July 22, 2010 at 9:27 am EST | by Kevin M. Norris
Fitness and exercise: myths vs. facts

There are more exercise myths than there are exercises and as a personal trainer I have heard my share.

There’s the classic case of seeing someone in the gym who looks fit. There is a natural tendency to emulate that individual and adopt some of his or her routine without knowing whether the exercises or techniques are safe and effective. There is a misleading assumption that because someone looks good, they must be doing something right. This assumption can often be far from the truth and even dangerous.

Myth #1: No Pain No Gain
Exercise should never hurt and if you are in pain during or following an exercise routine, you have pushed yourself too hard. Although it is important to push yourself, there is a fine line between working hard and pushing yourself too hard.

Myth #2: Lower Abs
There is no such thing. The abdominals are comprised of several muscles that run the entire length of the abdominal wall vertically, horizontally and diagonally. It is impossible to isolate the “lower” portion of the abs over the upper. It’s simply not a different muscle group. Create a program that targets all areas of the abdominals and remember to allow one day in between for rest and recovery. Abdominals, like all muscles, need a minimum of 48 hours rest and should not be worked every day.

Myth #3: Weight Lifting and Women
One of the most misleading misconceptions is that if women weight train, they will gain big muscles. Women have trace amounts of testosterone, necessary for muscle building, so they simply cannot pack on pounds of muscle overnight without supplementation and aggressive training. Building muscle will not happen overnight.

Myth #4: Spot Reduction
We all have “problem areas” that we want to focus on and rid that area of fat and flabbiness. However, spot reduction is impossible. It is unattainable to burn off fat in a selected area. Fat is burned off from the entire body at the same rate. Nonetheless, the area that holds the most fat will lose the most fat in the end.

Myth #5: More Sweat Equals More Fat Loss
Most of the weight you lose through sweat is water weight and is not an accurate measure of permanent fat loss. Save weighing yourself for the morning before you exercise for a more accurate measure and remember to stay hydrated throughout the day, not just during exercise. Eight 8 oz. glasses of water should be your minimum.

Myth #6: Lose Weight Before Weight Training
Muscles are far more metabolic active and burn more calories as compared to fat, which more or less just sits there and is not metabolically active. Therefore it is essential to include weight training in any weight loss program. Muscles are also denser than fat and will give you a leaner more defined and less-flabby physique.

Myth #7: Supplementation is a Must
The best way to receive all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients that the human body needs is through a knowledgeable and well-rounded eating strategy, not through excessive supplementation. The body is always better off eating well and receiving all it needs through food. Granted there are some vitamins, minerals and nutrients that may prove challenging to take in through food and some supplementation may be necessary, but you should not become a walking pill box.

Myth #8: Stretching is Not Necessary
Stretching is a crucial component of a well-rounded exercise program. Exercise can often shorten muscles, which can make them more prone to injury. The more you exercise the more stretching should be part of your routine. It is always best to stretch muscles when they are warmest, generally at the end of an exercise routine.

Fitness trainers and gym staff are great resources, but be sure to do your own research for effective and safe exercises. Two great sources are Personal Training on the Net and The National Academy of Sports Medicine, ptonthenet.com and nasm.org.

If you have some other myths and misconceptions, please e-mail them along to me. I am confident I will be able to write a follow-up column on this topic.

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