If you have been a client of mine, you may remember what I refer to as the “car analogy”. Does your car use more gas driving in stop-and-go traffic or coasting the highway on cruise control? Our bodies work the same way. When you run on a treadmill for long distances, your body naturally reaches “steady state” and becomes efficient in using its fuel, just like a car. When you continuously spike your heart rate and bring it down, simulating stop and go traffic, your body uses more fuel (which happens to be unwanted fat). There are countless studies supporting the use of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) for fat loss. This form of “cardio” takes significantly less time (typically 12 to 20 minutes) than traditional long distance cardio and leads to better results. *HIIT is discussed further in “HIIT Your Way to a Better Body” blog.
2. Crunches are the best way to get a six-pack
Everyone has been fooled by this misconception for years. Doing sit-ups or crunches is not the best way to get a six-pack. Having a visible six-pack is almost entirely due to low body fat and minimally a function of abdominal development. Interestingly, this seems to be common knowledge but when we start to feel saggy in the midsection, we go straight for the ab exercises. Contrary to popular belief, training a muscle group will not burn fat locally. There is no such thing as “spot reduction.” This means that doing ab exercises won’t burn fat from your midsection. Core exercises should certainly be included in any training program but the best way to get a six-pack involves making healthy dietary choices and incorporating a balanced training program.
3. Static stretching decreases risk of injury
You see it all the time. Someone walks in the gym, grabs a wall to stretch his or her quadriceps for a moment and begins their hour long run on the treadmill. Growing up we are warned to “warm up so you don’t pull a muscle” but what exactly should a warm-up consist of? If you are like most people, your warm-up (if any at all) consists of standing in place and stretching. This type of stretching referred to as static stretching, immediately before exercise can cause a decrease in performance and increased risk of injury. Research demonstrates that runners who static stretch immediately before they run actually suffer more injuries than those who don’t. Ditch the static stretching and include a dynamic warm-up with joint mobility and muscle activation exercises. This will improve your range of motion while promoting muscular control and gives you the best chance to move efficiently and avoid injury.
4. A quick jog and a few stretches is a sufficient warm-up
Following up with the last misconception, a quick jog to “break a sweat” and a few stretches is the default warm-up for those that think they know better. Although there are benefits in this type of warm-up including an increase in circulatory rate and body temperature, it does little to stimulate the nervous system (or increase the excitability of the working muscles) and doesn’t take the working joints through a full range of motion. A dynamic warm-up will take your joints through a full range of motion, increase the neural drive to the working muscles, increase the extensibility of commonly locked-up muscles, as well as increase circulatory function and temperature as mentioned earlier. This type of warm-up is ideal both in terms of performance and injury prevention.
Stay tuned for the next blog where even more fitness misconceptions are revealed. Live healthy, be well.
-Every day do something that will inch you closer to a better tomorrow-
Mike Sherbakov, CSCS, CPT, RYT