Fitness facts and myths you should be aware of

The goal of this article is to reveal the truth behind the most common fitness fads and hypes and show you how to replace them with long-term, results-driven approaches.

Let’s face it; the fitness industry is saturated and confusing. For those of us that are just trying to be the best possible version of ourselves, it can be mind-boggling knowing what guidance to listen to. There are misconceptions about what it is to be fit and how to be fit, and we’re being pushed (often conflicting) information from every corner of the media. Also, widely publicised articles are written by ‘experts’ that repeat the “fiction” rather than proving facts or results. Whether the topic is fitness, weight loss, strength training, muscle building, toning, it seems the approach is often the same.

“Lift heavy, do squats, do shoulder presses, do deadlifts, do hours of cardio and eat a low carb diet consisting of the same old boring food groups.”

As the result of this, millions of us are living by this advice – punishing our bodies and minds to find our fitness ‘holy grail’. Well – it’s time to take a stand and put a stop to it!

Being misinformed is a genuine concern, as it could cause more problems and failures. Some myths are just harmless half-truths, but many others can be harmful. We need to be able to separate the facts from the fictions related to fitness and weight loss.

Constructive discussion is needed around the topic to learn from each other and share our knowledge. I’d like to start this with some of my thoughts and findings which I’ve built up over almost 20 years as a fitness professional and trainer.

Machines

I’ve read fitness advice that says that using fitness machines isn’t an effective form of exercise. I agree but not for the reason you might think. What I’ve observed in my time as a personal trainer is that all of us learn differently, the way we break down information and turn it into action is entirely individual. It is evident that we, as humans incorporate our beliefs, intuition, background, strengths and experiences in reaching any productive outcomes or results.

I believe that machines limit our ability to perform at the highest possible level. By using them, we never really get to excel, thrive or execute our natural tendency to solve and dissect an exercise. It is very likely that we are also damaging ourselves due to our differing body types and sizes. For example, if I have a longer torso than my friend and we both use the same machine without setting it up properly, I could be at a disadvantage because my positioning and reach will be different than my friend.

Some machines and the potential risk they cause

1) The abductor and adductor machines

These machines are the least useful in my opinion. Numerous, fact-based studies have proven that a band around the ankle while standing on the non-weight bearing leg was more effective or equally as effective. There is better muscle recruitment of the gluteus medius. You can check out my YouTube channel for examples of effective ways to use bands to exercise these muscles.

2) The sit-up machine

Some studies revealed the effects of sit-up exercises on abdominal fat and concluded that they could be damaging and problematic.

Abdominal exercises like sit-ups and leg lifts rely on your hip flexor muscles. The hip flexor muscles include the rectus femoris of your quadriceps group and the psoas which are part of our pelvic floor. These are both essential muscles that help your legs move toward your trunk from the hip. Lots of experts have confirmed that if your abdominal muscles are weaker than your hip flexors, it will force the hip flexors to pull on your low back during specific exercises like sit-ups. This will often result in arching and stressing the lumbar spine, causing lower back pain.

Also, many studies have concluded that the assumption that sit-ups reduce belly fat is no more true than “flying pigs” based on that fact that they rarely activate the abdominal muscles during the actual exercise.

In my experience working with my clients I’ve witnessed a large percentage of them tense, clench and often hold their breath while doing sit-ups. However, breathing is the most important component of any exercise. Sit-ups uniquely encourage minimal mobility from the hips, and the positioning promotes tension and/or clenching due to the lack of fluidity in the whole body. As the majority of the movement is done through the mid part of the body, it’s a non-functional and bio-mechanically useless shift. And as earlier mentioned, if the abdominals are weak the hip flexors take over and it causes lower back pain.

3. Hanging and Seated back extension, side bends with or without weight

The hanging back extension is a dangerous exercise: both feet locked in a fixed position while laying vertically and bringing up the upper part of the body from the waist. You don’t need to be a scientist to know this exercise is a catastrophe waiting to happen.

I believe that repeatedly bending your spine sideways is just as dangerous and damaging, as it would be to flex your spine forward with crunches and sit-ups. Not to mention the fact that it’s dangerous and also useless.

4) The inverted Leg press machine

This is one of the most popular exercises in the fitness world, and I used to be a great advocate and user of this particular exercise, so my experience and knowledge of it is first-hand. It turns out that it was the primary cause of two hernias. The exercise requires you to sit down angled in a V position, with the legs up, pushing the weights outwards. In this leg position, you often push not only with your dominant side but the gut as well. Exerting too much pressure from the gut area causes stress to the abdominals, which forces the intestines to exert pressure as well. The outcome could be hernia surgery!

Exercises that look or appear too involved and dramatic:

I’ve seen some crazy exercises promoted on social media lately – here’s a few examples:

* people suspending themselves from the ceiling while tossing medicine balls or weights around
* People jumping from one unstable surface to another upside down (need more explanation!)
* People doing dumbell-press ups while hanging upside down from a bar

These exercises may look like feats of the ultimate strength and skill, but they have zero functional or physiological benefit to the body. The cynic in me wonders if the stars of these videos had anything more in mind than ‘going viral’? Unfortunately, they also creating a false sense that everyone can (and should) do them, but they are just dangerous.

Exercises and fitness should be simple, functional and challenging but never damaging. They should be doable with the intent to grow and improve both physically and mentally. If they look too crazy and overly complicated to do, then it’s very likely you shouldn’t be doing them at all!

The ‘Macho movements’

There are a few popular exercises that fall into this category. I’ve spent a lot of time looking at and evaluating these and I’ve reached the conclusion that they might be more damaging and ineffective than we think. Why? Well because too much compression causes unnecessary stress to the body, they activate clenching of the teeth and tension in the jaw as well as the overall body. They promote imbalances that already exist in the body from serious exertion and force.

They mostly don’t use other parts of our bodies for a more effective form of exercise. They promote excessive stretching of the skin and could be responsible for fat pockets and/or cellulite. The exercises I am referring to are the old school squat, shoulder press, deadlifts and like I mentioned earlier, the inverted V leg press machine. I believe there should be a serious discussion and some alternative movements should be adopted because not only are they outdated, I also find them ineffective. In this video, watch some funny and useless examples.

Exercises that cause pain and stress to the body

If an exercise causes you pain STOP doing it. Re-think and look for an alternative and then if it still hurts – get rid of it altogether, it is not for you. The old mentality of “no pain no gain” is based on old school machoism and ego-based ideology. Learn the limits that exist within your body, plan your exercise sequence and practice how to decide the extent you should push your body to! Do not work through “pain”; it only sets you back from the results you are trying to achieve. As an example, I show you some effective and multifunctional exercises:

So, to sum up – my aim here was to remind all of us to take a thorough and thoughtful approach to planning your fitness routine. Learn your body type, question the information and/or advice that you come across, be open-minded, try as many methods as you can and respect your body. The fitness and health industry hasn’t evolved in over a century at least. People are still mindlessly adopting ancient exercises, which opens the door to many forms of misinformation and misinterpretations. Unfortunately, there is more fiction than fact out there, and it’s creating self-awareness, self-esteem and self-image issues just to mention a few. So the job is ours to do our homework before doing that workout! Good luck!

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