Just as there are a million articles on how to build bigger arms, there are also just as many trying to dispel training myths. It is amazing how many of the same old ideas still exist. Let's just face it though.... there is no "magic" pill, you can't spot reduce, and their is no perfect workout program! However, we have heard all those before, so what are some other common misunderstandings? Glad you asked, in this article I will try to provide information on many ideas we consider to be facts, but need to be challenged.
"As long as I exercise hard and supplement correctly I can eat whatever I want!"
If you have not personally been guilty of saying the above statement, then chances are you know someone who has. The truth is that anyone's goals are going to be severely hampered if they do not take their everyday nutrition seriously. No expert in exercise or nutrition can help someone that is not willing to make positive changes to their eating habits.
Whether your goal is to put on muscle mass, or lose body fat, you must make an effort to follow some very basic guidelines.
- Eat every 2-3 hours.
- Supplement your diet with essential fatty acids such as olive oil, flaxseed oil, fish oils, and those found in many nuts.
- Eat high quality protein sources such as eggs, lean steak, chicken, and fish. Try to avoid processed deli meats.
- Decrease poor carbohydrate sources such as white breads, rice, and pastas. Increase your intake of high fibrous fruits, grains, and leafy green vegetables.
- DRINK LOTS OF WATER!!! I have never seen anyone drink too much water. While anything in excess is possible, most people have to work very hard to drink a gallon a day. Water intake is usually based upon bodyweight and activity level. When in doubt, drink more! It is important to note that by the time you are thirsty you are usually dehydrated.
If a person does not have good eating habits, they will also find that their goals are hard to achieve because of an inability to recover from their training. We have all heard that we grow outside of the gym and not during our training. With all the hoopla surrounding post-workout nutrition too, it is no doubt recovery is an essential component of achieving physical goals. Poor eating habits will not provide the body with proper nutrients for change, and many will suffer the following, fatigue, more pain and aches, inability to concentrate, and digestive problems. Sounds like fun doesn't it!? Since you have made the commitment to train make the same effort to change your eating habits, if not, don't complain about the results you don't see!
"Yes, I warm-up. I ride the bike for five minutes before my workout."
Warming-up is nothing new in training. Ever since I can remember trainers have recommended their clients "warm-up" on the bike or treadmill for a few minutes before training. While increasing body temperature does seem to help many in their training programs, this method of warming-up doesn't do much else. If we look at common approaches to warming-up we will see most not only perform very brief aerobic training, but long periods of static stretching as well. After a person has done their warm-up, they have spent an easy twenty minutes in the gym, but how effective have they been with their time?
Let us consider that static stretching has been shown to reduce dynamic power output by as much as 15%! That is very significant since many of use judge our success by how much we can increase the weight we can lift. We must also consider what type of activities dominant our training programs, static or dynamic? In most cases, the majority of one's training is composed of dynamic muscle action. Isometrics is one of the few times that we see static activity. Therefore, we have seen that the flexibility developed by static stretching has a low carry over to our dynamic training.
So, if riding the bike and static stretching isn't the most productive way to prepare for training, what is? There is no one answer; many different methods can be employed very effectively. However, I personally have found using the following methods to be very helpful. Instead of the bike or treadmill, I utilize a variety of jump rope drills that help the body move in various positions as well as increasing body temperature. Many times I find that because the jump rope takes more concentration that the nervous system is more effectively "warmed-up" than by the very brain numbing biking. When a person is more focused they will perform better in the gym. The nervous system after all controls much of our training success or failures. Secondly, using dynamic flexibility drills are extremely helpful for preparation of all physical activities, whether one is trying to work in the gym or getting ready to practice in a particular sport. Specific dynamic drills can be leg swings for the hamstrings, walking slow lunges for the hip flexors, as well as many more.
"If you move a weight quickly then you are out of control."
This particular myth had to be started by many of the old machine manufacturers of the past. Since both Powerlifting and Weightlifting have used specific strategies of accelerating weights, we can only assume this is a Bodybuilding fallacy. It is extremely important to note that both Powerlifting and Weightlifting have very low incidences of injury and these are generally athletes that can lift amazing weights!
J.M. Blakely benches 710 at the 2001 York
Barbell Strength Spectacular. Photo by Jake Jones.
We must remember that there is a great difference between moving a weight quickly out of ignorance and doing it with a purpose. The Dynamic Effort Method has been outlined in many strength-training texts as a great way of improving speed-strength, strength-speed, and rate of force development. This particular method requires the lifter to use a sub-maximal weight (close to 50-65% of maximal effort) and move the weight as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, this is a component of strength that is often underutilized by the average lifter. Some may argue that this has no place in general training, but considering this style of training results in high muscle tension, it may very well be a useful technique for those even interested in general fitness.
When high speeds are not used properly we usually see very poor technique. Those that do employ this method with a purpose are very aware of any deviation from the ideal form used in the exercise. A great example is any of the Olympic lifts. Anyone well versed in these lifts will state that trying to "muscle" up the weight will not allow the person to lift great loads. Only when the lifter has very good technique can they hoist amazing weights that we often see in competitions.
There are just as many or more myths of training as there are training methods. As long as people train, fallacies will exist. If anyone is serious about achieving a goal from their training they must develop some level of interest in educating themselves. Many people will invest a great deal of time when they are thinking of investing in a house, car, or even a vacation. Unfortunately, the same interest is usually not devoted to the most important asset, their health!