Rachael looks online and finds an article about weight training that warns against lifting too much weight because she will become “big and bulky.” The next article she reads tells her that weight training is safe for women and you cannot get “bulky” like everyone warns about.
Confused, she asks her girlfriend that’s been going to the gym for a few months and she replied with “I’ve heard it’s not good to lift a lot of weight.”
Exercising, fitness, weight training, diet, cardio… All of these things all have their own myths and misconceptions that if listened to can ruin your progress towards your dream body.
I’m going to pick the top 6 misconceptions that I see constantly and I will put your doubts to an end.
You will get “big and bulky” if you lift heavy weight
Women have 1/20th to 1/30th of the testosterone levels that men have. Funny enough, testosterone is the hormone that supports muscle mass which means that our bodies literally aren’t able to support a lot of muscle. Think about it, a man who has low testosterone has trouble building muscle and you have 1/20th of his lower testosterone… building bulky muscles just won’t happen.
The women you see who you think are big and bulky are usually exceptionally lean and this makes them appear bigger than they are. Remember in my toning article I told you that getting toned is building muscle and losing weight?
Building muscle is essential if you want to have a nice physique. Being skinny with no muscle tone is not sexy at all.
Strength training has many benefits including an improved physique, improved bone density, increased heart health, and much more.
I’m not telling you that you have to go try to be the strongest woman in your state, but how handy would it be to be able to lift that 50 pound bag of dog food or not have to try to find someone help you move a piece of furniture? Your quality of life increases from building strength – trust me.
You need to stretch before you lift weights
Stretching muscles before you workout seems like a good idea right? Wrong.
The idea behind stretching your muscles to warm them up and get them ready for lifting weight is great, but that isn’t how stretching works.
Stretching actually relaxes your muscles and can increase the chances of injury. There are special occasions you may need to stretch before you lift weights, but that’s beyond the scope of this article and is nothing you need to worry about.
What you need to do before you lift weights is warm up. This involves moving your body, increasing your body temperature and getting your nervous system ready to perform strenuous activity. The difference is that you aren’t forcing a muscle to relax… in fact, you’re forcing them to wake up and be ready to work.
So how should you warm up?
Warming up is simple, you can do anything from 5 to 10 minutes of low intensity cardio such as walking, elliptical, or the bicycle. You could also do body weight exercises such as sit ups, push ups, jumping jacks, or other exercises that help get your heart going without putting a lot of strain on your body.
I generally have someone warm up on a cardio machine.
Muscle turns to fat
You know a friend that used to go to the gym religiously to lift weights and now that they’ve stopped they look… fatter?
The thought that “muscle turns to fat if you stop lifting weights” is tossed around all of the time and it makes me cringe to hear. The reason I dislike seeing it is because it scares someone who wants to get into weight lifting but they do not want to get fat.
This misconception is actually closest to the truth (in a way) than any of the others I will write about on this article.
You go to the gym and lift weights, do your cardio, watch what you eat, and you are looking great. You stop going to the gym for whatever reason and you stop doing cardio, start getting less strict on your diet and you start gaining fat??
You stop exercising and start eating more calories
Yes your body does burn muscle for energy under certain conditions but your muscles aren’t turning into fat. You’re gaining fat because you’re now eating more than you burn. Simple.
Long story short is if you decide to stop going to the gym for some reason, you better start cutting down how much you eat every day or you will get fatter.
Cardio is bad for you
There is a new fad of “cardio is bad for you” and “you don’t need to do cardio.” This fad is all fun to joke about but when it’s making people question whether they should do cardio because they are afraid of not building muscle or getting stronger… there’s a problem.
Cardio is meant to increase your conditioning, improve heart health, and a multitude of other things. This worries me because heart health should be more important than anything!
Yes cardio in excess is bad for you; there is a point where you don’t see any benefit from extended hours of cardio a day. Yes cardio can burn up muscle for energy.
So is cardio bad? No.
If you look at any of my workout routines you see that I explain you should try to get at least 30 minutes of some activity a day in. This is to improve heart health and improve your quality of life. If you skimp out on cardio, you are going to be out of breath if you have to walk up stairs or go out to get the mail… that’s not good!
- What you should do:
- Cardio pre-workout (5-10 Minutes)
- Cardio post-workout (15-45 Minutes)
- Find a sport or active hobby to be involved with
- If you have kids play with them
- Spend at least 30 minutes a day purposely not sitting down
If you follow these simple tips you are not going to “burn away all of your muscle” and you’re going to experience a healthier lifestyle that will make others envious.
The cardio machine’s calorie counter is accurate
One of the quickest ways to ruin the progress of your weight loss journey is to believe that the calorie counter on your favorite cardio machine is actually accurate.
- There are many reasons why the calorie counters are inaccurate:
- It does not take into consideration your conditioning level (how hard are you having to work)
- It does not take into consideration your BMI (shorter and fatter vs taller and leaner)
- If it has pulse reader, they are rarely accurate because of your movement
- Your body adapts to the movement (what used to cause you to burn 100 may only burn 80)
I could get into the science of why you shouldn’t rely on a calorie counter on a cardio machine, but I think you get the point.
I recommend using them as a guide but do not rely on them to be 100% accurate.
You do the same thing every time
Jennifer wakes up in the morning and get ready for the gym. She eats her protein bar and hops in the car.
She gets to the gym and like clock-work she is in her groove:
- 10 minutes cardio on 3.0 to warm up
- Grabs the same weights every day while completing her 4 day gym routine
- 25 minutes cardio on 3.5
Every time Jennifer walks into the gym she does the same exact exercises for the same amount of time and uses the same amount of weight as last time.
Why am I not reaching my goals???
You have to progress in some way if you want to reach your goals. This means you need to increase your speed or time on cardio and increase how much weight you use for an exercise.
The human body adapts to whatever you put it through. If you push yourself to do 25 minutes of cardio at 3.5, your body will adapt to be able to do that; nothing more, nothing less.
Do yourself a favor and keep a log of what you do in the gym and strive to do more next time.