By Luke Briggs, CSCS, PN-1, Coach at FIT
In the age of technology, we have access to more information than ever before.
Unfortunately, that means more people can deliver information through the thousands of platforms available to us.
As such, misinformation is running rampant.
In the fitness community, many self-proclaimed “experts” have created many myths about strength training.
Here are three big-time lies about lifting weights.
1. Lifting heavy weights will make you bulky.
We’ve all heard it before – lift light weights for high reps to “tone” your muscles. Lift heavy weights to add bulk to your frame.
This information ignores the basics of human physiology and may have been perpetuated in bodybuilding circles.
In the final week of contest prep, physique athletes normally lift light weights for high reps in an attempt to maintain muscle before a show because they’re so depleted from extremely low calorie intakes.
At this point, their bodies can’t handle the stresses of heavier weights without proper nutrition.
Thus, many gym-goers begin a strength training program by performing high reps with light weights to “shape” their muscles.
Most people define “toning” as stripping away fat to show definition.
So, how’s that accomplished?
Sound nutrition and a proper strength training program!
From a training standpoint, you need to increase the stress you place on your body over time to elicit a change.
To do that, you need to progressively add resistance.
While you don’t necessarily need to lift “heavy” like a powerlifter and do one-rep maxes, you do need to gradually increase the load you’re lifting.
Unless you eat in a caloric surplus or begin taking steroids, you don’t need to worry about “bulking up.”
Lifting tiny weights for 20 reps or more won’t do you any good because the stress isn’t great enough.
Start by lifting a weight you know you can get easily for five reps.
If you’re squatting, you may want to start by lifting just the barbell and performing three sets of five reps.
Then, the next time you go to the gym, just add five pounds to the bar. While the addition of weight seems miniscule, you just increased the stress you placed on your body. If you do that over time, imagine the changes you’ll see!
2. To be “in shape,” you just need to run.
When many people determine they need to “get back into shape,” they usually begin by jogging.
They’ll venture onto the streets or hop on a treadmill, mindlessly taking stride after stride.
Why do people do this?
In general, most people associate being “in shape” with having cardiovascular endurance.
Running also requires little-to-no equipment, is relatively straightforward and is easily accessible.
While having the capability to get through the rigors of everyday life can be aided somewhat by building endurance, you would be remiss to ignore the numerous benefits of strength training.
Proper strength training helps you improve work capacity, build resistance to injury, improve bone density, improve body composition/muscle definition and more easily perform many of your daily activities.
Running without adequate strength or muscle mass can actually increase your risk of injury and lead to muscle atrophy (wasting).
Unless you want to compete in endurance sports, running for prolonged periods of time will do you no good, especially if you have poor running form.
So, toss the running shoes aside and head to the weight room if you want to feel stronger and continue to do the activities you enjoy as you age!
If you don’t know how to get started with resistance training, seek the help of a qualified strength professional.
3. If you lifts weights, you’ll get hurt.
Many people cringe at the thought of picking a heavy barbell off the floor.
They have the false perception that lifting is dangerous and shouldn’t be done, especially if you already have pain somewhere in your body.
Despite these misconceptions, lifting done properly is actually therapeutic.
If you rest a muscular injury for a long enough period of time, it may feel better because your body healed itself naturally.
But doing nothing or simply taking drugs to mask the pain won’t do you much good in the long-term.
You need to teach your body sound movement patterns to build up adequate strength and muscle mass to prevent injury in the future.
A long time ago, Hans Selye first described General Adaptation Syndrome (Rosenblatt, 2014). His model is based on the premise that a stressor to your body goes through a three-stage progression:
Stage 1: Alarm
Your body encounters a stress and responds by activating your sympathetic nervous system.
Stage 2: Adaptation
Your body prepares itself in the event of a future stressor so it can resist or adapt to the stressor.
Stage 3: Exhaustion
If you expose your body to a stimulus too great to handle, your body is susceptible to injury, illness or death.
In simple terms, to prepare your body for the rigors of everyday life, you need to strengthen your muscles so your body can handle daily stresses.
If you lift too heavy too often or perform more volume than your body can handle, you’ll probably wind up hurt.
Mindlessly flinging around weights with no attention to form or the number of sets or reps you’re performing is foolish and a recipe for disaster.
That’s why you should progressively add load over time.
Start out with a light weight you feel confident you can lift. Then, add just a little bit of weight either every time or every other time you lift.
Your body will adapt to the increased volume.
Then, next time you bend over to pick something up off the floor, you won’t hurt your low back because you’ve ingrained proper movement and adequately stressed the right muscles to handle the rigors of the activity.
Once again, if you don’t feel confident in your form or programming, seek the help of a qualified strength professional.
Rosenblatt, Benjamin. “Planning a Performance Programme.” High-Performance Training for Sports. N.p.: Human Kinetics, 2014. 247. Print.