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7 Common Myths About Strength Training

7 Common Myths About Strength Training
February 12, 2018 Dan Raimondi

Myth #1: Lifting heavy weights will make me bulky.
Truth: There are a few issues here. First, what constitutes “heavy”? When you start training, everything seems “heavy” since you have little or no basis for comparison. Second, it is not likely that lifting weights will make you appear bulkier. If you have a bodybilder in mind, understand that those individuals train specifically for that purpose, which is to maximise muscle growth. Those levels of muscle and size take years to develop. It is also possible they can be using anabolic steroids and other substances to enhance their physique. The takeaway: stronger muscles are really useful, for both performance and health. Don’t worry about getting big and bulky, as it’s not likely to happen unless you’re specifically trying to do so.

Myth #2: I’ll workout more to lose weight.
Truth: We’ve all heard “You can’t out-train a bad diet.” If your goal is weight loss, putting all your eggs into the exercise basket won’t be productive. Strength training, combined with a nutritional strategy to put you in a negative energy balance, is the best approach for losing weight, while keeping much of your muscle. Exercise is helpful, for a host of reasons. It can help boost compliance. If you’re putting in work at the gym you might feel more compelled to eat a little healthier. Strength training can also help burn a few calories, especially after the workout as the body repairs itself. It can skew the weight loss to be more fat and less muscle provided protein intake is sufficient. But the best results in weight loss come largely from the diet. If you want to lose weight, and the “Food In” part of the equation hasn’t been addressed, your results will be less than optimal.

Myth #3: Free weights are more dangerous than machines
Truth: The thinking goes that since machines are slightly more controlled, there is less room for error and thus less likelihood of injury, especially as you fatigue. The problem is that injuries in the weight room are exceptionally rare. If you have a qualified coach showing you proper technique and lifting progressions, you face a very small chance of injury. Moreover, one of the great benefits of barbells is that they are much more scalable than machines, allowing for small and large loads to be lifted, over (usually) greater ranges of motion. Consider the difference in muscle being trained in a squat versus a knee extension. The squat will not only strengthen the quadriceps(like the knee extension machine), but it will also strengthen the adductors, hips, entire back musculature, and hamstrings(among others). Machines aren’t “bad”, but priority should always be given to those exercises that have the greatest return on investment.

Myth #4: I need to leave the gym feeling exhausted
Truth: Strength training doesn’t require that you leave sweat angels on the floor each session. In fact, a good portion of the time we sit and rest! Strength is different than conditioning. The body adapts to each differently, and training for strength requires generally lower rep ranges and heavier weights. In between sets time is taken to rest in order to replenish the body’s energy stores. Constantly running around, never giving yourself a chance to rest, never pushing the weight up, and keeping the reps very high, is more akin to a conditioning session than it is strength training. If you want to get stronger, understand that not every session will leave you huffing and puffing.

Myth #5: Cardio is more important than strength
Truth: Those who love cardio will say strength isn’t that important, and conversely, those who love the weight room will often say cardio has no relevance. They’re both important, but there are two important qualities we lose as we age: muscular power and bone density. The single most efficient way to improve these is strength (resistance) training. There have been several studies that look at predictors of mortality(death), and strength/muscle play a massive role. Cardiovascular fitness is important, and including some steady state cardio or intervals can complete the “exercise prescription.” If you are not strong, take some time to develop it. Drop the cardio down to 1-2 times per week (focusing on low impact, low eccentric movements like biking or sled pushing), and build your strength up. Strength can take a while to build, but the changes made are structural (bone, tendons, ligaments, and muscles) and long-lasting.

Myth #6: I can’t lift weights because I’m old/frail/weak.
Truth: The beauty of training is that it begins where you are at physically. We meet you and adjust for your abilities with a small enough dose of stress to make you a little bit stronger. We don’t come out of the gate and try and push you to the max (see #3 above). We have equipment and exercises that can be adjusted to fit almost any level of ability. The best part: there are no individuals who don’t respond to strength training. Sure, your results won’t be as good as they would have been when you were 30 years younger. But you can still get stronger at your age, and improve on your quality of life. We’re not looking to add years, as Dr. Sullivan would say. We’re aiming for better years.

Myth #7: Squats are bad for your knees, deadlifts are bad for your back, and presses are bad for your shoulders
Truth: Some people need modifications to the lifts This might be box squats, rack pulls, or incline bench pressing. These folks improve over time and often progress to full squats, full range of motion deadlifts, and overhead presses (not always, but often). Barbell training is loaded human movement. Sitting down and standing up (squats), bending over to pick up objects (deadlifts) and putting items overhead (presses) are all normal functions of the body. You’re designed to handle the stress of these lifts, and in fact the entire system strengthens in response, if you progress properly. Do you want to know what is really bad for your knees, back, and shoulders? Not training. Not getting stronger. If you think training is dangerous, try the opposite: don’t get stronger. This isn’t a scare tactic. The risks of barbell training are low. The risk of getting weaker and frailer as you age is high, The antidote is strength training.