#1 – Lifting weights will make you bulky
This is mostly for the ladies. Simply put, women don’t have the hormonal profile to become mass monsters. Females are missing a key ingredient in muscle building – the high levels of testosterone present in men. It’s much more difficult for women to build large muscles as compared to men, and it will likely take you years if you choose to try for this goal. Even for men, the task of adding muscle mass requires a significant amount of time, work, and dedication. To add large amounts of muscle as either a man or woman, you need to be in a calorie surplus, lift heavy weights in the gym, and train very frequently. The women you see out there with bulging muscles are training incredibly hard to achieve this physique, likely spending inordinate amounts of time in the gym and using extreme training methods that are completely unsustainable for average gym-goers. (They may also have some pharmaceutical “help”). Lifting heavy weights 2-4 days a week will not make you the Hulk. Trust us, it’s okay to lift weights heavier than your purse.
#2 – _________ is bad for your ____________.
Any exercise that your body is NOT prepared for can turn bad, especially if you jump from the couch to 100mph. Squats are bad for your knees if you have shitty hips or ankle issues. Running is bad for your knees if you haven’t prepared your body for the force of hitting the ground repeatedly. Deadlifts are bad for your back if you don’t do them properly. Any exercise performed incorrectly becomes “bad”, and exercises that your individual body is not ready for are bad for YOU, specifically. If you have pain while doing a certain exercise, seek out the answer, don’t avoid the pain and hope it will go away. Seek out a personal trainer to figure out why it’s there, and get a modification.
#3 – Sweating means I am burning more fat.
NO. Just NO. How much you sweat does not correlate with how intense your workout was. It just means the room is hot, or your body temperature is high, or you are hydrated, or you are working hard, or you are wearing too many layers, or you are out of shape, or you are in great shape, or any combination thereof. Fitness marketers have you believing that a ‘sweat sesh’ to get your body dripping will have your fat crying. Help us all. (Refer to our blog: “Exercise won’t give you a 6-pack.”)
#4 – No pain, no gain.
If you are in pain when you are exercising, seek help. The goal should always be pain free movement. Yes, there will be the small discomfort of sore muscles after engaging in some hard work, but this will dissipate as you get stronger. Enough with the idea that workouts need to crush your soul to be effective. They don’t. And if you find yourself on the pain train, please seek help from a fitness professional so you can find peace in your fitness journey.
#5 – Toning. Motherfu*king Toning.
It’s mostly women who are guilty of this one. “I just want to tone”, they say. What does that even mean, exactly? Your muscles are already toned, they are just covered by body fat. And if you want to see more of them, you have to remove the layer of fat covering them. I think more women need to frame this goal as wanting to lose body fat and become leaner. Becoming leaner is directly tied to good nutrition. Defined muscles come from a high-quality diet built around fat loss. Of course, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that in order to achieve the look of muscle tone or a toned body, you need to actually have an appreciable amount of muscle…thus, you will need to engage in strength training to complement your fat-loss diet. Women want ‘toned muscles’ but don’t want to strength train to actually develop their muscles. Often, ‘toning’ for women is associated with light weights and high reps. Just because you are not directly looking to add muscle mass doesn’t mean that you should shy away from stressing your muscles with relatively heavy weight. Remember, you can’t get big and massive unless you are training extremely hard and are in a calorie surplus….which will not be the case in a fat-loss nutrition scenario. Also…refer to Myth #1.
Shara Vigeant, BA, NSCA-CPT*D, CFSC