Ever wonder why when you do an excessive number of crunches every day you are still not sporting that infamous 6 pack? Or when you run your heart out for what seems like an eternity and your body composition remains unchanged? Well...there are many myths to debunk. Here are the top 6 myths I hear most often.
1. I am going to focus on only crunches, so my abs show! (Spot training and muscle toning vs. muscle building.)
Unfortunately, you cannot pick or choose which areas you would like to burn fat. If your goal is to decrease belly fat by doing an excessive number of crunches you are simply wasting your time. Being able to see your abdominal muscles is directly related to your overall body fat percentage. If you don’t lose the belly fat you won’t see your abdominal muscles. This also goes for your thighs, hips and buttocks. In order to see the ‘tone’ in your muscles you need to have a balanced workout routine which includes both cardiovascular and strength training elements. This leads into the whole toning vs. building discussion I hear so many women talking about. Here it is ladies: ‘toning’ and ‘building’ muscles are the same thing! The more ‘toned’ you appear is the direct effect of the muscle you have built. So, don’t be afraid to lift some heavy weights as this is what will give you the results all of us women are after.
2. If I lift a lot of weights I will bulk up.
If I had a dollar for every time as a fitness instructor that I heard women say this... Fortunately for them, this is never an issue. Sure, some of us are genetically predisposed to putting on muscle with more ease than others but women are not born with the same amount of testosterone that men are born with and in general women are a smaller species with less bone mass than men therefore making it all the more challenging to “bulk up”. A key element that is always overlooked is that bulking up has much more to do with your diet than your training. In order to bulk up you need to consume an excessive number of calories on a regular basis and you need to partner this with lifting an excessive amount of weight on a regular basis. Let’s face it...if this was in fact a true statement, I would think that we would have many more men walking around looking like The Rock or at the very least Jason Momoa ;)
3. The longer my workouts are the better my results will be.
Throughout my career in the fitness industry I have seen people spend an excessive amount of time in the gym in hopes of reaching their goals. Many of these workouts often include longer break times and they appear to be slower in nature and in most cases almost completely cardiovascular/aerobic based. Although aerobic exercise will boost your metabolism slightly post workout for a few hours, the amount is not significant. Strength training on the other hand, when partnered with shorter anaerobic type exercises, will increase your metabolism more, for a longer period of time post workout, vs. purely aerobic exercise plus you will reap the benefits of building muscle which is the body’s most metabolically active tissue. The long of the short is this; the more muscle you have the more fat you will burn. Your workouts should be based on quality over quantity. So, the next time you go to the gym to run on a treadmill for an extended period of time while hovering around the same speed…try this work out which will take you less time and give you more gains:
1 Run at 60-70% of your max capacity (a 6 or 7/10 effort) for 200 meters/approx. 0.13 miles.
2 Complete 10 kettlebell swings, 10 thrusters, 10 renegade rows, plank for 60 seconds.
Scroll down to see exercises.
Repeat all of the above 4x with as little rest as possible. Record your time and monitor how much faster you complete this workout the next few times that you do it! Now you have skipped the long boring run and replaced it with short bursts which will spike your metabolism more so than that slow run and you have added 3 full body, ‘pushing’ and ‘pulling’ exercises as well as the must do core exercise.
4. No pain no gain.
5. Running on a treadmill places less stress on your knees than running on pavement.
Whether running on a treadmill or running outdoors, it is the force of bodyweight on your joints that causes stress. Adding variety to your workout routine is the best way to avoid knee impact and by variety, I mean strength training. Since strength training increases muscle mass and improves joint stability the odds of suffering a knee related injury are significantly decreased if the muscles supporting these joints are strong. If you are an avid runner and this is your only mode of exercise I would highly suggest that you mix it up with strength training to not only avoid knee related injuries but to help support the rest of your body which is hitting the pavement or the treadmill on a regular basis. Strength training will assist you in having a strong upright posture which is something that can easily be lost if running is your only mode of exercise.
6. Machines are safer than free weights.
Unless the machines you are using are set at the proper weight and height for your body you can still make just as many mistakes around your form and still have just as high a risk of injury on a machine as you would with free weights. In my opinion, performing exercises using free weights are much more effective. Using free weights are more similar to real life situations compared to using a machine for assistance. An example of this is squatting down to pick up a child, moving a piece of furniture or carrying something up the stairs. This is also referred to as ‘functional’ training as it mimics everyday life. With that being said, ANY form of exercise is better than not any at all so if machines are where it’s at with you then you are on the right path!
- Step 1: Place your dumbbells at your shoulders, stand hip width apart.
- Step 2: Squat down, brace your core, keep the chest and elbows up as you squat keeping the dumbbells at your shoulders.
- Step 3: Drive up with your legs out of the squat in a vertical position, keeping torso upright and use the momentum to lift you up.
- Step 4: EHave the pair of dumbbells at your shoulders, extend your arms and place them alongside your ears. Momentum from the driving up motion from the squat will allow you to thrust higher with your arms.
- Step 5: Bring dumbbells back to your shoulders and repeat all moves.
- Step 1: Place two dumbbells on the floors about shoulder width apart, start in a top position of a push up over top of the dumbbells, with your hands on them.
- Step 2: Row one weight up to toward your side trying not to move your hips, place it back down and repeat with the other side.
- Step 3: Repeat.
Ensure you are engaging your core, keeping hips level and move through the remaining sets.
- Step 1: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and set your kettlebell in front of you slightly, between your feet.
- Step 2: With a slight bend in your knees, grab onto the kettlebell handle with both hands, bend slightly as though you’re moving into a deadlift position, keeping back level.
- Step 3: With your hips pushed back, core tight, grip the handle and swing the kettlebell between your legs, letting the momentum then bring the kettlebell to the front. Thrust your hips as you stand but keeping your back perpendicular to the floor.
- Step 4: Repeat!
Whether hand plank, or from the knees, get down like you’re in a push up position, engage your core, keep your hands shoulder width apart (no cheating by holding your hands together when in an elbow plank) and hold. Key is to engage that core and your lats, while keeping a flat back and level hips. You should feel this immediately if you’re fully engaged.
Jennifer Slauenwhite is a Fitness Professional and a Mother of two with a passion for health and overall well-being. She has spent her entire life in the fitness industry through many family owned and operated fitness centres and has spent the last decade cultivating a community of strong like-minded women. She strives to set an example for women to be the best they can be by channeling their inner athlete and putting up some healthy competition against themselves! She is also the founder and owner of Queens Fitness Strength & Conditioning Studio for Women in Toronto - follow her on Instagram @queens.fitness or on Facebook @ One Tough Mother By Jennifer Slauenwhite. #leadbyexample