Common Misconceptions about Exercise


The fitness industry is an evolving science that has made great strides in the last couple of decades. However, as there are introduced new schools of thought for exercise, we need to weed out the old theories that are no longer relevant and have become myths of fitness. These are just a few of the Common Misconceptions I’ve heard about Exercise from clients before.

You should stretch before your workout.

Flexibility is a crucial aspect of fitness and stretching is the key to maintaining functional range of motion and mobility; however, there are different types of stretching with a time and place for each.

The most known type of stretching is static, it’s one of the best ways to increase muscle if implemented properly. An example of improper implementation would be during a warm-up for strength, power, performance, or endurance goals. Although we may still be warming our bodies up from static stretching, increased muscle length can actually inhibit the contractile speed and power of a movement unless coupled with muscle activation.

We get muscle activation from stressing the muscles through movement or weight load and when paired with stretching a desired range of motion, we get dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretching is more beneficial for blood flow during a warm-up and can activate muscle for resistance or aerobics. Higher-level athletes with strength goals require a greater weight load than bodyweight dynamic to properly activate muscles during a warm-up.

During a cool down, both static and dynamic stretching is great for improving flexibility. 

Longer workouts are more effective.”

Longer workouts may be beneficial for certain goals such as strength training or aerobic and anaerobic endurance because high-level strength training requires longer resting periods whereas high-level endurance training requires longer periods of exercise.

For most people, the goal isn’t to run a marathon or lift 500 lbs. Functional fitness is often the main target and you can achieve it through much quicker workouts than the typical 1 to 2-hour upper body and lower body split. Granted, quicker workouts also mean higher intensity; which may not be advised for those recovering from an injury or those who only enjoy lower intensity exercise.

That said, one way to shorten a workout is by choosing compound exercises or exercises that combine movements. Squat thrusters are a great example of a compound exercise because it combines a squat with an overhead press. Rather than doing 30 squats and then 30 overhead presses, try 30 squat thrusters to save time. Another method to save time would be to increase the pace and speed of an exercise.

If you do 15 repetitions of an exercise in 30 seconds, try 25 repetitions in 30 seconds to increase intensity/dynamics. As movements become more complex and dynamic, it becomes more important to maintain proper form since there’s a risk increase.

More exercise will make me healthier.

Generally speaking, most people could benefit from more exercise; however, there is a point where too much exercise can be harmful in different ways.

The lower limit for exercise is clearly defined by the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans as 150 minutes of vigorous or 300 minutes of moderate exercise each week and resistance training for each major muscle group twice per week. However, the upper limit for exercise is harder to define as it varies for each individual depending on training level.

When training at a high intensity or high volume, adequate recovery time is crucial for maintaining a healthy body.

High volume could look like 3 workouts per week for an untrained individual or 6 workouts per week for a trained individual whereas high intensity could look like a pace of 5 mph untrained or 10 mph trained. Recovery includes rest from exercise, amount of sleep, quality of sleep, nutrition, and meditation. The shared quality among these listed factors is stress, or rather deloading the body and nervous system from stress.

Needless to say, stress builds up from everyday work in addition to exercise, which can negatively impact both the mind and body if not properly dealt with. 

Squatting technique is universal.

It used to be common knowledge that toes shouldn’t cross over the toes when squatting down or that a squat should only go down to knee height.

There are other theories, like, feet should be pointing away from the midline or that the chest should remain upright. In truth, each person has a slightly different technique for optimal squatting and it depends on the strength and flexibility of each muscle group, the type of squatting exercise being performed, and the mobility of the hip, knee, and ankle. Strength or flexibility deficits cause muscles to rely on one more than another whereas hip, knee, and ankle mobility can alter the movement pattern.

Different squatting exercises can also alter the movement pattern. For example, a squat with weight overhead requires a more upright posture as opposed to squatting with weight by the feet where the chest can lower to the floor.

There are certain things to look for that may be suboptimal or actually harmful without intentional focus such as weight shifts throughout the body and timing of muscle activations; a good rule to note is if a technique causes pain or moderate discomfort, there’s likely a more efficient technique.

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