Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Mythological Beasts

Lately, I've enjoy a feature article on T-nation that is written monthly by Nate Green. The series is called myth busters and he has been debunking common fitness myths. I thought I'd give it a shot and rant a little about my most despised fitness myths. Many of these myths are being spread as propaganda as "the best" exercise prescription out there. Hopefully after reading this you'll realize that you've been downright lied to by many health professionals.

Beast #1

Using light weights and doing high reps is the best way to look "toned"

Many female gym-goers simply have the wrong information ingrained in their brain. This is not their fault, the problem arises when popular culture magazines plaster pictures of Hollywood celebrities using their ibells (weights of many shiny colors, not to be confused with apples' ipod nano) to perform simple single joint exercises. Hey now, wait a minute, if the celebrities are doing it, it must be the best way. IS IT!??

You won't find her by the pink dumbells

The Solution

Muscle tissue does not differ scientifically between males and females. Both men and women can train exactly the same way, and what many females don't realize is the 'toned' look they are after is gained through the proper balance of muscle size and % body fat. Therefore, to increase muscle size weight increments must increase and reps should be limited to less than 10. Another benefit of increasing your muscle size is that it costs your body more calories to sustain the new muscular tissue, thus making your body a fat burning machine even while resting. Also, ladies, do not worry about becoming too bulky. It is impossible since females lack the necessary amount of testosterone found in their male counterparts. Muscular growth only occurs within a normal range for your body.

Beast #2

Sit ups - The ultimate abdominal exercise

Sit ups have long been hailed as the be all, end all way to achieve that killer mid-section. However, just like our lesson from above they are often performed with too light of weight for too many reps. Repeatedly contorting ones back in such a way can lead to many posture imbalances including kyphosis. (think hunch backed person walking with a cane). Also, repeatedly flexing the torso toward the hips mostly involves the hip flexors and very little of the abdominal musculature. In many cases, tight hip flexors are the major cause of chronic lower back pain. Tight hip flexors can also cause the pelvis to tilt forward farther than usual increasing the strain on the vertebrae in the lower back (a condition known as lordosis) a real doozy for the lower back, and think all of this from a movement meant to "help" your core.

This hydra will kill you if you do another sit up

The Solution
Craig Weller, of barefoot fitness, recommends training the abdominal muscles as a single unit, and engaging all aspects of the abdominals instead of isolating certain areas. Using overhead lifting, rollouts, planks, ball slams, wood choppers, and farmer carries are all examples of movements that will lead to a stronger abdominal unit. The job of the abdominals is to support the spinal column, and a strong midsection will guarantee a healthy, stable spine.

Beast #3

There is one type of training that is superior to another
I've heard arguments about power lifting, Olympic lifting, body building, long distance training, short sprints, swimming, kettelbelling, and just about everything in between. However, the truth is that there is no single type of training that is better than another. Do some people have better results from one or another? Yes. Do people have different preferences and attention spans? Yes. Do goals and reasons for training differ from individual to individual? Yes.

Cerberus didn't attack from just one direction

The Solution

The point is that there isn't one perfect training system. Everyone has different wants and needs, some people train to become athletes, others just train to look good naked, while still others train just to be able to complete every day tasks, or keep up with their children. I had a professor in college who always said, "there are a lot of ways to skin a cat" I liked this analogy and believe that a good mixture of strength training, anaerobic, and aerobic activity is important to achieving a complete state of good health. So stop being so damn stubborn and thinking that it's your way or the highway, use all the tools that are available and achieve the results faster than you ever thought possible!!

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