The REAL Top 5 Myths of Exercise
Whats the most difficult part of working out?
Myth 1- The once a week "Leg Day"
Truth is, legs were meant to be exercised Every. Day. You. Train.
This doesn't mean just running, or cycling. What it means is that everyday you exercise, you need to be doing a compound lower body movement. If this approach is new to you, in the beginning, you'll hate it! The first month you're perpetually sore, stiff and wishing you could walk around like a normal person. After the 2nd month you're actually walking straighter, with better balance, while having a more proportioned and overall physically stronger frame. The reason for this is that your legs are literally the foundation of your body. Another reason is that compound movements, especially for your legs, drive the natural production of human growth hormone. The same stuff that some athletes take synthetically is actually naturally produce when we properly stress our leg muscles. These hormones promote growth not just in your legs but the entire whole of the body. Your gains will be multiplied by simply hitting legs more consistently.
How to program this approach...
First, familiarize yourself with the main compound movements for your legs; back squats, front squats, dead lifts, lunges, pistol squats to name a few. Second, familiarize yourself with the major muscles in the legs, namely, your quads, hamstrings and glutes. Lastly, experiment with these exercises and the resulting fatigue and soreness you feel after your workouts. Your quads can be fatigued but you hamstrings are ready to go. Deadlifts build hamstrings, but lunges are best for glutes. After some time you'll work out a system which allows you to cycle through lower body muscle groups without straining (or neglecting) any of them, meanwhile, you'll be bigger and badder then you've ever been.
Myth 2- Isolation movements for arms
If I could have all the hours back I spent doing isolation movements for my arms and in turn, have spent that time on my legs or doing dynamic upper body movements, what I different level of strength I would have today. But, much like many beginners I spent a good many of my formative lifting years believing I needed an "Arm day".
In my opinion, unless your a bodybuilder, an arm day isn't very worthwhile. Isolation movements for your arms do little in the way for your overall strength for your upper body. When, in the course of a day, do you curl something? Or NEED to curl something? Or tricep extend something for that matter?!
Most of the time when we use our arms, its within a movement of pushing/pressing or pulling. When you pull, you use your biceps AND your back muscles. When you push or press, you use your triceps AND shoulders or chest muscles (or a combination of both). Very few, if any real world movements will have you use either your biceps or triceps in isolation. Training biceps and triceps in isolation definitely makes them stronger, but it also makes them bigger in proportion to your whole body. After awhile, your arms dominate your frame, it might look OK at first but disproportion soon follows.
One caveat is for people who may need rehabilitation or someone touching weights for the first time. Utilizing isolation movements to begin base level strength training is understandable. But if your healthy and/or acclimated to light exercise, ditch the isolation stuff.
If your looking for some ideas for excellent compound movements for your upper body, check out this video.
Why do people use isolation movements then?
Well wait! Don't we want bigger muscles?
Well yeah, to a degree we all do. But rest assured, as your average exercise enthusiast, doing your standard pushing and pulling movements, your arms will develop just fine. In fact, they'll be better than fine, because they'll be in proportion with the rest of your body.
Myth 3- [Insert Body Part] Days
Let me draw an informal distinction for you, there is athletic training; its main goal is to make you stronger, faster, give you better balance, better stamina and makes you better at sport specific skills: Throwing, running, jumping, hitting, pulling, pushing, lifting things off the ground, etc. Then you have bodybuilding training, its goal: to grow your muscles. Period. Bodybuilding makes you stronger for sure, but not nearly in proportion to the size of your muscles. The training techniques involved in Bodybuilding are not made to improve athletic performance or create balanced bodies. Their techniques are meant to create big, often times over-sized muscles.
There is about a total of 10 exercises that are really the foundation to strength training. Add another 10 to include cardiovascular and mobility(gymnastics if you prefer) exercises and you have about 20 viable exercises that you can mix, match, and play with, to create intense, challenging and diverse workouts. Many of those 20 exercises require your full body. The key is to find out which exercises require which muscles as primary movers, and which require select muscles as secondary supports, so you can create workout routines that don't over-train or under-train any particular muscle group.
I'm not an expert on sports programming. I was a certified personal trainer at one point, but I'll be the first to tell you they're a dime a dozen. What I've learned outside of my brief "academic" tutelage on physical training, I learned through reading, watching, listening and most of all, trial and error with my own body. That's my disclaimer before I tell you this, you should be training each muscle group almost EVERY DAY you work out.
How to program this approach...
Now if you go in tomorrow and you simply smash your abs, I don't recommend going in the next day and trying to do another insane ab routine. But, if you're doing the right movements, you'll be working your abs in other ways. For example, during the lifting stage of the deadlift (when you physically bring the bar off the ground to a standing position) you have to stabilize your core, that involves keeping your abs tight, stressing them isometrically. Now, even though your abs weren't the primary muscle group involved in the deadlift, they still receive a level of exercise by utilizing them as a secondary support group. The key to proper exercise programming is finding muscle groups that act as primary and secondary supports for one another and developing routines that utilize them accordingly.
