Sure, you know how important strength-training is now, but for years people believed that cardio was the end all be all. Nope.
Just like cardio myths, though, there are a ton of strength-training myths floating around out there. Here are eight of the most common ones, busted by experts.
Myth #1: Strength training is More Beneficial for men.
Fact: It may be 2017, but weight-lifting is still sometimes seen as a guys-only workout, perhaps under the false pretense that men derive more benefit from it. According to a study published in The Physician and Sportsmed, however, women who follow strength-training programs also benefit, seeing increased lean-body mass, decreased fat, and enhanced self-confidence. Duh.
Myth #2: Weight-lifting makes women get “bulky.”
Fact: “It takes serious planning to bulk the body,” explains Amanda DaSilva, NSAM-CPT, a trainer and nutrition specialist. “You can build lean muscle without having to bulk.”
“Getting bigger is not an inevitable outcome of strength training,” agrees Tee Major, an ACE Group Fitness Instructor, fitness nutrition specialist, and FitFusion trainer. “If you train hard, and eat caloric-dense, whole foods, you will build fat-torching lean muscle and burn way more calories during your workouts to get that ‘toned’ look you’re after.”
Myth #3: Weight-training is just for body builders. There’s no reason to do it if your goal is weight loss or weight maintenance.
Fact: Research published in the International Journal of Exercise Science notes that the perks of strength training are varied and vast, ranging from increased lean-body mass to boosted metabolic rates, increase bone density, decreased risk of injury, and the regeneration of lost muscle tissue due to aging. Another study published in the International Journal of General Medicine found that a progressive strength-training program improved cognitive function in older adults. In short: Lift those weights, and reap those rewards!
Myth #4: If you stop strength training, your muscle will turn to fat.
Fact: Although lean muscle mass naturally diminishes with age, according to Harvard University, your body fat percentage can increase if you don’t do anything to replace that reduced muscle mass. That said, if you start strength training, and then stop, the muscle can’t magically turn into fat.
“Muscle and fat are different types of tissues,” explains Major. “If you fail to dial back the eating when you stop strength training, those extra calories will be stored as fat; it’s not because you stopped training, but because you’re now taking in more calories than you are using.”
Myth #5: Cardio burns fat better than weight-training.
Fact: Although elliptical and treadmill workouts offer motivation (in the form of that highly-approximated “calories burned” number we all stare at), trainers love strength training for fat loss.
“The myth is that cardio will make you skinny,” says DaSilva. “Except you’ll likely be losing muscle and retaining fat, throwing you into that nasty little title of ‘skinny fat,’ for lack of a better term.”
When you strength train, you recruit your muscle fibers, explains Major. “Those muscles are broken down, and then rebuilt over and over,” he says. “This process takes calories and energy to make this happen, generally known as ‘after-burn.’ You literally burn calories long after your workout is over.”
In fact, research published in the journal Sports Medicine notes that strength training is particularly helpful for decreasing your body fat percentage.
Myth #6: You have to do more reps to get better results.
Fact: Not necessarily! According to the Mayo Clinic, research shows that you might be able to get the same results by doing fewer reps with a weight that challenges you more. A single set of 12 repetitions with the proper weight can build muscle efficiently in most people and be as effective as three sets of the same exercise.
In fact, heavy lifting for five repetitions or less is the quickest way to increase muscle strength, says Pete McCall, C.S.C.S., a San Diego-based trainer.
Myth #7: You can’t regain muscle once you’ve lost it.
Fact: While you’ll always do best to try to get ahead of muscle loss, it’s possible to regain muscle at any age. A study published in The Physician and Sportsmedicine involved 1,619 men and women ages 21 to 80 who did a progressive strength-training program. In 10 weeks, they replaced an average of three of the five pounds of muscle they had lost in the previous decade.
Myth #8: Reducing carbs will help you make the most of your strength-training program.
Fact: “Carbs help to energize and refuel the body,” says DaSilva. “They help you to build muscle. If you completely deplete your body of carbs, you are ridding it of an essential nutrient.”
In short, she says, eat your carbs. Just make sure you’re eating complex carbs and not the processed stuff.