Working in a gym is my idea of the near-perfect job. I get to help people all day long and get to wear shorts or track pants to the office. I am surrounded by other trainers with a variety of skills and knowledge and have a fantastic group of clients that I see on a regular basis.
I say near-perfect for two reasons. (1) I can only stand listening to the same piped-in music for so long. and (2) I have to dispute gym myths on a near daily basis. As far as #2 goes, I calmly state what is scientifically proven factual, and I believe I do this without sounding like a pompous a$$.
I do not think I am the smartest person in the gym. Never. The more I read, the less I realized I knew in the first place.
That said, every day someone proves I’m not the dumbest guy in the gym either.
Tonight I will hopefully be able to shed a little light on some gym myths that truly need to be put to rest.
“You can turn fat into muscle” This would be like turning lead into gold. Fat and Muscle are two different substances and one cannot convert into the other.
“If you stop working out, your muscle will turn into fat.” This probably came from the same guy that can perform the fat-to-muscle alchemy miracles.
“Squats are bad for the knees / Deadlifts are bad for the back” This is true if your form for either of these exercises is poor. Properly coached and performed safely both exercises have demonstrated exceptional abilities in rehabilitating the knees or back. Now if someone says “I don’t squat/deadlift because of my bad knee/back.” Then they either don’t know any better, have poor form or know they suck at squats/deadlift and only want to do exercises they look good doing.
“Lifting weights makes you stiff and inflexible.” This has long been proven false, yet still sticks around for some reason. Weight training actually increases flexibility by moving joints, ligaments and the muscles through their full-range of motion.
“Eat less, Exercise More.” The idea is that you are burning off more calories than you consume. Under that interpretation you can lose weight.
The problem is the statement has a fatal flaw in it.
“Eat Less” means you are slowing down your metabolism. “Work out more” means you are speeding it up. This is like me telling you “Save your money, but max out your credit cards.
Although lengthier, try this instead “Eat mindfully and Exercise smarter.” Generally if someone wants to lose a significant amount of weight, they typically lack the dietary discipline or knowledge to know what “Eat less” is. 6 doughnuts are less than 12, but that doesn’t erase the damage that the 6 doughnuts do.
Eating mindfully means eating whole natural foods that nourish your body, not exceeding your daily caloric needs and eating foods that don’t contain ingredients that are either impossible to pronounce or longer than this blog. Eating mindfully means being a nutrient millionaire, yet being in the lower ends of the calorie tax bracket.
“Exercise smarter” has a catch. First, any form of getting up and moving is better than not getting up and moving. That said, there are exercises that are more beneficial to you than others.
For example, imagine your entire workout was composed of small isolation movements (bicep curls, calf press, seated leg extension etc.) Although you are working muscles, they are relatively small compared to the muscles engaged during big exercises such as squats, deadlifts, bench press, pull-ups and push-ups. Squats by themselves require the effort of more than 200 muscles to accomplish the task.
Remember: Muscle is metabolically demanding. Muscle tissue is roughly 8 times more metabolically expensive than fat. Big muscles are more metabolically demanding, and can lift more than little muscles.
“But Chris, I can’t do a push-up/bench press/pull-up!” No worries, everyone has to start somewhere. For every exercise there are numerous regression and progression techniques to get you there and make the best use of what you can accomplish.