Strength training to achieve a toned look with the fitness industry boom more and more people are realizing the importance of exercise as a part of their life. I have seen so many Instagram accounts dedicated to fitness advice or run by fitness models. There is so much information circulating it's difficult to figure out what is actually good advice and what is simply a myth. As an exercise science major that knows about the physiology of exercise I feel like it's my duty to debunk some of these crazy myths.
Lifting heavy weights will give you big bulky muscles
This is by far the most common exercise myth out there! When I go to the gym I often see women on the treadmill or elliptical for an hour and never touching a weight. Some women incorporate weight training with only small weights or body weight exercises. While it is good to incorporate body weight exercises and use small weights to learn proper form, all people should incorporate resistance training into the exercise routines.
Two hormones responsible for an increase in muscle size are testosterone (T) and growth hormone (GH). Both hormones are possessed by males and females, however, males have 7- to 8-times higher testosterone levels. This is why men are able to build bigger and stronger muscles more quickly than women. It is impossible for women to achieve the same muscle mass as a man the same size or look "manly" without the consumption of supplements or anabolic steroids.
Lifting light weights will give you a toned look
At the gym it is not uncommon to see women lifting small weights for lots of repetitions in hopes if achieving a toned look. Some women also believe the myth that goes hand in hand with this one is that lifting heavy weights will make you bulky. In reality, a person must commit to exercising 3-5 days per week and engage in both resistance training with heavy enough weight to build strength 3 days per week and cardiovascular exercise 2 days per week. Strength training requires you to lift at about 75% of the maximum weight you can lift. To get a toned look the ultimate goal is to reduce body fat mass and increase muscles mass.
Spot reduction training is effective
A common misconception is that by focusing your workout on on particular area of the body is that this "problem area" will go away. Many people do not like their stomach's look, but doing a million crunches won't reduce the size of your stomach or give you washboard abs. Fitness takes time and a balanced exercise routine will give you the results your are looking for. If you do want to see strength gains in a specific area, you can train that area twice in one week with at least two days of rest in between.
You have upper, lower, and middle abs
As you can see from the diagram above you have four major abdominal muscles. You may feel exercises like supine (laying on back) leg lifts to place more stress of the lower part of your abdominal muscles and crunches more towards the top of your abdominal muscle, but you are simply working different parts of the same lengthy muscle.
Stretching before you workout is key
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Static stretching before training has actually been found to hinder performance and has no effect upon reducing or causing injuries during a bout of exercise. Instead of stretching before a workout the best thing you can do is an aerobic warm up to get blood flowing to all your major muscle groups and gradually increase heart rate.
You need to exercise for a long time to get health benefits
A common misconception about exercise is you have commit a lot of time to working out and that you need to be drenched in sweat for it to have benefited you. Studies have found that exercise bouts as short as ten minutes are effective and beneficial for health.Some workouts like high intensity interval training (HITT) are often shorter than an hour weight-lifting session, but are just as effective — sometimes even more effective! You also do not need to workout every single day, especially when you begin a fitness regimen because your muscles need time to recover.
The more you sweat the more effective your workout was
You may have heard the more you sweat the more calories you are burning, however, this is untrue because sweat is simply your body attempting to naturally cool itself off and maintain an optimal body temperature. Where you exercise can have an impact on how much you sweat during a workout because you are much more likely to drip sweat in an overheated gym compared to jogging on a breezy beach. Individual physiological differences also plays a role in how much your body sweats as some people naturally sweat more than others.
Hopefully this cleared the air on some of the most common workout myths. Even if you have fallen for some of these myths because even as an exercise science major I know I have there is absolutely no need to fret! Fitness is something you can work at over your entire life but it is so important to educate yourself so that your body can be happy and healthy. If you haven't already go crush today's workout!