We’re all looking to maximize results while minimizing time and effort in the gym. That search for shortcuts has translated into a lot of myths about exercise. Here is the truth about 6 fitness myths, and what you need to know to ensure your workouts are safe and effective.
Myth #1: You need to stretch before a workout.
Truth: While it’s true that you shouldn’t just jump right into a workout, dynamic warm-ups are where it’s at—you can save those static stretches for afterwards. Your pre-workout goal should be to improve mobility and elasticity in the muscles. This is best done with foam rolling and a dynamic warm-up, where you keep your body moving (instead of holding stretches still). This preps your body for work and helps increase your range of motion, which means you can get deeper into exercises (and strengthen more of those muscles).
Myth #2: No pain, no gain.
Truth: While soreness and workout intensity are sometimes connected, how tired your muscles feel isn’t always a good indicator of a solid sweat session. Being sore doesn’t necessarily mean it was a great workout—it just means that a significant amount of stress was applied to the tissue. You can have a great workout and not be sore the next day. Proper recovery will help prevent achy muscles. Refuel within the first 30 to 45 minutes post-exercise, stay hydrated, and get enough sleep—all of these things can help boost recovery and minimize soreness.
Myth #3: Strength training means using machines and heavy weights.
Truth: Strength training means using resistance to work your muscles—and that resistance doesn’t necessarily have to come from a machine or a heavy weight. Aside from your own body weight, you can also use tools like kettle bells, medicine balls, and resistance bands to add resistance.
Myth #4: You have to do at least 20 minutes of cardio to make it worth your while.
Truth: You can get an amazing cardio workout in less time by utilizing high-intensity interval training. High-intensity cardio challenges the respiratory system to work efficiently to deliver oxygen to working muscles. If the system is stressed hard enough, it doesn’t require a lengthy workout for results. Plus, high-intensity training creates an after burn effect, meaning you continue burning calories after you’re done. One approach is 20 seconds of hard work, 10 seconds of rest for eight rounds total, which adds up to a four-minute routine.
Myth #5: You should work out every day.
Truth: Definitely not true! When you work out, you’re breaking down muscle fibers so they can rebuild stronger. However, to do this, you need to give your body time to recover from working out. Aim for one to two days per week of active recovery rest days—that means doing something that doesn’t put stress on your body, like gentle stretching or a walk. So, you’re definitely off the hook for that seven-days-a-week workout plan.
Myth #6: Strength training will make you bulk up.
Truth: It’s pretty hard for women to bulk up from a normal strength-training routine because they don’t have as much testosterone as men (the difference in this hormone level makes men more prone to bulking up). In fact, if weight loss is your goal, strength training can actually help you lean out, but you have to keep your nutrition in check, too. Simply maintaining lean muscle mass requires higher energy, so the more lean muscle you have, the more calories your body will burn at rest.