There's more info about exercise available to us than there has ever been. We've identified 5 common misconceptions about exercise and tried to correct them.
So why do so many people not know the first thing about it? Well, partly this is because many people have no interest in fitness and nutrition knowledge – they’re off doing much more interesting things with their lives. But it’s mainly down to the sheer amount of misinformation and incorrect assumptions that surround exercise science.
If being sweaty led to you losing weight then there would be absolutely zero need for exercise. We’d all just jump into our personal saunas (or sauna suits) and watch television while becoming lean and mean. How much you sweat is not an indication of how many calories you have burned, and it is possible to burn many hundreds of calories without sweating at all.
This misconception is completely understandable though, when you sweat you lose a lot of water from the body. This can temporarily lead to you looking leaner and your weight will drop slightly. This is just because you’ve lost some water weight though. By the time you are fully re-hydrated you’ll be back to your original size.
Another reason for this misconception is the correlation of exercise making you sweat and you actually losing weight. If you did 60 minutes of running each day for a year you would burn a lot of calories and almost certainly lose a significant amount of weight. You would also sweat quite a bit (depending on a number of factors such as genetics, temperature, and clothing). But sweating itself has no effect on calories burned, it’s just something that happens at the same time.
Finally, there is a little bit of truth to the statement that sweating can lead to weight loss. If your body is in a very hot or very cold environment it will attempt to either raise or lower your body temperature to remain at your ideal body temperature. This is called thermoregulation. This process can increase your metabolism slightly, and therefore burn some more calories. However, we’re talking about 5-10 calories within a couple of hours. This is not going to increase fat burning.
Also, exercising at temperatures that are too hot or too cold is difficult. You can’t perform to the same intensity, which means that you will burn less calories through exercise. Think about it, would you be able to exercise for longer in a perfectly air-conditioned room? Or at midday in the Sahara Desert?
Exercise at a decent temperature and wear appropriate clothing. Stay hydrated throughout your workout. This will allow you to burn more calories and ultimately burn more fat. Trying to increase your body temperature will not help you.
It’s a very common sight, you’re about to play a game of football and all around you are other people doing quadricep stretches, tricep stretches, and shoulder stretches. This form of warm up has been drilled into us since primary school. But it’s actually a counter-intuitive move. Static stretching can actually tire out a muscle rather than warming it up and will lead to a small drop in performance rather than an improvement.
Most people stretch before a workout so that they can avoid injury or reduce post exercise stiffness, but static stretching beforehand will have no positive effect on either of these. It may even increase the chance of injury. Instead of static stretching you might want to consider dynamic stretching, some light cardio, or if you’re in the gym, adding some practice sets to your routine (bench pressing at 20% of your usual weight).
You’re probably thinking that this misconception must be pretty rare. Ask anyone if exercise form is important and they will tell you that of course it is. But, when was the last time you actually saw somebody using really good form in the gym? Even if it was recently, we’d bet that you could name several examples of people who had bad form for each person with good form!
It’s not so much a misconception that form is unimportant, but that ultimately the heavier the weight used the better the muscle growth. While it is true that you need to overload the muscles to grow them (either in size or strength), this comes with a caveat. If the weight is too heavy you will unconsciously (or consciously) adapt your technique to complete the movement. Otherwise known as cheating.
A person who can’t properly curl a 20kg dumbbell will start to swing the weight slightly to create enough momentum to finish the movement.
A person who can’t bench press 100kg will only bring the bar down halfway instead of all the way to the chest. This is called half-repping. Completing a movement with proper technique will work the muscles much more than swinging or half repping a weight that you can’t lift.
German Volume Training is a training technique that involves performing 10 sets of 10 reps on a certain exercise, with 40-60 seconds rest in between each set. It is very popular and can be very effective for hypertrophy (increasing muscle size). It could also (theoretically) be good for fat loss, as it is high in intensity and uses relatively short rest periods.
But German Volume Training is a very difficult training style to use, and should definitely be avoided by beginners, or people who are just looking for fat loss. There are better, more specific programs out there. Due to its reputation, a lot of personal trainers do GVT with their clients. This is akin to teaching long division to a 3-year-old. It may help them in the future, but right now they need to master the basics.
Seeing somebody performing box jumps for reps is heartbreaking to anyone who understands the science behind plyometric training. Also known as “Jump training”, plyometrics is a form of exercise that focuses on increasing power – usually through explosive bodyweight movements such as jumping, skipping, hopping, or box jumps.
It may look nice and easy, and it’s understandable that people would want to incorporate it into their programs, but plyometrics is not suitable for this. Explosive movements such as jumping onto (or off) a box are actually very intense, and are designed for athletes, or for people who are very fit and strong.
Most people who do circuits are looking for fat loss, this is a completely different goal to plyometric training. Also, most people who do circuits are fairly new to exercise.
They may not have the technique right, and even if they did – circuits are about minimal rest, and a fast pace. While plyometrics requires a slow and controlled pace, and lots of rest between sets.
If you are looking to improve your explosive power, then plyometrics can be amazing. Just ensure that you are taught it properly, and you treat it with respect. Way too many people are falling off or smashing their shin into plyometric boxes!
These five misconceptions are seriously affecting the health and fitness of many people out there today. Learning about them, and many others is all part of our Complete Course in Personal Training.