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Don't waste your time in the gym: 7 fitness myths

Monday - 4/14/2014, 10:11am  ET

Crunches won't get you abdominal muscles. Josef Brandenburg discusses this and other common fitness myths. (Thinkstock)

By Josef Brandenburg
WTOP Fitness Contributor

WASHINGTON - If there's one thing frustrating in the fitness industry, it's seeing people put a lot of time and effort into their routines only to be disappointment by a lack of results. Don't be fooled: Here are the seven biggest myths when it comes to exercise and weight loss.

  1. More crunches = greater abdominal definition: Crunches do little or nothing to address the real limiting factor for abdominal definition: having too much fat on your abdominal area. On top of that, crunches are a dangerous exercise. Research shows they lead to spinal disc herniation and neck injuries.

    Interval training, strength training and a good diet are the key to getting abdominal muscles. When it comes to doing targeted abdominal work, try planks and these other exercises.

  2. Running is a beginner's exercise: You don't run to get in shape; you get in shape to run. Each mile you run is 1,500 plyometric jumps on a single leg, where you strike the ground with five times your body weight. This means that if a 200-pound man runs 3 miles, he hammers his body with 4.5 million pounds of impact.

    If you're new to fitness, resistance training is going to be much easier on your body. It will help create the foundation you need if you want to become a runner without hurting yourself.

  3. Soreness is success: Being sore mostly means that what you did was excessive, or that you're not recovering well from your workouts. The effectiveness of a workout is measured by the results produced. If you want to lose fat, you should be dropping clothing sizes (provided your diet will allow you to lose fat).

    If you want to get stronger, pounds lifted should increase. You might get moderately sore in the process, but that's not the goal. The goal is the goal.

  4. Each body part needs its own exercise: Training under this mentality costs a lot of time and will not produce superior results. It is actually impossible to isolate just one muscle in a living body. For the best results, do a mixture of resistance and interval training. Now that the weather's nice, you can do these activities outside.

  5. You can judge a workout by how much you sweat: Sweating is something your body does to cool down. You will sweat more when it's hot and when it's humid or when you're bald (you no longer have hair to catch the sweat, so it pours onto your face).

  6. Do a minimum of 30 minutes of cardio for heart health: You don't need to do steady aerobic exercise for heart health. Your heart is a "dumb" muscle -- it only does what your muscles tell it to do.

    You can get tremendous cardiovascular health and fitness benefits with resistance training. This will make you stronger and will save you lots of time. Here are some video exercises to help increase your heart's health.

  7. Yoga will make you long and lean: Normal muscles can't get any longer. Only when you have a muscle that is abnormally short and stiff will you actually be able to lengthen it. Beyond extreme stiffness, we're all stuck with lengths determined by our genes.

    Losing body fat will make you look lean because that is what getting lean actually entails. Yoga isn't a very effective way to lose fat. It's great for relaxation, strength, balance and some aspects of mobility, but not fat loss.

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Editor's Note: Josef Brandenburg is a D.C.area fitness expert with 14 years of experience and co-author of the international best-selling book "Results Fitness." In 2004, he started The Body You Want personal training program, which specializes in helping you get the body you want in the available time you have. You can also check out his blog, follow him on Twitter, or check out his fitness videos on YouTube.

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