Starting any health and fitness journey can be extremely overwhelming. We understand everything that you are going through, we were beginners once too! With a new training method being promoted on the internet everyday and a tonne of misinformation posted on social media on a daily basis, knowing where to start can be the hardest part.
We are big on empowering women to take charge of their health and fitness through education and evidence-based approaches to nutrition and training so we wanted to take this opportunity to address some of the most common misconceptions surrounding weight training. We’re sure you have probably heard of at least one of these before! So we are going to help you eliminate some confusion (and perhaps frustration) around training and help you achieve your goals faster!
Let’s get started…
MYTH #1: DOING LOTS OF CARDIO IS THE BEST WAY TO LOSE FAT
If your goal is fat loss, spending hours a day on the treadmill isn’t the best way to achieve this. Yes, performing cardio does actually burn more calories per session than weight training (most of the time) and will help to increase your calorie deficit, which is essential for losing fat. But the most effective way to burn fat, increase your metabolism and improve your body composition is to build muscle. And the best way to build muscle? Through weight training! Having more lean muscle mass helps your body burn more calories at rest. Therefore, the most effective way to lose fat will include a combination of strength training, a calorie deficit and cardio where necessary.
MYTH #2: STRENGTH TRAINING WILL MAKE WOMEN LOOK MANLY
This is our favourite! Many women are afraid to lift weights because they are afraid of getting bulky, and by that, they generally mean gaining a significant amount of muscle mass. It’s actually pretty hard for women to bulk up from a normal strength training routine because they don’t have nearly as much testosterone as men. Strength training is actually the most effective way to build muscle and lose fat and create sexy curves. Women who carry a lot of muscle have likely worked very hard for it, over a significant amount of time.
MYTH #3: SWEATING A LOT DURING YOUR WORKOUT MEANS YOU BURN MORE FAT
Your body creates sweat to cool you off when your body temperature gets too high. How much you sweat depends on the number of sweat glands you have (more glands equal more sweat). Women tend to have more sweat glands than men, but men’s glands are more active, so they sweat more. The amount you sweat also depends on how hot it is, how intensely you’re exercising and what you are wearing. The weight we lose through sweating is replenished as soon as we rehydrate. So don’t use the amount you sweat as an indicator as to the number of calories you’ve burned – worry about your training duration and intensity.
MYTH #4: LIGHTER WEIGHTS AND HIGHER REPS ARE BETTER FOR FAT LOSS
If you think that doing a lot of reps with low weights will give you that lean, defined look, think again. Many think that performing higher reps with a lighter weight burns more fat and ‘tones’ the muscle, whereas lower reps with a heavier weight build muscle and make you look bulky. The first thing you need to realise is that when you want to lose body fat, you need to be in a calorie deficit. Unless you are burning more calories than you are consuming, you will not lose fat regardless of the rep range you are using. Secondly, it is important to understand that a defined look is achieved through a combination of building muscle and then losing the fat on top of the muscle to “reveal” it. For muscle growth to occur, you need to be performing exercises using challenging weights and ideally be eating at maintenance or a slight surplus.
MYTH #5: FASTED CARDIO BURNS MORE FAT THAN FED CARDIO
Have you crawled out of bed and reluctantly performed your morning cardio while half asleep because you have been told that it burns more fat? We know we have. Well thankfully, you don’t have to anymore! In a study for the Journal of the International Society of Sports Medicine, twenty young females, all healthy and with recent aerobic training experience (but not resistance training) were divided into two groups. All participants were prescribed the same calorie-restricted diet along with the same steady-state cardio routine. The only variable was that one group (FED) would be given a shake before performing cardio, while the other (FASTED) would wait to consume the shake post-workout. The results? Everyone lost fat, but it had nothing to do with fasting or not fasting. It seems what the participants benefited from the most was the fact that all subjects were on calorie-restricted diets. Therefore, you can eat before you do cardio or eat after, as long as you are in a calorie deficit.
MYTH #6: YOU CAN SPOT REDUCE FAT
We have a lot of people say to us “I just want to lose this tummy fat” or “how can I tone my bum and thighs?” The concept of targeted fat loss or spot reduction follows the false belief that training a specific muscle or muscle group will result in fat loss in that area of the body. There really is no better way to explain why spot reduction is a myth than by telling you that the only thing exercises actually target is muscles, not the fat that is covering those muscles. Your muscle and body fat are completely different tissues in your body. So then how do you lose that fat from the specific spot you want to lose it from? You need to reduce your overall body fat through a caloric deficit. You can do this by reducing your calorie intake, increasing your physical activity, or ideally a combination of both. Keep in mind that some areas of fat may be stubborn and may take time to shift so be patient!
MYTH #7: MUSCLE SORENESS IS A SIGN OF THE EFFECTIVENESS OF A WORKOUT
Muscle damage is one of the key factors in building muscle, however, you don’t need to experience muscle soreness after a training session to build muscle, and you definitely shouldn’t rely on it as an accurate indicator of the effectiveness of that session. Studies have shown that delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) are not associated with muscle growth and in most cases you get better growth with less DOMS. For example, people who train very infrequently or train each body part only once per week often report intense DOMS, however, many of them struggle to build muscle. In contrast, those who train more frequently (i.e. 2-3 times/week per muscle group) always report less DOMS but observe more muscle growth. If your goal is to build muscle, your focus should be on progressive overload and continually doing more over time, not how sore your muscles are.
MYTH #8: YOU SHOULD CHANGE UP YOUR WORKOUT EVERY WEEK
Have you ever heard someone say that changing up your workouts is best to ‘shock’ or ‘confuse’ your muscles so they grow faster? This is not true for building muscle (or losing fat). The most efficient way to build muscle is through a structured weight training program with a focus on progressive overload. In order for a muscle to grow, strength to be gained, performance to increase, or for any similar improvement to occur, the muscles must be forced to adapt to a tension that is above and beyond what they have previously experienced. This process is called progressive overload (check out our article on progressive overload here if you want to learn more about it). So essentially, the same training program should be adhered to for a number of weeks with a focus on perfecting the movements and increasing the volume before a new program is commenced, in order for you to get the most benefits.
We hope this blog has helped clear up a few things about your training! If you need help with your training or you want to learn how to train effectively to achieve your goals, we would love to help you! Check out our coaching program for more details!
Holly & Alana xxx