Myths are in my opinion, the same as conspiracy theories. Professor Stephan Lewandowsky, a cognitive scientist at the University of Western Australia, published a paper late last month in the journal Psychological Science looking at the thinking behind conspiracy theories. As I read some of his work, I saw why people are stuck with some of the recurrent fitness and health myths. There are many factors, but one of the most important one in this case is that it gives people a sense of control. They hate that their lives can be altered by something they see as unpredictable in their everyday life, so as a mechanism against sudden change, it’s much easier to believe in a conspiracy or in this case, myths. Then you have someone or something to blame, it’s not just randomness.
In any fitness (conspiracy) theory, people have a need or a motivation to believe in this theory, and it’s psychologically different from evidence-based thinking. A conspiracy theory is immune to evidence, and that can pretty well serve as the definition of one. If you reject evidence, or reinterpret the evidence to be confirmation of your theory, or you ignore mountains of evidence to focus on just one thing, you’re probably a fitness myth protagonist. We call that a self-sealing nature of reasoning. Another common trait is the need to constantly expand the myth as new evidence comes to light. For instance, when the latest “against red meat research” came out, they jumped on the big title right away, completely disregarding the little details, which proved that more research needed to be and that it was more a matter of sensionnalizing the news.
Without further ado, here is some of the myths that people love to keep alive…
Get Abs with at least 100 crunches a day
You want the cover model abs? Fine! But they have to diet as hard as the bodybuilder. Some are often those who walk around year round with a six pack. However, most are the skinny guys with the eternal abs. What have they done differently to have them? Nothing! Some models just do crunches on a regular basis to maintain (huh hum). They are just there. The worst thing is, you have almost the same abs too, just with coating on top! You just don’t know if you like those krispy cream donuts more than you would like to see a sixpack on your midsection.
Abdominals are not to be done everyday. Abs are made to work hard, a couple of reps at most, with heavy shit. They protect the spine and visceral organs and are involved in postural alignment. However, training them everyday doesn’t make them better or even leaner, especially with crunches and twists.
FAT DOES NOT CONTRACT
If you didn’t get the memo, or sarcasm, the main reason why you don’t see your abs is not the lack of sit ups, it’s the lack of seriousness in your approach of seeing them and obviously, what you stick in your pie hole. For those of you who are looking for the words ‘’functional’’ or ‘’core’’, you won’t. If you train right, with a mixture of the basic exercises, you will work your core and your ‘’muscles will be functional’’. I never bought into those marketing words that targets people who are scared of lifting a little bit more then their purses or man bags, because, you know, they bulk so fast (more on this later). Kneeling swiss ball one arm DB curls with a bodyblade in the other is only good for…wait for it…wait for it…nothing.
Got it? And telling someone to focus on the core while they do a bicep curl is truly the dumbest thing you can say to someone. If your ‘’core ‘’ didn’t contract, you would kiss your knees as fast as you can sneeze.
Woman bulk with weights
Every one is ready to look like models, fitness pros or even the cover models, but no one is ready to do what they do. Do you really think that they eat only twice a day, take no supplements, train only twice a week and go out drinking with their friends every weekend? You seriously need to wake up and be honest with yourself. Ask ANY of them and they will tell you the same thing, they train hard, live the lifestyle and are goal oriented. They don’t fix up goals that are easy and suitable for their comfort zone. The girls you see in the magazines train harder than most guys I see in gyms. When I get new clients (girls AND guys) that see some of my girls training, they suddenly realize that being strong does not always correlate with bulky. The comment I get often is “this is not normal”…my answer…why do you want to be defined as normal?
Pain = gain
Depends on the pain. Are you injured or hurt? Big difference. Injury is recurrent pain, hurt is temporary. Joint pain is no good, muscles hurt, rest a little and keep going. If its joint pain, don’t let it go thinking it will get better, it rarely does. Get it fix or else it will be most probably transferred to another joint as a result of compensation. Muscle pain is part of the game. This pain gives you gain, just do not mix up the definition of pain. If the same pain keeps coming back, ask yourself questions. Is it your training, your technique, your food, it could be many things. Just don’t wait until it’s too late.
Meal replacement bars and shakes are ok
They should not be an alternative. Most of them contain fillers, aspartame or hidden sugar. I use them when I am stuck, really stuck, like dying of hunger. Problem with meal replacement shakes is that they are in general, digested faster than a regular solid meal. Which in the end, can make you eat more calories in a day due to the insulin fluctuations coming from the sugar content and the fast digestion of the shakes. Even if it says no carbs, but still taste sweet, there must be some type of sugar mimicking chemical involved. Anyways, no way in hell a shake of any kind would be able to reproduce the same bioavailability of nature’s solid food.
More ass exercise to lose my ass
Same as for abs. Magazines are responsible of keeping this myth alive and well. They know exactly how to attract a woman’s attention when it comes to readership. They will use titles such as ‘’lift your butt in 3 easy steps’’ or ‘’get your 20 year old butt back’’. What they fail to address is the real story behind a saggy butt. Posture, eating habits, poor exercise choices and faulty techniques are the main culprits of the butt-lowering epidemic. For more detail, Read 10 tips for tighter buttocks.
High reps for muscle definition
If that would be the case, everyone would have a serious set of six pack abs and a tight ass. 100 reps of ab crunches seems to be the goal for anyone looking for a lean mid section, once they reach that goal, they see that it got them…nowhere, except maybe with a few minutes of their life wasted. Muscle definition, shreddedness, leanness, or however you want to call it, is a matter of food and lifestyle primarily.
Taking out pasta and bread means low/no carbs diet.
I can’t stand that one. It’s a matter of perception, especially for newbies. We cut out one major food group in their diet and it suddenly means that we cut their life support, so they say. When they (the client) explain to someone else (god forbid that it would be a trainer) that we completely cut out their pasta and breads, they EXPLAIN it like this “I like, literally, like have no carbs at all”. Like there is any in their 8-10 cups of veggies they should eat in exchange of their new “lifestyle”. They don’t give a crap that we boosted their fat intake and protein. Which leads me to my next point.
More protein = high protein diet
They completely disregard the fact that they previously ate the amount of protein of a vegan squirrel. We suddenly increase their protein to about .50-.70 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight, which is still way lower than what they were and should be doing, we suddenly have people who are mainly carnivores, blood thirsty human looking for red meat, hunting food all day, who will die of colon cancer due to the increase in protein intake.
In other words, if it’s not convenient, it’s a myth. Eating a little bit more protein is not convenient, demands preparation and a new definition of eating habits. Their shitty diet, mainly consisting of toast, coffee, TV diners, pasta, breads, cereals was way more convenient because it didn’t require effort, but is the main reason why they came and see us…go figure…
You burn more when you sweat like a pig
That’s like saying that it is the reason why eskimo’s are fat. Why the hell don’t we train in a sauna? Or why aren’t all south of the border people lean or leaner? Mexicans would be freakin ripped? So basically, if we want to lose fat, we can’t train in winter or a gym with air conditioning.