Top 5 Exercise Myths

With a subject like fitness where there are lots of “experts”, but not many experts, there will always be a lot of disagreement about what’s right and what’s wrong.  There are so many myths about exercise and fitness – what works, what doesn’t, what happens – thatit can be really confusing.

Here’s 5 of the biggest exercise myths that have definitely been debunked:

Sit-ups / Crunches Get rid of Belly Fat

They don’t.  They help to condition and tone the underlying muscles, and they may help to give you a flatter stomach through tightening the area, however they’ll have a negligible impact on any subcutaneous fat.  To get rid of that, you need to eat a more sensible diet.

Steady Cardio Work is the Best Way to lose Weight

Lots of people think that running for miles on end is the best way to lose weight.  It isn’t if you want to lose weight through running, you need to smash out sprints like they’re going out of fashion.  Fartlek Running is much more efficient at helping you burn calories than just a steady pace.

Running on a Treadmill is Safer for Your Knees than Running on a Road

Ultimately, damage to your knees when running is done by your body weight crashing down through a joint many times over a period of time.  That’s going to happen whether you’re on the road or a treadmill.

Women Build Muscle Bulk if they Lift Heavy Weights

Without taking massive amounts of testosterone and vast protein supplements, women don’t get big just by lifting weights.  This misconception often means that women use 1KG weights in the gym for resistance for fear of becoming masculine.  Don’t worry, life weights that challenge you and you’ll get a better impact.

Stretching Before a Workout Prevents Injury

Actually, if the first thing you do when you walk into a gym is some extreme stretches, things are going to get bad pretty quickly.  If anything, stretching before you work out is going to do more harm than good.  What you should be doing is:

  • Warm up
  • Stretch
  • Lift
  • Stretch
  • Cool Down

Missing out on any of those steps is what increases your risk of injury.

Any More

What are your favourite (or least favourite) fitness myths?  Tell us below.

Stretching Exercises

Stretching exercises are an important part of your workout routine, as they help to increase your overall flexibility giving you a greater range of motion, and reducing the chances of picking up an injury.  A well thought out set of stretches can complement the exercises that you do, and ensure that you get more benefits from the gym session.  It also helps to shape the body, with muscles encouraged into a longer shape.

Many people start their workouts with a range of stretching exercises to warm up – this is a big mistake.  Actually, you want to be warmed up when you do your stretches.  Being warmed up reduces the injury risk, and means that your muscles can work to their full range, rather than being required to over work before they are ready.  A gentle 5 minute run is a good idea to warm up for a stretching session, and will get your muscles ready.

There are two main types of stretching exercises, static and dynamic.  We’re all familiar with static stretches.  These are the ones where you bend over and touch your toes, move slowly, and hold the maximum extent of the stretch.  Dynamic stretches involve quicker movement out of the stretched pose, so rather than holding that deep lunge for 10 seconds, you move to your maximum stretch, and then return from it.  You still want to move in a relatively controlled way to avoid injury, but there is no holding of position at the end.  Static stretches will improve your overall flexibility, but in order to get real life benefits for sport or other training, you need to include dynamic stretching exercises too, as these will improve your range of mobility while you are actually moving.  Both types of stretching complement each other.

The most important rule of stretching exercises is:  If it hurts, stop.

When you stretch, you want to feel the stretch so that you know you are increasing your reach, but it should never be physically painful.  If it is, you’re going too far, and you need to relax, and work back up to the range that you are trying to achieve.

There are some great and challenging stretching exercise routines available if you join vytalz (which is free!), but here are 5 stretches that you should try:

Calf Stretch

Place one foot well in front of the other, and lean forwards bending your front leg and keeping your body upright to feel the stretch through your calves.  To balance your work on both sides, try striding forwards between stretches.

 

 

Toddler Squat

We covered this in our full blog post about the toddler squat, but its a great exercise that will increase flexibility in your lower legs as well as improving your strength and balance.

 

 

Lower Back Stretch

Lie on your front, and press your body flat to the floor, then place your hands about level with your waist, and lift your shoulders up while aiming to get a consistent curve into your back.  This will improve your range of movement as well as being a very relaxing pose.

 

 

Groin Stretch

With your feet more than shoulder width apart, transfer your weight from one leg to the other, keeping the non-weight bearing leg straight, and bending the other at the knee.  This stretch widens your stance at the groin, and helps you to get more flexibility and strength into this muscle group.  The advantage of this is that it reduces your likelihood of injury when running or doing other activity.

Torso Stretch

This stretching exercise is one that you need to practice, and also need a mirror to do, because you’re putting a big twist into your back, and it can be a little bit painful if you get it wrong.  Start by sitting flat on the ground.  Raise your left leg, and lie the other flat underneath it.  Then twist your torso to the left, aiming to get to a right angle with your lower body. Support the twist with your right arm on the outside of your left leg, and continue to turn your head as far as possible.  Don’t force the stretch, build up to a good range of movement over time.