6 Strength Training Myths Everyone Should Stop Believing

by Evelyn Valdez

Cardio seems to be most people's favorite type of workout, especially amongst women. But strength or resistance training is a very close second! Although, they should be seen as equals since both are essential for helping you stay healthy and in shape. Both provide great benefits, most know cardio does... But in case you need a reminder, the benefits of strength training are immense! Aside from helping with muscle-building, it can help protect you from injury, improve bone and skeletal strength (reducing your risk of osteoporosis), helps burn fat, and even helps improve stability and functional strength for everyday activities! With all these benefits it offers, many still are unsure about hitting the weights and that's partly due to all the myths. They usually have all these misconceptions behind weightlifting that lead them to focus on other forms of training. Cardio and other types of training, like flexibility training or HIIT, are great forms of exercise that everyone should do a few times a week to stay healthy or to achieve weight loss goals... However, it shouldn't be the only workouts you do! Strength training is essential for keeping your muscles, bones, and joints healthy. So, whether you're looking to build muscle mass or not, you should be practicing it at least three times a week. 

In an effort to help stop the rumors and myths that hold you back from lifting weights, we're here to help you separate fact from fiction by giving you the real truth behind the 6 common myths about strength training. Who knows, maybe it'll help give you the push you need to start hitting the weights and feel more confident 💪 

Myth #1 - Lifting heavy will make you bulk up

Women often have the misconception that lifting heavy weights is automatically going to make them bulky and look like the Hulk. Thus leading a lot of them to avoid the weight section at the gym, and hitting the cardio machines instead. Will lifting weights cause you to gain muscle? Yes, but it's not as easy as you think! Building muscle is a slow process that requires strategy, it's not something that happens by accident! It takes a lot of effort and time to build a good amount of muscle mass. So, although strength training can cause you to build muscle, it's not going to turn you into a bulky bodybuilder. In fact, women and men tend to put on muscle differently, even though the training is similar. Men have a larger area to work with, they have greater base levels of muscle mass. This means that when a man and a woman gain the same percentage of lean muscle mass, the increase will always look greater on the man.

So, don't avoid lifting heavy for fear of looking bulky because chances are you're just going to build a normal amount of muscle and even build curves along the way. The key is learning how to tailor your strength training routine to fit your goals. You're obviously not going to diet and train like a bodybuilder or Olympic athlete because their goals are different than yours. For example, if your main goal is to lose weight then continue doing cardio, but sprinkle in strength training at least three times a week. It'll help you burn even more fat, and reduce your chances of hitting a weight loss plateau because you're giving your body different challenges to overcome! 

Myth #2 - Lifting lighter with higher reps will help you tone up

Following the myth that lifting heavy makes you look bulky, many believe that lifting lighter weights for more reps will help them "tone up". Toning up really just refers to building muscle while simultaneously losing fat. Many believe that it is only achieved by using light weights and doing a higher number of reps, typically more than 15 reps. A beginner might build some strength and muscle this way, but eventually, they'll hit a wall in their progress because they're not giving their muscles what they need for adaption and growth. Instead their training and enhancing muscular endurance! 

The amount of reps and sets you do is dependent on your fitness goals, but if you want to "tone up", aka build muscle and lose fat, then you need to commit to lifting weights - light or heavy weights. If a 5lb dumbbell is challenging for you, then stick with it until you are able to do the given exercise for 10-12 reps with good form. Always assess your effort level, once an exercise gets easier to do, don't be afraid to go heavier. This will drive the adaptations your body needs to continue making progress.

Myth #3 - You can spot reduce fat

Hip dips, back fat, and belly fat, the three problem areas women hate to have. We're sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but there's no way to target a specific area in the body and reduce fat. Spot reduction is a huge myth that is often associated with weight training. Building muscle on your back can help you reduce back fat, but there's no way to target your "bra bulge" area. Some people have more stubborn areas than others, so it's common to see progress in one area before others. 

