5 Fitness Conspiracies And What Fitness Professionals Don’t Want You To Know

five fitness conspiracies

iStockphoto / torwai

The fitness industry is worth billions of dollars – and fitness professionals are excellent at cashing in on it. Personal trainers charge a fortune for their wisdom and advice, even when their advice is wrong – and you can save money and improve your fitness by looking out for these 5 fitness conspiracies.

1. Cardio actually sucks at burning calories

If you want to lose weight, virtually every personal trainer in existence will recommend jumping on the treadmill. They’ll help you sweat over 5 hours of elaborate cross training, hand-biking and step exercises, and you’ll burn a staggeringly impressive… 3 calories.

Ok… Exaggeration aside, an entire hour of light cardio can burn as little as 300 kcals – which is less than Snickers bar.

It’s your choice – you could spend hundreds of dollars on an expensive personal trainer, and train for a sweaty, boring hour; or you could save money, and pass on the Snickers.

Cardio is surprisingly inefficient at burning fat, unless you perform it at an all out effort– and any fitness professional who tells you otherwise probably wants your money.

2. Pre-exhausting will ruin your gains

Pre-exhausting is a favorite technique of the fitness professional. It’s a simple concept – we fatigue a muscle using isolation exercises, and then hammer it in a heavy compound exercise. This allows us to really stress the muscle, and create UNBELIEVABLE GAINS!

Sadly, wrong again.

Imagine training shoulders at the gym. If we want to bring up our medial delts, we could start by pre-exhausting them with lateral raises, and then shoulder pressing afterwards.

  • We hammer the lateral raises until we can barely raise our arms – in other words, we’ve pre-exhausted the medial delts.
  • We then switch to press. Pressing requires the involvement of the medial delts, the anterior delts and the posterior delts. To simplify matters, let’s assume that each muscle group contributes 1/3 of the energy needed to press the barbell.
  • We’ve already exhausted the medial delts, so we’ve reduced the amount of work they can do. If we assume that pre-exhausting has made the medial delts half as strong as they are ‘fresh’, they’re now contributing 1/6 of the energy needed for the lift.

Instead of supercharging your workout, and forcing extra muscle growth from the target muscle,  your pre-exhausted muscle is now doing less work than it normally would.

Far from boosting your gains, pre-exhaustion is more likely to reduce your gains, and stop your target muscles from performing properly during compound exercises.

3. There’s no such thing as ‘toned’ muscle

If you head to the gym, find a fitness professional and ask them to help you ‘tone your muscles’, you’ll spend the next 3 hours of your life performing hundreds of strange (but surprisingly easy) exercises.

These ‘toning’ exercises are the heart and soul of a personal trainer’s repertoire – and they’re all complete junk.

There’s no such thing as toned muscle. ‘Toned muscle’ refers to visible and well-defined muscle, and we can achieve that through two mechanisms:

  1. Increasing the size of our muscles through progressive overload and weight training.
  2. Losing body fat, through diet and exercise.

Toning exercises are inefficient at building muscle and burning calories. If you want visible muscles, ditch the expensive ‘toning plans’, hit the weights and tackle your diet.

4. You can definitely gain without the pain

‘No Pain, No Gain’ is the slogan of fitness professionals the world over. They use it as an excuse to dominate their clients, push them to the extremes of their ability and occasionally, make them vomit hilariously all over the gym– but its fine, because it helps you to make gains, right?

Pain after training is usually caused by DOMS – Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. It’s the body’s response to the inflammation caused by training, and it plays no part in building muscle.

DOMS is triggered by unusually high-intensity training – a workload that your body isn’t used to. By training legs once a week, you’re likely to suffer from DOMS – but increase that workload to 2 or 3 times a week, and DOMS will actually reduce.

There’s no correlation between the pain of DOMS and muscle gain, and high volume training will trigger incredible gains –without any DOMS.

5. Bodyweight exercises don’t build muscle

If you’ve ever trained with a gym instructor or fitness professional, you’ve probably spent entire sessions focusing on bodyweight exercises – pull-ups, push-ups, ab crunches and even squats.

You’ve probably been told that they were great for toning muscle (busted!) and even adding mass. You were told wrong.

Building muscle requires progressive overload. Challenging exercises stress the muscles and cause them to adapt, creating new muscle fiber in response to the stimulus of exercise.

As you get stronger, you need to increase the stress of exercise to keep this adaptation going, typically by increasing the resistance (weight) of each exercise. Bodyweight exercises start off challenging – but as your body adapts, they become easier and easier, and your body soon stops building muscle.

Because the weight of each exercise is constant, you might think that increasing the amount of repetitions performed would trigger adaptive growth.

Unfortunately, wrong again. After a certain point, your body switches from anaerobic muscle fiber to aerobic – and you begin to improve muscular endurance, not muscular strength. In other words, performing a thousand crunches is perfect for training your body to do… a thousand crunches. But will it build muscle? Nope.