this statement is that it is not true to full degree. Do not get me wrong squatting will take wear and tear on your knee over time even with good form, but it is still not 100% correct. When we squat we want to make sure we are paying attention to the following:
- maintain a neutral spine
- spreading the floor with our feet
- create intra-abdominal pressure
- roll our pelvis back
- break at our hips
- expanding our knees as we descend
- squatting BELOW parallel
- explode back up with glute, leg, and hip force
If you follow this outline when squatting you will take more pressure off your knees, and more pressure would be added when doing them wrong.
Adequate form is the most overshadowed aspect of a squat. People in the fitness industry are more concerned about weight when it should be time under tension or muscle stimulation. Once individuals realize that if you squat properly, and hit adequate depth, your muscles will grow faster. The ones that are chasing the number on the bar, breaking their form, and feeling their joints and bones hurting should raise a red flag. The problem with squatting being bad with your knees is most do not reach proper depth.
When one squats above parallel this is putting more pressure onto their knee and their knee cap. Due to this there can be cartilage damage over time, and also bone damage due to prolonged improper squatting. When one squats to parallel or slightly below parallel the hip will start to take over and take less stress off the knee cap. When people go half way down his is a major red flag and stressor to the knee cap. Meeting proper depth at parallel, or below, will help take more tension off the knee and keep them healthier for a longer period of time.
2. Weight Training Will Make Women Bulky
Another big myth that will never die out is regarding women working out and making them bulky. Lifting weights does not automatically make the human body into a bulky figure. That is the biggest myth you can illustrate because weight lifting is not meant to make one bulky unless one wants to focus on pure mass gain. While eating in a surplus and lifting weights may strive towards muscle growth and muscle mass that still does not mean the individual will become bulky. When an intermediate or novice does start out lifting the majority of their gains will be translating the fat they may carry into muscle, or the lack of mass they may have into building muscle (based off eating for their goal).
The same principle can be applied to women when they are trying to lose weight and lose fat, weightlifting will not make them bulky. Weight lifting will help that woman tone their muscle, preserve their muscle mass, and help them lose fat while weight lifting. Weight lifting also has been shown to aid the metabolism and increase it from working out. It can also help that individual trying to lose weight and look better when they are done dieting. The only way a woman could truly get very bulky is if they took advanced supplements to help raise their testosterone levels far above the norm. If that is not the case, you have very little to worry about in the long run regarding looking bulky.
3. If you want to lose weight you need to workout longer.
This myth seems to just be lingering around the fitness community that seems to not want to die out. More time in the gym is not always a beneficial factor for multiple reasons especially when dieting. The first factor to touch upon is cortisol levels. When you are dieting cortisol will raise higher than when one is eating in a surplus or around their maintenance level. When one is on a prolonged diet their cortisol levels will continue to rise. Combine that with excessive gym time and cortisol will peak to a higher degree. There are studies and correlations to gym time and cortisol levels due to muscle break down and weightlifting.
When you workout for longer periods of time you are going to be expending more glycogen. When dieting you have even less than normal due to dietary restrictions. If you try to run a car on a low tank of gas and want it to go a farther, is it going to make it from point A to point B? There is not a single chance. Lower calories and longer time in the gym is not the best and most optimal way for fat loss or weight loss. Fewer calories and more glycogen expended leaves an individual strung out and also very depleted. For those who may have more calories to play with, more glycogen to expend, then a longer gym session may be more optimal.
When dieting your workouts should be on the shorter side because you want to train hard and heavy. Training heavy and trying to preserve muscle mass is the key premise behind dieting. Rapid weight loss and fat loss would lead to muscle loss over time. If you were to continuously train longer, you will end up losing a lot of your hard earned muscle.
4. Cardio is more important for fatloss than lifting.
While cardio is a tool, weightlifting is a tool, these are both tools that have to work together on top of your diet to help with fat loss. The overlooked aspect of dieting when it comes to a trainee is usually their diet. The first thing that individual has to put into the big picture is making sure they reach a caloric deficit. How does one do that? You have to simply find your caloric intake to maintain your weight and make a reduction. So, when you find the amount of maintenance calories you need, then you would subtract at least 100-200 calories off your daily diet to start losing weight (a once per week reduction or when you reach a weight loss plateau). When one does understand the deficit and has a proper training routine and cardio routine they will soon see their best fatloss. It does not matter how much you know if you cannot sustain a caloric deficit you will never lose weight.
Weight Training Is More Important Than Cardio
The first thing we need to address about cardio is that long bouts of LISS (low intensity steady state) can lead to blunting hypertrophy, ower metabolism, and can also burn muscle. Over a prolonged period of time muscle loss will happen (it is inevitable), especially those who diet for very long periods. When one starts to lose muscle while doing more cardio than weight training creates a recipe for disaster. This becomes another reason you can lower your metabolism.
The best way to lose fat would be to focus on a caloric deficit and a solid training program. Cardio should be the least most important tool and last thing adjusted (if one needs to continue losing fat). This will keep your metabolism at an all-time high (or as high as possible) while still losing weight and maintaining muscle mass. Weight training is what preserves muscle mass. When you train heavy, and activate type I muscle fibers, this is the number one factor for muscle loss prevention and keeping your muscle mass when dieting.
5. You should be completely worn out after training.
This may have a bit of merit to it, but if we look at the large picture it is far from optimal. Most gym trainees will go into a gym with this mindset and do as much as they can until they feel dead tired. Is that a smart thing to do? The common phrase “Train Smarter not harder” has to be applied to this case. Many individuals can enter a gym, train hard, and still walk out on their own two feet. They workout with a good sweat and walk out knowing they stimulated the muscle to the full degree, which is the goal of weight training.
What is the biggest drawback to thinking they need to train so hard until they want to pass out? That draw back would be injury. Injury is the number one fitness related problem that any trainee can incur. When one wants to workout until they feel like they ran themselves in the ground, this is usually when they push to a degree they did not need to reach. Sometimes pushing to a new level will help you set new personal records or weights on a given exercise but that can be dangerous.
The takeaway point from this is that training smarter is far more optimal than harder. One does need to workout hard to see results and performance. However, it’s also important to realize that you can use periodization and other forms of training to reach your goals. These methods will also help you overcome training plateaus.