Instead of looking for spot-reducing exercises to help you lose fat in that stubborn area, take a look at your diet. Losing fat comes down to how much you're eating and what you're eating. If you're filling up on "healthy junk food" most of the time, then chances are your results are going to come much slower. You can do as many ab exercises as you want, but if you're eating mostly processed foods and not really tracking what you eat, you'll only be strengthening your abdominal muscles - not reducing overall body fat which is needed to have visible abs. But even if your nutrition is in check, you can't influence where your body is going to burn fat. You'll definitely be getting good results, but sometimes the place that you want to lose body fat from the most might be the last! It honestly comes down to genetics. This doesn't mean you should give up on your training, it's quite the opposite. Commit to it, tweak your training routine and diet to fit your goals, and focus on losing overall body fat, instead of just one specific area. Soon enough you'll start to notice a huge difference from when you started!

Myth #4 - Lifting burns fewer calories than cardio

Aerobic or cardio-based workouts can elevate your heart rate and help you burn a lot of calories during one session... But so can weight training. Exercises like deadlifts, squats, or even doing Bulgarian split squats with a challenging weight will have you working up a sweat and your heart rate pumping. 

So, which one burns more calories?

It really just comes down to the intensity of the workout and the amount of time performing it that will determine the number of calories burned. However, strength training does have a slight advantage over traditional cardio... It's more effective at burning calories post-workout. Running for 30 minutes can burn an average of 300-500 calories, but only when actually doing the workout. Weight lifting, on the other hand, increases your lean muscle which helps your body burn calories when your body is at rest, in fact, the research shows this! A study published in The International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Metabolism found that young women's basal metabolic rate spiked by 4.2% for 16 hours after their strength training session, burning about 60 more calories than the group that didn't. [1]

If you really want to maximize the number of calories you burn combine cardio with strength training! Low to moderate intensity cardio is a good way to burn extra calories after your lifting session, but if you really want to rev up the intensity to build muscle and burn fat then consider doing high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or circuit training. These types of workouts allow you to combine cardio and strength training in one workout session, so you're able to work your muscles and heart for a short amount of time! It's a really effective way to get a good workout in when you're too busy for your usual long gym session.

Myth #5 - More is better

Despite common myths, when it comes to strength training, more isn't necessarily better. New lifters are often excited about their new workout routine and are motivated to start making progress, thus leading to spending an endless amount of time working out. That's a huge, rookie mistake. 

Building muscle essentially involves breaking down and tearing muscle fibers in an effort to rebuild them. That is why you should prioritize rest and proper nutrition, not just lifting more! Fueling up pre and post-workout with the right nutrients will give your body the necessary materials to repair your muscles, and sleep is when all the magic muscle-repairing happens. So, instead of hitting the gym for the 6th time in a row, listen to your body. If you're feeling tired, agitated, or extremely sore, chances are your body needs rest to adapt and make necessary changes to build new muscle.

Myth #6 - You need a gym to lift

Many have this common misconception that strength training only entails lifting heavy at the gym. Lifting weights, heavy or not, is ideal for building muscle and increasing strength, but it’s not the only way to keep up with your training efforts! Bodyweight exercises, like squats, push-ups, and pull-ups, are highly effective for building and maintaining full-body strength and muscle. And you can adjust them to be more challenging by changing the angle or making it a unilateral exercise to challenge your balance and stability.

So, if you're ever too busy to hit the gym to lift then create your own circuit training workout at home using only your bodyweight! Or if you've invested in some equipment like resistance bands or a light set of dumbbells then include them into your routine. Bottom line is, you don't need a gym to lift. Work with what you got!

In summary, strength training can help you build muscle, achieve fat loss goals, and just help you be healthier overall - physically and mentally. So, throw out all the misconceptions and common myths about strength training out the window! They're just holding you back from reaping the amazing benefits it provides. Find a strength training routine works for you, and if you're new to the world of weight lifting - here are the best tips to help you get started strength training safely!

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