Show me five people lifting weights in a gym, and I will show you six different opinions on what gives the best results or how you should lift. Weightlifting is surrounded by plenty of old wives' tales, many of which can actually hinder your improvement or cause you to steer clear of the gym entirely. We often believe that weightlifting is not as effective as other exercises, or that it comes with negative effects, which means we should avoid in favor of other exercise.
None of this is true. Weightlifting is a form of exercise like any other and is a time-tested way to improve your strength and general health. Here are five of the biggest myths surrounding weight training and why you're best served ignoring them.
1. Weights are Not or Everyone
We typically think of average weightlifters as men with physiques like the Incredible Hulk, leading many people to conclude weightlifting is not for them. Some men may refuse to lift weights because they want to stay sleek, but the real issue with this stereotype is that it often causes women to avoid weightlifting all together. Many women stick to cardio or yoga out of fear of bulking up.
But as US News points out, women should arguably be lifting weights even more frequently than men. Women have less muscle than men and are more prone to bone issues as they age, which means it's even more important for women to gain muscle through a dedicated weightlifting routine. Weight training also carries other beneficial aspects, such as reducing anxiety and building your core (which can help prevent a wide-range of injuries).
No one ends up looking like Ah-nold unless they work out an absurd amount and possibly use illegal substances. Women, in particular, lack the hormones to look like that.
2. Moderate Weights are a Waste of Time
Some people will tell you that you have to lift heavy weights to see results, while others will claim that a large number of reps with light weights is all the weightlifting you need.
Both are wrong. If you attempt to jump in with heavy weights from the start, you will inevitably injure yourself. While light weights can be effective when starting out, you will inevitably plateau if you just do the same exercises with the same loads over and over again. To get the maximum gains from weight training, you must be constantly forcing your muscles to do more than what have become accustomed to. The easiest way to do this is by adding weight over time. You can't make gains if you never get out of your comfort zone and see what you're really capable of.
Your body should always be somewhat discomforted by lifting weights. While you do not want to push yourself too far too fast, you still have to push yourself.
3. Muscle Can Turn to Fat
One of the most ridiculous myths that ends up keeping people out of the weight room is that they fear the muscle they build from lifting weights can eventually turn to fat, leaving their body composition worse off than it was to begin with. Muscle cells can no more turn into fat cells than they can turn into brain cells, and the reverse is true as well.
A study reported by CNN did find that cardio is better at burning fat compared to weight training, but also stressed that a combination of the two will lead to the best results. Either way, the important thing to remember is that people should not believe that weightlifting will actually lead to you becoming flabby if you stop, any more than stopping other exercises would.
4. You Have to Own a Gym Membership to Lift
Yes, gyms certainly have equipment and specialized machine that can improve the weightlifting process. But though exercise machines do have certain advantages over the free weights at home, they also have distinct disadvantages. Machines make your body move in a set range, which limits how far you can extend your muscles and puts a cap on your results. In most cases, free weights offer more bang for your buck and translate better to athletic performance. Another downside of gyms is that your workout routine can often become delayed if others want to use the same equipment that you want to use.
You can buy free weights, work out with them at home, and still have an effective exercise regimen. Furthermore, bodyweight calisthenics such as Lunges and Push-ups can also help.
5. Weightlifting Leads to X Health Problem
The way some people describe weightlifting, you would think it is not good for your body at all. Weightlifting leads to high blood pressure. It hurts your joints. It makes you less flexible. Most of these supposed risks are completely overblown. Yes, there is a risk of injury lifting weights, but that is true with any exercise or sport. The problems that do exist, such as joint pain, often result from weightlifters either trying to lift too much or simply not using proper technique. Weightlifting can cause a temporary increase in blood pressure, but according to the Mayo Clinic, "weightlifting can also have long-term benefits to blood pressure that outweigh the risk of a temporary spike for most people."
Weightlifting takes time to get good results, but it is a great way to build muscle, and no one should fear bulking up excessively. The weight room should not be some alien landscape, but yet another tool to keep yourself in the best shape possible.
Photo Credit: Cecillie_Arcurs/iStock
- 3 Reasons Why Runners Need to Lift Weights
- Should Kids Lift Weights?
- Free Weights vs. Machines: Which is the Better Way to Lift Weights?
- Female Athletes: Get Strong, Not Bulky, With These Workouts