Myth 4- Steady State Cardio
Steady State Cardio: Running, biking or elliptical machine use, done at a low to moderate pace, which does not fluctuate in intensity(speed and/or resistance/elevation), lasting for a duration of 20 minutes or more.
So what's the myth here?
Firstly, that steady state cardio is the best way to improve cardiovascular endurance. Secondly, that steady state cardio is the best way to lose weight.
Disclaimer: Much like with the whole training like a bodybuilder vs. training like an athlete, there is a small caveat to this myth. Marathon runners and ultra-marathoners, both of which do distances beyond 20 miles and therefore need to train specifically for events of that duration, need prolonged steady state cardio session to train for their events.
Now, before I hear the vehement wrath of my friends in the running community let me explain. If your goal is to improve your cardiovascular endurance, speed, strength of running, or lose weight, steady state cardio for more than 30 minutes on any given training day is not an efficient form of training. But, if your goal is to run, because you like to run and it makes you feel good, great, have at it! Your goal is whats important.
Why steady state cardio inefficient as a static training routine?
After exercising for the same duration, under the same loci of stress our bodies acclimate, and eventually the positive hormonal response we seek as exercisers begins to diminish. These "positive hormonal responses" are namely, muscular growth, increased strength, caloric burn(weight lose) and increased cardiovascular endurance. As with weight/resistance training, cardiovascular exercise requires that we vary our type(what we do) and our volume(how much or little we do of it) in order to consistently receive a worthwhile benefit.
How this translates into changing or adapting your workout routine.
- If your trying to lose weight- Cut your cardio off at 20 minutes a day, and tack on extra time you used to spend cycling, running or peddling and add it to your strength training routine, preferably doing high intensity resistance training.
- If your an avid exerciser looking to be well rounded- Start varying your intensity and modalities. Some days do intervals of sprints and a light jog(I can't say enough about adding short duration sprints, run for 10 minutes doing intervals of 30 second sprints and 1 minute jog). Some days set the incline to a high level and run backwards for 5 minutes, forward for 5 minutes, switching until 20 or 30 minutes is up. Some days jump rope for 3 minute rounds for 5 rounds. If you like the elliptical you can pedal backwards or forwards, while altering resistance levels. If you cycle, you can do sprint training much like a treadmill and vary your resistance setting like an elliptical.
The key is to vary the stress your body receives in order to keep it responding with the optimal level of hormonal response. Afterward, the only thing steady you'll want is a nap.
Myth 5- I don't need a gym because...OR Any gym will do...
You do! And it won't!
It's not as simple as "this place has junk equipment!", "I can just do that at home!", "they don't have enough [insert exercise apparatus]!" or "their bathrooms are horrible!". It goes far beyond that. Look, truth is, do what you want, workout wherever pushes you to do your best. You more than likely pay for your gym membership, video tape training program, trainer, etc. Do what makes you happy. But, if your trying to get REAL honest to goodness, life changing, body changing exercise, you gotta go to a legitimate spot, where legitimate people workout.
- Leave your House - Unless you have a sweet garage gym, really have a full set up, and know what you're doing. Get out of your house! The simple act of leaving home puts you into a different frame of mind. It requires that slight amount of discomfort that should always be a driving factor in exercise.
- Get over Yourself- I've heard "I don't like gyms!", "I don't like the people who go to gyms!" and every other BS excuse! If you can't get over being looked at, being out in public, feeling insecure about your lack of knowledge, or lack athleticism, or lack of shapeliness, how the heck can you ever expect to change the way you look and feel?! Sometimes the person with the biggest ego isn't the guy staring at himself in the mirror, its YOU, thinking every cares about, YOU!
- Community Matters- Why would you go to a gym whose community is at the same level or worse off than you? Much like a race, I always want someone right ahead of me and someone right behind me. If I'm not chasing someone, and if no ones chasing me, I have less incentive to keep my butt in gear. Would you run quicker if you were being chased? How fast would you run if someone just stole your purse/wallet? Similarly, I want a gym community whose members have some of the highest levels of knowledge about fitness and exercise science. Hell, I'm there to workout, why not get some facts on the exercise too. The added bonus is that they probably know what they are doing too. Wanna learn to squat? Watch someone who squats for sport. Want to get ideas for a new routine? Watch the people doing the bootcamp class.
- Less is often times more- I've been a member at all types of gyms. The best ones all have a few things in common, a squat rack, pull up bar, free weights, and some mixture of cardio equipment. Now don't get me wrong, its even better if they have some boxing bags, a sauna, showers, group classes, new equipment, and oh yeah, a smoothie bar! But honestly, all you really need is a bar, a rack and a piece of cardio equipment, the rest is just knowing how to use them effectively. When looking for a gym, try to look at the core of what they provide. A shower is nice, but if you don't have a squat rack in the house, you should be out the door.