Think crunches are the answer to a six-pack? Or that lifting heavy weights will make you look like The Hulk? Trainer Sara Haley, creator of The Daily Sweat® workouts, Expecting More and Sweat Unlimited, debunked these fitness myths and more, so you can start your get-summer-ready routine in the right direction (heavy weights included).
MYTH: Fewer calories is always better. With Weight Watchers and nutrition apps like MyNetDiary now diet staples, calorie counting is still a big diet trend. But less isn't always better. "You need to fuel your body, especially when you are working out," says Haley. "If you don't take in enough calories, your body may think it's starving itself and actually holds on to weight as protection." So fuel up often, and stash healthy snacks in your purse or at your desk.
MYTH: Lifting heavy weights will make you bulky. Lifting weights builds muscle, but strength training alone won't turn you into The Rock. "It's more likely that you will bulk up from eating the wrong foods (or too much food) in combination with not enough cardio," Haley explains. "For example, body builders take in a ridiculous amount of calories and lift heavy weights, thus increasing their body mass (which some consider 'bulky'). By eating a balanced diet, doing cardio and lifting heavy weights, you will be stronger and leaner."
MYTH: Doing crunches will get rid of belly fat. Crunches create muscle, but they won't eliminate any fat on top of the muscle (or that winter muffin top). "You need to combine cardiovascular work with your core training program (more than just crunches) to get rid of the belly fat," says Haley. "Cardio will help you burn the fat. Core training will help create the muscle."
MYTH: If you're not sweating, you're not working hard enough. You should never base your workout on sweating because everyone has different sweat glands and some sweat more than others. Instead, Haley recommends paying attention to your breath intake. "If it is becoming harder to breathe, you are working harder. If it never becomes harder to breathe, you will never see an increase in your cardiovascular endurance."
MYTH: Heat and vigorous exercise helps you sweat out toxins. We've seen plenty of people layer on clothing in the summer heat, with the idea that sweating is the fitness world's answer to a cleanse. But Haley explains why this idea just doesn't work. "Sweating is a way for your body to release heat and even though it may contain tiny amounts of toxins, the amount is small enough to be almost insignificant."
MYTH: You must stretch before a workout to prevent injury. Stretching can prevent injury, but it depends on the type of stretching! Our stereotypical static stretches (where we hold a position for a certain amount of time) can actually put your muscles to sleep. "Dynamic (active) stretches" - such as straight leg kicks - "are a better way to go because they increase blood flow and warm up the body, which ultimately helps you prevent injury."
MYTH: Doings squats will make your butt big. "Doing squats will make your butt strong, give you a butt-lift (a perkier butt), and help tighten up your muscles," says Haley. "It will not make your butt big." So think firm, not pudgy.
MYTH: You can target trouble spots. "Every person is genetically different and can see changes differently on their body," Haley says. So instead of focusing on your stomach or thighs, indulge in a well-rounded workout. "You do not want to just target trouble spots, but rather have a combination of cardio, strengthening and toning exercises to help create a lean strong body."
MYTH: An empty stomach means more fat burn. If you work out on an empty stomach, you may not have enough energy to even get through it. "Your body needs fuel to burn fat. Working out on an empty stomach is just going to hinder your workout." So eat, work out, repeat.