Thursday, November 1, 2012

Weight Training Myths

Just got an email from an elderly lady who says she just wants to work on stamina, but she's not into doing anything with weights. Please, ladies, pump some iron! It will help you with your balance, bone density, posture, and yes, your stamina. Just think: If your leg muscles are weak, they aren't going to be able to carry you up that hill very well, or if your upper body is weak it's not going to help you catch yourself if or when you fall.

Here are some common myths about weight training I've heard over the years.

If you stop working out your muscle turns to fat. Nope, sorry. Muscle is muscle and fat is fat. They don't switch from one to the other. Consider an athlete in the prime of her life, injures herself and she's sidelined for the season. If she keeps eating what she did when she was training 24/7 she's probably going to gain weight. While she's recuperating her muscles atrophy a bit, so she's losing lean muscle mass too. And muscles need energy (calories) to function/survive. Fat on the other hand is just sitting around waiting to be used as an energy source. It's not that one switches to the other, it's just a case of what she's feeding her body and how it's using the calories. While exercising she's feeding her body to stay fit and make sure she's rebuilding muscle fibers and restocking her muscles with energy for her next workout. Once she stops working out, the muscles don't need as many calories, so the excess gets stored as fat, in the fat cells of the body.

I don't want to bulk up. Ladies, unless you work really, really hard, you aren't going to "bulk up". What you will do is create definition. Some of us do have a wee bit more testosterone than others, but we aren't going to bulk up simply from picking up weights. And if you're really concerned, go light and go long, as in do more reps. Just FYI, those muscle heads you hear grunting at the gym are doing extremely heavy loads but very few repetitions, which results in hypertrophy. You can get stronger with less weight and more reps and still avoid developing huge muscle mass.

You need to go to the gym or buy expensive weight machines to build muscle. Nope. Your body can be your gym! Push ups are a perfect example. As are tricep dips, pull ups, lunges, and squats. As you progress you will have to come up with ways to make those exercises more challenging though, because your muscles will adapt and the moves will get easier, which means your muscles are no longer being over loaded. So if you start with push ups on your knees you can move on to push ups on your toes. Later you could do push ups with your feet elevated on a bench. You could slow them down too. Lots of ways to modify!

Eww, gross!
Machines are better than free weights. Personally I don't use weight machines because they don't mimic anything in real life, i.e. they aren't functional. (You can read more about functional fitness here.) Free weights and body weight exercises require more mind-body awareness (proprioception) and engage more muscles at the same time, which is a good thing, but can be challenging for newbies, so machines can be a good place to start. But if you trainer only puts you through the paces on machines, its time to hire a new one!

Anyhoo, that's my myth buster segment for today. Thanks for stopping by and let me know what your favorite weight training exercise is!


1 comment:

~christa~ said...

This is great information! My favorite exercise is jumping rope. I don't ever seem to tire of it.

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