# 1. Muscle is heavier than fat.
The amount of times I have heard this from numerous different sources is baffling.
It is like the old riddle, which is heavier a tonne of feathers or a tonne of steel? Clue: They are both the same weight, a tonne. What people are trying to say is the muscle is more dense than fat therefore if one person is 11 stone but only 5% body-fat and the other person is also 11 stone but 50% body-fat they will look completely different even though they weigh the same amount.
Muscle is a far more dense, compact substance than fat which is why 5 lbs of muscle appears much different to 5 lbs of fat.
# 2. I have Heavy/Big Bones
This is an oldie but a goodie and you still hear it quite regularly, unfortunately as you will see this is simply not the case (even though it can be a convenient excuse).
A 5 ft 6” woman who weighs 60kg (9st 4 lbs) scan shows that her skeleton weighs 2.4kg approximately 5 lbs which is just 4% of her total body weight.
1.93m (6ft 4”) man who weighs 84.4kg (13 stone 2 lbs) scan shows that his skeleton weighs 3.9kg (8.5 lbs) which is 4.6% of his total body weight.
# 3. Spot Reduction
This is one that the late night infomercials don’t really want you to know.
They will claim that their particular gadget will magically zap the fat off your arse while you sit there and relax watching the chase. Sure didn’t it work for the model demonstrating the apparatus? Unfortunately as much as we would all love it you can not currently pick a part of the body to lose unwanted fat. You must lose overall body fat % and your genetics will largely determine from where, so choose your parents wisely!
Unfortunately doing endless sit-ups isn’t going to get you those cheese-grater abs unless it is accompanied with achieving a low body-fat percentage…and no, that model did not get to look like that by using that particular machine.
There are no short-cuts or magic bullet solutions, but if people spend half their time and energy on actually getting some regular exercise or sorting out their nutritional habits rather than looking for short cuts like slimming teas, gadgets and miraculous weight-loss pills & potions they would be much better off, and wealthier.
# 4. You need to starve yourself to achieve results with weight loss
Due to the laws of thermodynamics by definition you need to be at a calorie deficit in order to lose weight, so CICO as it is known, Calories In, Calories Out needs to be more calories out than in.
This doesn’t however mean that you need to be on a water and lettuce leaves diet. It is very possible to lose body fat and not starve yourself. A high protein content in your diet will help keep you satiated as well as choosing foods with a higher fibre content like vegetables and some fruits. Besides which, going on a super restrictive diet is not sustainable in the long run and generally speaking if you know that you can’t be consistent with an approach for any significant length of time then you are better off going a different direction.
Also a big issue with extreme dieting and very low calorie approaches is a process known as ‘metabolic adaptation’. One aspect of this phenomenon is a type of ‘starvation response’ where your body responds to very low calorie intake by slowing your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate), as well as making less energy available for exercise which in turn makes exercise much tougher.
# 5. Weight Training Stunts Your Growth / Is Dangerous for Young People
Without doubt one of the more frustrating rumours to ever emerge particularly about youth resistance training. It does always crack me up when I hear the parent of a young hurler for example say that weight training is dangerous (so you don’t want them to do closely supervised, appropriate resistance training to make them stronger and more robust in a very controlled environment but you are ok with them going out on a pitch in a completely uncontrolled environment with 29 other players and literaly swinging sticks at each others faces?).
The statistics show clearly that adolescents who participate in appropriate resistance training have a far less likelihood of sustaining an injury than those who don’t. Yet this is a myth that just won’t die.
# 6. When you Squat, don’t let your knees go past your toes (or they might implode)
This particular myth has resulted in massive increase in people with completely unstable squats who sit their weight way back on to their heels and find it difficult to get any meaningful depth without feeling like they were going to fall over.
It is essential in my opinion to maintain an even weight distribution through the full foot when we squat. A lot of people have very weak feet and struggle to maintain any tension through the mid and fore foot, this can lead to a whole host of problems and compensations further up the chain. A lot of coaches in the past, with the best of intentions, gave this cue to stop people from letting the knees shoot too far forward but it has gone too far in the opposite direction now. For me, keep the weight distribution through the feet even, allow the knees to go where they go (this will depend a lot on the length of the femurs). Tell someone who is 6’ 5” to squat without their knees going past their toes and see what happens, come back to me when you have picked them up off the floor!
# 7. Weight Training Will Make you Big and Muscly (Women)
Thankfully this one seems to be slowly dying, but it is a slow and painful death. My answer to any female who says they don’t weight train because they think it will make them big and muscly is: “How many big and muscly women so you know?” Ya, I don’t know any either and I work with plenty of strong women who weight-train regularly.
