The 10 Myths of the Fitness Industry

The health and fitness industry is notorious for being full of quick-fix solutions, miracle fat loss cures, and numerous other ways of making sure you lose money before you lose weight. Professional fitness instructor Herman Chauw lifts the lid on some of the surprising myths and truths that the health and fitness industry doesn’t want you to know about.

1. You need expensive exercise equipment to have a good training effect.

Are you impressed when gyms and fitness centres say they have the latest and most advanced equipment in the market? Does that make you want to join a gym more than a gym equipped with simple barbells and dumbbells – even if its membership fees are double?

To tell you the truth, high-tech equipment has only come into the fitness scene in the past few decades. Before that, strongmen trained with simple weights. There are people who trained (and still train) with crude fitness equipment like rocks and still get impressive strength, performance and physique.

It’s strange to think that when so many people want to pay less for fitness equipment, they can do exactly that by buying simple, effective tools that have a powerful effect.

Try this workout with a simple sandbag:

2. You need to spend a lot of time to have a good training effect.

Have you been told that you need to spend at least an hour of training up to two hours a day to get the results you want? Does that put you off exercising because you “don’t have time”?

To tell you the truth, half an hour or even less can have a good training effect too. The intensity of the exercise decreases as the duration increases. So the highest intensity exercises have the shortest duration.

This is something that the guys selling expensive fitness plans and regimes don’t want you to know: with a well designed training program, ten to fifteen minutes of intense exercise done right is all you need.

Try this Tabata Protocol, 6 minutes of gut wrenching workout. You can do this with kettlebells and incorporate a variety of kettlebell movements into the workout.

3. Running is the best form of exercise to lose fat.

If i had a dime every time i heard this, I would be rich. There is no “best exercise to lose fat”.

Any exercise can be used to good effect, depending on how you design your training program. I’m not saying that running is bad – any kind of exercise is great for keeping fit and losing weight. The point is that running is often claimed to be the most effective form of exercise, and this simply isn’t true.

As an aside, running is among the top ten most popular recreational activities BUT it is also among the top ten most injury producing activities. Most people do not run properly or have insufficient/improper preparation for running.

4Machines are safer than free weights.

This relates to the first point on expensive equipment. Gymnasiums and other exercise facilities spend thousands of bucks buying the latest high-tech machines to attract crowds. They tell you that they are safer than free weights because free weights are more difficult to lift and the exercises are harder to learn.

The truth is that not only is high-end exercise equipment not necessary for the general population, they can be more dangerous to your joints that your local facility would tell you. In nature, we have to stabilize free weight (whether it be tools, groceries, babies, rocks etc) with our own muscles. We should simulate movement as we would in nature, not create artificial movements.

Machines can be used for advanced bodybuilders who want to isolate muscles which can’t be replicated by free weights. They can also be useful for rehab patients. But if you don’t fall under these categories, don’t even touch them. Stay away from them like the plague.


5. Progress from machines to free weights.

Related to the points above, some trainers advocate starting with a base of machine exercises and progressing to free weights.

But to tell you the truth, you can and you should start with free weights. As mentioned above, you already are balancing free weights all the time, 24 hours of you life. Your body is already capable of doing complex movements, just that it may have forgotten how.

Anyway, free weights will give you better training effect than machines. So would you rather waste your time doing many machine exercises or save time by doing a few good free weight exercises? Free weights like kettlebells when done correctly involve full body effort and often powerful results come from simple and straightforward kettlebell training.

Check out this exercise, called the Mill, trains multiple planes of motion at the same time, great for strength, endurance, joint mobility etc.

5Heavy weights are dangerous.

You may have gotten this idea from people telling you that they injured their back lifting something heavy. It is true that the heavier the weight the higher the risk for injury. But that is not the whole truth.

The truth is that any weight can cause injury. In fact you can injure yourself lifting nothing significantly heavy, like just bending down improperly. You’re quite likely to injure your back picking up a loaf of bread, but people rarely speak of the dangers!

Whether you are at risk of injury or not is dependent more on your lifting technique. There are people who can lift heavy weights without getting injured, with proper technique.

The key element here is proper weightlifting technique. If you are not sure of your technique, please ask the friendly trainer at your gym and he would gladly assist you.

7Weight training equals bodybuilding.

Or put it another way, weight training WILL cause you to get big muscles. This probably has been the message that a lot of people have been getting from the media. The more physique is glorified in the fashion magazines and other media, the deeper the truth is buried.

The fact of the matter is that there can be many purposes of weight training, and not all of them aim to create big muscles. An example would be weightlifting, a sport whereby the goal is to lift as heavy as possible. The goal and training methods are very different from bodybuilding. Small people in weightlifting can and often do lift mind boggling weights.

Check out this guy, Naim Suleymanoglu, weighing less than 60kg, he can lift 3x bodyweight.

8Kids can’t lift weights.

Some coaches recommend that kids do not lift weights under a certain age, about puberty. There is a certain truth in that heavy, maximal weights can stunt growth in growing (in height) children.

However that is not the whole truth. It is only true when combined with an improperly designed training program. Everybody, and i mean EVERYbody lift weight 24 hours a day – our bodyweight.
Coupled with a properly designed training program which utilises submaximal weights, weight training can be a useful tool to develop strong and healthy kids.

Check out these kids swinging kettlebells:

9I can’t exercise because I have back pain.

Most doctors would prescribe rest for any kind of pain, probably also painkillers. Most people also who have had injuries of some sort shy away from physical activity in fear of aggravating their injury. And yet here are also those who do extreme physical exertions in spite of their injuries.

While the first two types are probably rational way to go about the problem, the third is probably not very wise. You can balance this by doing what we call physiotherapy (or rehabilitation and recovery exercises), of which the goal is to recover from your injury and regain pain-free movement. You need to exercise if you are injured, to get back to normal function.

Take a look at 60+ years old Valentin Dikul, he broke his back as a teenager in a circus act. He can juggle 80kg kettlebells.

10Crunches/Situps are the best exercise to get a six pack.

Crunches/sit-ups is not a bad exercise when coupled with a proper training program. Any exercise is useful to create a desired effect, depending on the context of the program.

However the truth is that people often do not know the dangers of doing it improperly or doing too much of it. You can get neck strain and postural problems if it is done indiscriminately.

And another truth is that, you will get a six pack regardless of them. As long as you have low bodyfat, a reasonably athletic person would have abdominal definition.

If you like a crunches/sit-up based program, check out the Beyond Sit Ups by Coach Murdock:

The health and fitness industry isn’t a bad place; but there are a lot of misconceptions and misinformation about which exercises and equipment are effective. The key point to remember is that exercise is best performed as part of a balanced training program, in sensible chunks of time, with proper method and supervision.

About the Author
Herman is a professional fitness instructor and kettlebell expert based in Singapore. He was certified by the International Kettlebell and Fitness Federation in 2009. You can contact Herman at singaporekettlebellclub@gmail.com

Read this article in its original context at http://www.singaporekettlebellclub.blogspot.com/2009/09/ten-myths-of-fitness-industry.html

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13 Responses to The 10 Myths of the Fitness Industry

  1. Bertrand says:

    Thats a great post mate. Thanks.

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