We’ve heard it before: “Heavy weights are a no-no for women — you’ll become bulky.” And then there’s this fitness gem: “One hundred crunches every day won’t give you a six pack.” The misconceptions swirling around exercising are numerous enough to make your head spin.
Research was done by PureGym in London, where gym-goers were surveyed to debunk a few myths about working out. Our expert fitness and lifestyle coach Angelique Van Der Linde weighs in…
1/ Cardio is the number one way to lose weight
Fact and fiction. Of course cardio (think running, cycling and swimming) is a great way to increase your energy expenditure to aid weight loss. When comparing jogging to lifting weights, the former is often a more accessible option. But there’s a common belief that cardio is superior to, say, weight training when it comes to burning calories. Add this to the fear that lifting weights can make you bulky and you can see why this has become a popular gym myth.
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The expert: This statement is subjective and depends on your own physique, says Angelique, because what works for you might not work for someone else. “In my case, I firmly believe cardio is the best way to go for fast, efficient weight loss. The higher the intensity, the faster the weight loss,” she says. But what about these factors?
- Age plays a major roll. As you age, you will require a higher and heavier weight-training schedule and you’ll find that cardio by itself won’t get you the same results it used to.
- Injuries will also dictate how fast you can train. For instance, a bad Achilles tendon injury will prevent fast bursts of movements and you’d have to switch from running to cycling, for example.
- Healthy eating is critical. Maybe you’ll get away with it for a while, but eventually cardio without a healthy diet will catch up with you and weight loss will plateau.
- Taking the correct nutritional supplementation aids weight loss. It will also feed your body with what it’s losing while training so hard and prevent you from breaking down your immune system.
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2/ Lifting weights will result in a bulky physique
Fiction. You may have heard the word “bulking” thrown around — commonly used to refer to a phase of building muscle by burning less calories than you eat. We tend to default to weight training being a means to only increase muscle size, rather than helping to shape, tone or strengthen.
The expert: “To get ‘bulky’ you’ll have to lift some seriously heavy weights and do so meticulously in combination with a very high protein and general calorie-counted diet. The problem is not the weight training; the reason women become bulky rather than lean can be found, again, in their eating habits,” says Angelique.
When lifting heavier than normal, people tend to eat too much. “Again, there is a proviso in that if you have a high muscle tone, it’s always safest to train with a lesser weight but a higher rep count. So, 2kg weight with 20 reps. That’s how I train, and I prefer to train every set to exhaustion,” says Angelique.
3/ Women should do different exercises to men
Fiction. Men and women have a different hormonal and physical make-up, which can lead us to believe that what we can do with our bodies has to be different too.
The expert: “I love seeing couples train together. It makes the process that much more fun. Obviously, if your husband is a powerlifter and your aim is to be tight and tiny, stay clear of what he attempts to do,” warns Angelique.
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4/ Not feeling sore means you didn’t get a good workout
Fiction. Sometimes feeling achy is a sign that you’ve pushed and put stress on your muscles, but it’s not the only sign of an effective workout.
The expert: Angelique is sore after every workout she does. “I’ve been at it for years now. I constantly change my routine and keep pushing myself to be a better version of what I was yesterday. Having said that, it definitely doesn’t mean that your session was a waste if you aren’t sore. The body has its own set of rules and giving yourself certain ultimatums to dictate a good or bad session will only leave you feeling discouraged,” she says.
5/ If you don’t sweat, you didn’t work out properly
Fiction. Sweating appears to be a great indicator that the exercise we’re doing is effective because it’s a sign we’re working hard. But is it really?
The expert: As women, we retain more water – you can thank oestrogen for this. To lose excess water, sweating needs to take place. “I’ve come across a number of women who just don’t sweat. If this is you, then just stay at it girl — it’s still working!” adds Angelique. Some training methods work deep into the muscles and some work as a more stabilising training form.
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6/ You shouldn’t do cardio on the same day as weight training
Fiction. Some research shows mixing up your workouts in the same session, without proper recovery time, can limit the benefits you get from each, but what’s the real deal?
The expert: “It all comes down to your goal. I believe in mixing it all up. I add cardio (skipping) in between each weight training set. I’ve found that this works best with my physique and I see the best results this way,” says Angelique.
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