It is in theory possible for women to naturally gain some muscle mass but it is extremely difficult, much more so than people think. You would have to be training multiple hours per day most days of the week, making sure you have a significantly higher protein intake than your average person and be at a positive calorie balance. Even then it is still very difficult and takes a long time to do.
Going to the gym 2/3 times a week, this shouldn’t be a concern and for a lot of women in fact it should be their aim to gain a few lbs of muscle, it helps increase your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) and 3 or 4lbs of muscle distributed over the entire body will, in no way make you look bulky or masculine. It does make me chuckle when someone asks if they will walk out the door like Arnold Schwarzenegger after one session in the gym…..if only it was that easy.
# 8. Weight training is only for hardcore people
As much as I am not a huge fan of Crossfit and their methodologies this is one thing that it has helped with. It has brought weight training to the mainstream.
I know a lot of current clients at SOLAS would have looked at weight training in the past as only for the select few, hardcore trainers, now they realise the myriad of benefits that they can achieve from this type of training. Improvements in Body Composition, reduction of pain, improvements in Mobility, Stability, Posture, Strength, Bone Density to name but a few.
Regular Resistance Training is even associated with a significant reduction in all cause mortality. Resistance training, in my books is for everyone from your 8 year old to your 99 year old, male and female, the type, duration and intensities etc are obviously going to be different depending on the different populations you are working with but the benefits of this type of training can not be over-looked.
# 9. Muscle turns into fat
This is another belter. I believe that it originates from people seeing bodybuilders who are ‘competition ready’ one week with very low body fat % and abs that you could grate cheese on and a few weeks later seeing them significantly ‘non-competition’ ready!
This is generally because the diets that bodybuilders put themselves through are extremely restrictive and some would even say unhealthy particularly if it is a long term strategy, once the competition is over they tend to overindulge massively and put on a significant amount of fat in the process in a relatively short time frame.
Muscle CAN NOT turn into Fat any more than stone can turn into gold, they are different substances.
# 10. You can out-work a bad diet
Can you have your cake, eat it and then work it off later? In a word NO. Firstly, human beings are notoriously poor when it comes to estimating both how many calories they have consumed and also how much exercise it takes to work off this amount of food. This may have been possible a long time ago when there were a lot less highly processed foods which can contain a days worth of calories and can be eaten in 10 minutes. It would be much more difficult but still possible to over-eat whole, unprocessed foods (A standard 12” pizza would be around 1000 Calories, try eating 1000 calories worth of porridge, it’s a lot harder!).
There are only so many hours in the day and only so many calories that you can physically burn during a session, it is not infinite, so when you are competing with hyper-palatable, high calorie, heavily processed foods, you don’t have a chance.
# 11. You always have to train at high intensity
The “Cross-Fit” mentality of balls to the wall every session, every set, every rep, sweat is just fat crying, if you don’t crawl out of the gym why even bother going is one that has permeated the health and fitness industry.
The problem with this is that it is Fitness AND Health we are trying to improve.
If you have someone who is highly stressed (e.g. pressure at work, single parent, 4 kids, financial troubles) and throw some more stress at them in the form of very intense training something is going to give. You absolutely must take in to account the person’s Allostatic Load (What their cumulative stress is). The body can’t recognise the difference between you lifting a maximum load and your boss wrecking your head, it can only perceive stress.
Stress is at an all time high these days with people finding it very difficult to unwind or relax, being contactable 24 hours a day, social media, work stress, poor sleep, pandemics, relationship issues to name a few sources. Sometimes a lower intensity stimulus like something more Aerobic in nature and can be much more beneficial for someone as it helps to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system (Rest and Digest), which is designed to reduce stress.
Stress can be great if you allow the body adapt to it, that is how we become more resilient and improve, but too much stress or too frequent is very literally a killer.
# 12 Women should only lift light weight and high reps
I hope that this myth will eventually disappear completely, but it still rears its head from time to time. This is what I commonly see, take your average commercial gym, January 2018, Mary is squatting 5kg’s, fair play Mary, well done. January 2019 Mary is still squatting 5kgs but now she is doing 2 more repetitions. Why don’t you try lifting something a little heavier Mary? You have the technique for it, oh no thanks I don’t want to get big and bulky.
Lets make it very clear, bigger weights do not necessarily make you bigger, there is a generally accepted range of repetitions 8-20 depending on who you ask that promote muscle growth. Usually lifting heavier and below this range will help actually develop more strength rather than promoting muscle growth, not the other way around.
If you have the technique then don’t fall in to the trap of just simply adding more and more volume to an exercise and keeping the weights ridiculously low.
(BsC Sport & Exercise Sciences).
Strength & Conditioning Coach.
SOLAS Health & Fitness.