The internet provides access to information in a way our world has never known before. Anything you want to know, learn about, or dispute is at our fingertips. With that, comes a lot of power and, of course, responsibility. From doctors to fitness trainers, to chefs and farmers, everyone now has a chance to have a platform, a voice. With the excitement and opportunities this presents, it also presents room for error.
There are sooo many fitness influencers, personal trainers, and wellness enthusiasts out there telling us what to do, how to do it, when and why. Sadly, a lot of these people have no credentials or hands-on experience with working with the human body. So, in line with one of the uses of the internet I mentioned earlier, I’m here to use the internet for good today—to debunk some fitness myths you’ve been lied to about. Get ready, here we go!
1. Ab Machines
Everyone wants abs. Sorry, I had to say it. If you don’t care about abs, you are a next-level human. Congrats. Anyway, back to us mortals. We want abs. And ab machines are NOT the way to get them. In fact, most ab machines focus on hip flexion motions, and not at all core strength. This is problematic for a few reasons. One, false advertising. Two, this can lead to other issues such as poor posture, a strained neck, or even muscle imbalance across the anterior chain (front of the body). In short, ab machines rarely aid in any sort of abdominal muscle formation, much less any overall physical benefits at all.
Try Instead: Planks
Consider planks your very own holistic ab machine! They require little room, no equipment, and can be effective in a very short period of time per day. Planks help build the core, as well as the entire anterior chain. Try three rounds of 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off a few times a week, and notice how much stronger you feel!
2. Behind-The-Head Lat Pulldowns
I would bet money that one in every two people at the gym hurt themselves from doing behind-the-head lat pulldowns. This happens for a few reasons. One, people tend to lean their head forward unnecessarily to avoid hitting their head, thus straining their neck. Two, this motion puts a lot of stress on the rotator cuff muscles, and can lead to various shoulder injuries. Three, most people are not that flexible and doing anything behind the head requires some mobility. This overexertion, especially if you’re not warmed up, can cause neck and back issues.
Try Instead: Lat pulldowns from the front
It may sound silly, but yes, simply switching to lat pulldowns in the front of the body makes a huge difference. Along with the examples above, there’s no need to cock the head back because you can see what’s happening. In turn, reducing neck straining. Pulldowns from the front also require much less mobility. This simple swap will be a game changer in your gym game!
3. “Spot Reduction Exercises”
If anyone ever tells you that you can specifically lose fat in one area of your body, run! That’s what I’d call a huge red flag. When we exercise, we should be working the entire body. Think about it with planks as an example—while it’s an “ab” exercise, you’re working your arms and legs as well! When you really think about it, too, you don’t want to specifically “spot reduce.” How would we all look if we had flabby arms but a toned belly? Kind of odd, if you ask me. So, what you actually want to focus on is doing all-encompassing exercises and wellness practices that benefit your whole body.
Try Instead: A healthy, balanced diet
The perfect way to support full-body fat and weight loss goals is with a healthy, balanced diet. Eating real, whole foods is the #1 life hack everyone should be following. Follow the 80/20 rule—eating protein, vegetables, and smart carbs 80% of the time, and eat however you’d like the remaining 20% of the time—and watch your body (and life!) transform.
4. Weighted Side Bend
Weighted side bends are a great idea in theory, but they’re actually quite risky for the body. They end up putting more weight on, and threat to, the spine than actually working the abdominal muscles. Because of this, it’s very easy to be out of alignment and risk injury to the low back. The body works harder to return to an upright position from the crunch than actually using the muscles as the workout intends.
Try Instead: Side plank
Similarly to forearm and high planks, side planks help strengthen the whole body, not just the obliques. Also, as mentioned before, they take up little time and room, and cost zero dollars! You’ll feel so much stronger with these bad boys. Plus, you’ll have a very low (if any) risk of injury by choosing side planks over weighted side bends.
5. Weighted Calf Machines
While they look impressive, weighted calf machines may do more harm than good. The main reason being the weights are toward the end of the body, and off center. This creates strain on the rest of the body, and ends up using more of the pelvis to lift the weight than the actual legs. This can become harmful after consistent repetition, as well as as weight increases. It’s also a completely unnatural movement. Other than playing some DIY dunk tank with kiddos on your legs, when else would you do this movement in real life? The most effective workouts are ones that strengthen practical, everyday movements.
Try Instead: Incline walking or running
Walking is so underrated. I’m telling you, if you start getting 10,000 steps in per day, you will not be the same person you are a month from now. The same goes for running. Even just getting in one mile runs a few times per week are great for overall health, plus cardio is great for cardiovascular health. (Go figure!) So, skip the gym membership and buy a cute pair of sneakers to get moving in!
First and foremost, ellipticals don’t work your glutes or your legs. Deceiving, I know! Most of the work is in the arms, and it’s more of a lag and reliance on the machine, rather than your muscles. Imagine yourself on an elliptical for a moment. Would you use the same style and form you do on the machine to actually run on a track? Hopefully not. On top of that, ellipticals often miscalculate calories, and even mileage. You would get much more of a workout by actually running. However, since running can be too aggressive for many people, cycling is a great alternative!
Try Instead: Cycling
Not only does cycling require you to get outdoors and breathe fresh air, but it utilizes the body’s natural rhythmic motions. Meaning, your body will intuitively lean in whichever direction you need to (activating your core), your legs will adjust to the incline or decline of your path (utilizing your legs and glutes), and you can naturally slow down or speed up when necessary (helps strengthen cognitive function). Grab a friend, and get moving!
7. Anything That Causes Pain Or Discomfort
This should be a given, but if you find doing any exercises is causing pain or discomfort, it’s time to stop ASAP. Any trainer who says to push through the pain, does not have your best interest in mind. Recognize the difference between a challenge and discomfort, though. Challenges often sound like “oh man this is so hard, I don’t know if I can keep going,” whereas pain and discomfort may sound like “this doesn’t feel right, I feel like I’m going to hurt myself.”
Try Instead: Exercising with a coach or trainer
The BEST way to avoid hurting yourself during exercise is to work with a certified personal trainer that walks through every exercise for you. Whether you’re a first time student or a novice, having a trainer that shows you exactly how to move in an exercise is what you want. Even if you want to workout from home, or even just work with someone virtually, there is always a way to do so! SkinnyFit, for example, has its very own community for daily workouts led by a certified fitness trainer. He offers modifications, tells you exactly how the exercises should look, and where in your body you should be feeling it. If you’re looking for a cost-effective, expert training level, I highly recommend joining!