There are a lot of ideas that people accept as gospel when it comes to fitness: sit-ups equal six-packs, cardio burns the most calories, strength-training will turn you into a she-hulk, and so on. These workout "rules" have been repeated so many times, we don't even question the science behind them — or lack thereof.
To separate truth from fiction, we asked New York Sports Clubs' Daryl Kallenberg and Mark Koester, Director of Fitness and Fitness Manager, respectively, to take us through the most popular fitness sayings that are totally false — and tell us what we should know instead.
Myth 1: She who sweats the most burns the most calories.
"While we all love a good sweaty workout, sweating more doesn’t exactly mean you're burning more calories," say Kallenberg and Koester. "Sweating is an indicator of how hard your body is working to cool off. Keep in mind, sweating is the loss of water weight and doesn't represent real weight loss. As soon as you drink fluids, the weight is restored."
Myth 2: Strength training will make you huge.
"This is a big myth that people always associate with strength training. Strength training will not bulk you up unless you are lifting heavy and doing low repetitions. Strength training is a great way to burn calories, tone up your muscles, and reveal definition. It's all based on weight, reps, and tempo. Keep the reps high, tempo moderate, and weight light."
Myth 3: The longer the workout, the better.
“False. It's not how long you workout, but what you do during that time that counts most. Sure, you can work out for two hours, but how much are you really accomplishing? After about an hour, your muscle fibers start to break down, and you need to refuel. Get in, work hard by challenging your body, and go have a healthy recovery meal!"
Myth 4: No pain, no gain.
"People tend to think that if their muscles don’t hurt, they’re not having a quality workout. This is not the case at all. While resistance training can be intense and come with some discomfort, pain is not required for a quality workout. If you are feeling pain in a certain area when doing a specific movement, stop, and find a fitness professional to correct you so you can workout pain-free."
Myth 5: Sit-ups are the best move for six-pack abs.
"This is probably the most common misconception in fitness. While crunches may be effective for 'feeling the burn,' there are a variety of much more effective core exercises that can help tone your middle. Your core routine should consist of a few exercises that challenge the entire abdominal area, including the lower back, to prevent injury and promote a healthy spine. Try a variety of planks to challenge your core and really sculpt a six-pack."
Myth 6: Stretching before a workout is a must.
"First, you should know that there are a few different forms of stretching. It's recommended to do a full body dynamic stretch, rather than static poses, prior to exercise — something that wakes the body up and increases blood flow throughout. This will help increase flexibility, warm the joints up, and, most importantly, help prevent injury. Tight muscles are unhealthy muscles and often cause unwanted injuries."
Myth 7: If you can't exercise regularly, it's not worth going to the gym at all.
"What you put in is what you’ll get. Working out two to three times a week is better than nothing, and will increase your metabolism for burning fat. Again, it's not the amount of time or the number of days you put into the gym, it's what you're doing while you're there that will have the most impact on your results. Every mile you run and every minute of training will add countless benefits to your health for years to come."
Myth 8: If someone looks like they know what they're doing, do what they're doing.
"Please don't! This is why we end up seeing craziness in the gym. Unfortunately, it's also how injuries happen. What may be right for Person A could be completely wrong for Person B. It's great to get ideas and challenge yourself with different workouts, but please don't be a copy cat. Chances are, that person copied that workout from someone else who got it from some one else who overheard some other girl at the gym talking about it. Do some research and ask your certified fitness professional for some pointers. Trust me, there is a perfect workout that's specific [to] your goals out there."
Myth 9: Slaving away on the cardio machines is the best way to burn calories.
"Step away from the elliptical! Cardiovascular training on machines has many, many benefits and should be a major part of everyone's workout routine. But, functional strength training has been scientifically proven to promote healthy muscle building and burn hundreds of calories in as little as 30 minutes. Take a class, work with a trainer or build a workout around the information you read today and switch things up. Here's a fun fact: ten minutes after you step off a treadmill or cardio machine, your body will stop burning calories at the pace it was while you were on the machine; however, the second you finish a strength training workout, your body continue to burns calories and build strength for a full 24 hours. Challenge yourself in the gym, then go home and refuel to reap the benefits of your hard work!"