Oscar Wilde, from The Importance of Being Ernest
Everything popular is wrong
That may not sound very Zen, but it is. It comes down to being aware of the natural human instinct to jump on bandwagons. The more aware you are of any natural tendency the more rationally you can react to them. And jumpin’ on bandwagons is rarely a good idea.
In fitness and strength training, it is VERY true that nearly everything that is popular is wrong … dead wrong. For instance, if you’re shocked by any of the following statements, then you have been following bad (but popular) advice.
- There is no such thing as “toning” a muscle.
- Jogging will not make you thin.
- You should lift weights if you want to lose fat.
- Carbs are not the devil.
- Yoga is not enough.
Let’s go through these really fast just to help dispel any lingering disbelief you might have.
One: There is no such thing as “toning” a muscle.
OK, sometimes I’m guilty of using the word “toning” my advertising to entice women to join my workout programs. But, the fact is, the word is meaningless. Muscles either get bigger or they get smaller. They can also get stronger or weaker, but we’ll just talk about the visual stuff since that’s what “toning” refers to.
When someone says they don’t want to make their muscles bigger, they just want to tone them, they are talking nonsense. What they MEAN (without knowing it) is that they want to keep their muscles the same size and lose the fat that is covering them up. This way their arms will look long and lean, for instance.
Sadly what people think they mean is that they want to do specific styles of training that will cause the muscle to be lean rather than bulky. This is silly. Leanness is not the opposite of bulkiness. Leanness is a function of how much fat you have. If you have little fat, you’re lean. If you have more fat, then you look less lean. Bulkiness (in terms of big muscles – not just fatty tissue) is a function of how large your muscles are. You can be both lean and bulky (think of Bodybuilders), or you can be lean and skinny (supermodels).
If what you want is to be lean and small, then say that. Don’t walk up to a trainer and tell them you want to be toned not big and muscle-bound. That’s a great way to make a good trainer cringe.
Two: Jogging will not make you thin.
This fact trips people out. The bottom line is not that jogging isn’t good exercise. It’s that your body is far too good at adapting to it.
In order to make consistent progress, you have to do exercises that are hard for your body to do. At first, jogging is hard. But, after a fairly short period of time, your body adapts and becomes very efficient at doing the same workouts. If you used to burn 800 calories on a 5 mile jog, after a few months you might only need to burn 400 for the same 5 mile jog – and you’ll feel like it’s easier to do! (those are made up numbers, btw.)
One way to solve the problem is to up the number of miles. But, once you get into the 8 to 10 range, we’re getting ridiculous.
Another way to up the workout is to stop jogging, and start running. If you go faster, you will work harder and you’ll get a better training effect. But, at some point you’ll start sprinting. And no human being can sprint for 5 miles!
Instead, once you’ve gotten too used to slow cardio (again, it’s great at first for people who like it) then focus instead on weight training and interval training. You’ll lose more fat faster, and your workouts will be shorter. Win win!
Three: Lift weights if you want to lose fat.
If you aren’t lifting weights, but your goal is fatloss, then you are missing out – big time! Weight training not only helps you build muscle which in turn will help you lose fat. But, weight training done in a superset style is very hard cardio much like sprinting. You’ll burn more calories and you’ll get a more powerful EPOC effect (Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption) than cardio alone. The EPOC effect basically raises your resting metabolism much higher than normal for up to 24 to 36 hours after exercise resulting in more fatloss.
And women, for heavens sake, no matter how hard you work at it, you will NEVER look like a man. Read here to find out why.
Four: Carbs are not the devil. (Foosball is)
Carbs get a bad rap. But, the fact is, you need them. You need up to 130 grams a day just to keep your brain functioning correctly. You need carbs before and during exercise to keep your workouts going strong, and you need them post-exercise to replenish glycogen stores.
If you drop carbs out completely, you are doing yourself a disservice.
Five: Yoga is not enough
Yoga is VERY popular now. For the most part, yoga is a good thing. It’s great at getting totally sedentary people to get in some bodyweight strength work by holding themselves in tough positions. It also does a great job of lengthening the muscles, which can aid in the prevention of injuries.
But, it doesn’t do much else. Much like jogging, you adapt too fast to the cardio and strength components of yoga. You need a dedicated cardio and a dedicated strength component in your fitness program. Stretching is good, but flexibility is only one small component of overall fitness.
The points above are designed to make the simple point that you can’t just go along with what the conventional wisdom is when it comes to fitness and strength training. You have to think a little harder, think outside the box, and search for solid information backed by science, not hearsay and inertia.