6 Fitness Myths That Must Die

build muscle

Do you spend the little free time you have to exercise doing cardio in attempts of losing weight? Trying to get a 6 pack by doing endless crunches? Afraid to lift weights in fear of bulking up (ladies)? If you’ve answered yes to any of the above, you’ve fallen prey to popular fitness myths. NYC trainer Julia Derek wrote this post to clear the confusion of the 6 biggest fitness myths.

6 Biggest fitness myths

  1. abs on ballDoing lots of crunches will turn a chunky stomach into a ripped one.
    I think this may the one fitness myth that drives me the most crazy. Almost without fail, when I train a person or see a person with an extra layer of fat around the waist, they believe that doing a lot of crunches will make the fat there go away. NOT TRUE! All it will do is strengthen your stomach muscles. The fat on top of your abs will remain. If you want to lose fat there, you should focus on eating healthy, strength train, and do cardio (or combine strength training with cardio.) The best abdominal exercises are the ones that involve lots of your body, not just your abs, as they will strengthen your core while also building muscle and burning fat all over your body. Like jack knives or woodchops.            
  2. Lifting weights will make you bulk up (if you’re a woman).
    woman lifting weightsOkay, so this one may drive me even more crazy:) It’s extremely rare for a woman to build extraordinary amounts of muscle without chemical assistance. The one or two very muscular women you saw somewhere either took steroids to get that way or is a freak of nature with usually high amounts of testosterone. It often turns out, though, that these bulky women have lots of body fat and are not particularly muscular. It is true that, if you strength train often and eat a very calorie-heavy diet, that you might end up looking “bulky.” In other words, if you build muscle and maintain the same body fat levels you used to, you will likely look and feel a little bigger. Avoid this by watching your diet and keeping track of your body fat percentage. The good news is, you won’t have to starve yourself when strength training the way you must if you were only to do cardio to lose weight.
  3. You must stretch before working out to avoid injury.
    I’m sure you’ve heard somewhere that you should do static stretching before you embark on a strenuous workout. Well, don’t do it:) Not only will static stretching weaken your muscles and make your joints unstable, but it will also do nothing to raise your body temperature to prepare you for your activity. It’s honestly a complete waste of time. Instead, to prepare for your workout, focus on doing light, full-body exercises such as walking, jogging in place, jumping jacks, light weight training and/or dynamic stretches.  Save the static stretches for the end of your workout to cool down and elongate your muscles. Hold each stretch for 30 sec.
    Pic: This woman is doing a static stretch.  (By Sergio Savarese)
  4. You can lose body fat in one area only and tone others.
    Often, when I meet a new client, they tell me something like they  want to get skinny legs and tone their arms. Or maybe lose the spare tire around their waist. If only this was the way the body worked. Unfortunately, you CANNOT decide where on your body you’ll lose fat unless you do liposuction in that area. The body will lose it wherever it wants to lose it. Sad, but true. When it comes to merely “toning” an area, say your upper arms or your thighs, you must lose the body fat on top of the muscles there before you’ll look toned. Just weight training that area won’t make enough of a difference. The best approach is a mix of weight training, cardio, and a healthy diet to achieve a toned body. Generally speaking, the main reason people don’t look as toned as they want is because they have too much body fat covering their muscles.
  5. I’m too old to start lifting weights.
    Ernestine ShepardIt’s NEVER too late to start working out, in particular lifting weights. In fact, if you’re in your fifties or sixties and never weight trained (same as strength trained) before, you’re likely to see and feel a drastic difference in your body if you start now. The main reason old people seem so fragile and well, old, is because they lose muscle mass. According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM): “A gradual loss in muscle cross-sectional area is consistently found with advancing age; by age 50, about ten percent of muscle area is gone. After 50 years of age, the rate of loss accelerates significantly.” ACSM goes on to say that, while it is true that “intrinsic muscle function is reduced with advancing age, age-related decrease in muscle mass is responsible for almost all loss of strength in the older adult.” Pic: Ernestine Shepherd is pushing 80 and started weight training at 56
  6. Doing lots of cardio is the best way to lose weight.
    This is only true if you’re twenty years old and at least fairly muscular already. I suppose, if your goal is to merely see results on the scale, it is also true. Because if you’re forty or fifty and do only the elliptical or light jogging on the treadmill, you’ll probably lose a few pounds on the scale. However, you probably lost muscle as well as fat, which means you won’t look or be any smaller. Doing steady state cardio day in and day out is a great way to break down your muscles. Instead, focus on doing weight training USING YOUR WHOLE BODY. Not only will that build/preserve muscle, but it will also raise your heart rate at the same time, meaning you’re doing cardio as well. Throw in some interval cardio and steady state cardio to give your body a rest a few times a week and you’re set. Of course, always ensure you eat a healthy diet:)


I’d like to thank Julia Derek for guest blogging.  She has been working as a senior trainer and group ex instructor at the exclusive health club Equinox Sports Club since 2005.  Her specialties are core/functional training, body sculpting, and high-intensity training. In addition to training, her focus is on writing fiction. If you like suspenseful mysteries and thrillers, you should check out her novels. Click here to find out more about her books. Learn more about Julia here.




I especially love problem-solving, whether it’s helping women defeat issues plaguing them for years, helping a busy executive find practical ways to get heart healthy, or providing tips to help you reverse diabetes. That’s why I’m on a constant quest to expand my knowledge by staying on top of the latest research.

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