Some health and fitness theories sound plausible, while others seem a little far-fetched, but either way we are often interested enough to try them out and before long are advocating them to others. As theories and advice are passed along the grapevine, we often end up standing by information that is more fiction than fact. Here, fitness trainer Kristoph Thompson is on hand to set the record straight.

Some health and fitness theories sound plausible, while others seem a little far-fetched, but either way we are often interested enough to try them out and before long are advocating them to others. As theories and advice are passed along the grapevine, we often end up standing by information that is more fiction than fact.

We banish the bad information and help you to train smarter and harder.

1. Free weights are just for serious exercisers

Many people think that free weights are just for bodybuilders, but including free weight exercises in your training program will add another dimension to your workout, and challenge you further. Machines are recommended for beginners but once you feel comfortable, give the equivalent free weight exercise a go.

Free weights require you to work not only the muscle that you are targeting but also the muscles that stabilise the joint you are moving. The movements that you make during free weight exercises more closely match those you make everyday, like picking shopping bags up off the floor, or lifting up a child. When you perform these actions, your muscles are constantly working to stabilise the movement but when you exercise on a machine, the machine keeps you stable. Having strong stabilisation muscles reduces your risk of injury.

Machines also allow muscular imbalances to go unnoticed because a stronger arm or leg can compensate for a weaker one, which actually increases this disparity. Free weights require each limb to work independently, eliminating strength differences between the left and right sides of the body.

2. Lifting weights will cause me to ‘bulk up’

Women have lower testosterone levels than men, which prevents them from developing large, bulky muscles. Even regular strength-training will not give them the figure of a female body builder. It’s physically possible for a woman to bulk up, but only as a result of a sustained period of very high-intensity weight-training and a strict nutrition plan. It is certainly not achieved by a weekly weights session in the gym!

Regular resistance-training will tone the body and add lines of definition to your figure, putting curves in all the right places. Resistance-training can even create the illusion of weight-loss. Increasing your muscle mass will also speed up your metabolism, making it easier for you to lose weight.

A person with a higher percentage of lean muscle tissue will burn more calories at rest than a person with a lower percentage. Was there ever a better reason to start pumping iron?

3. Spot reducing is possible

It’s simply not possible to burn off fat in one specific area by exercising that part of the body. Excess body fat tends to be stored around the waist, stomach and hips. Frustratingly during weight loss, these are often the last places you become slim. The only way to reduce these stores is through regular aerobic and resistance exercise combined with a healthy diet.

To help speed weight loss, pick exercises that target the large muscle groups such as squats for the legs or lat. pulldowns for the back. Choose aerobic exercises like rowing or swimming that work the upper and lower body. These exercises, performed at a high intensity, will elevate the heart rate and burn plenty of kilojoules.

4. No pain, no gain

Exercising to the point of pain can do more harm than good. It is normal to expect a little soreness after trying something new or upon returning to exercise following a break. Don’t ignore pain as it’s often an indication something is wrong. If something hurts, try lowering the intensity. If the pain persists, then stop completely.

If you find that certain exercises continually cause discomfort, seek advice. Pain could be caused by incorrect technique or the beginning of an injury. Incorrect technique relies upon muscles other than those intended to perform the movement. Not only are you not getting the most from the exercise, you also stand to injure the muscle or joint that is working abnormally hard to compensate.

An injury needs time to heal and pain is an indication that recovery is not complete. Continuing to exercise with an injury is counterproductive. You may be making the injury worse and could further delay your return to full fitness. Since your capacity to exercise is limited while injured, you are, at best, treading water and will certainly not be making any significant improvements.

5. You need to workout everyday if you want to see results

You do not build muscle when you are lifting weights, nor do you get fitter while you are running. Remember that your body makes gains while you are resting not exercising. During this rest time, your body recuperates from the previous bout of exercise, and actually overcompensates for the demands you have just placed on it. It is this overcompensation that allows you to make gains. If you don’t allow this to occur, the next time you exercise you may actually be less fit or weaker than the last time.
Incorporating some easy or rest days into your workout plan will give your body the time it needs to recover and
will give you a psychological break. You will find that you are better able to stay motivated and you will greatly reduce your chances of overtraining and injury.

6. Running on the treadmill is just like running outside

The treadmill is certainly a more pleasant alternative to pounding the pavement, especially when the conditions outside are less than inviting. Besides, it’s easier to monitor your speed and chart your progress on the treadmill, and running’s running isn’t it?

Wrong! The major difference between the two is that on the treadmill you are stationary and the belt is moving, while outside, the ground is stationary and you are moving. Treadmill running causes you to push straight up with each stride, whereas running outside requires you to push up and forward.

To overcome this problem, run at a one per cent gradient. You’ll hardly notice the difference and it will force the forward stride action.

7. Drinking water during exercise will give you cramps

Consuming a large volume of fluid immediately before exercise will certainly leave you feeling bloated and sluggish. Drinking water during exercise can actually prevent cramps. You should drink before, during, and after exercise to prevent dehydration. Failure to do so can lead to headaches, fatigue, dizziness, and cramps and reduces your capacity for exercise.

You can lose up to 250ml of water as sweat per hour during exercise, so make sure you drink small amounts of water for two hours prior to exercise to ensure you are adequately hydrated. During exercise try to sip water every 15 minutes, and consider a sports drink if you’re going to be exercising for longer than an hour.

8. It’s best to exercise early in the morning on an empty stomach

In short, there is no universal time to exercise. The best time is the time that most appeals to you and fits your schedule. Everyone is different. Some like to jump-start their day with a morning workout, while others swear that exercising at the end of the day is a great way to energise for the evening and eliminate stress. If you are skipping breakfast because you’ve heard it forces the body to burn stored fat, well, listen up! Exercising on an empty stomach does not affect weight loss and it may even hinder your ability to exercise at a high intensity. If you don’t have the energy to exercise, you won’t be able to give 100 per cent effort and your progress will be slowed. If you’re an early morning exerciser, drink at least, a glass of juice before you start working up a sweat.