Here are just a few common misconceptions and myths that I often hear when I am personal training (or convincing someone to start a strength training program).
1. I shouldn’t lift too heavy because I don’t want to bulk up.
Well, I guess this really depends on your definition of “bulk up”, but rest assured that you will not create “body builder” size muscles by the average strength training program, particularly if you are female, (due to our lower levels of testosterone). Developing muscle size and mass doesn’t happen by accident – it takes intention and special attention to diet and program. If you’re only including resistance training in your fitness program, you’ll want to include aerobic exercise as well so that you can decrease your body fat, in addition to increasing muscle strength and definition.
2. If I’m not sore, I didn’t work out hard enough.
Delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, typically occurs after an increase in intensity or duration of an exercise session. If you’ve been inactive and jump into an hour long workout, you can probably expect some soreness afterward. Once your body adapts to a certain level or type of activity, you probably won’t experience soreness after every workout until/unless you change up the exercises or intensity. But DOMS seems to be relative to each person – some people appear more susceptible to it than others.
You do not need to live in a constant state of soreness! A better judge of how hard you’ve worked is perceived exertion during the workout. If you plan to complete 12 repetitions of a strength exercise, but you feel like you can do an extra 10 at the end of a set, the weight selected or intensity is not challenging enough for you. If you are performing a cycling interval that should be moderately difficult, you shouldn’t be able to sing a song without sounding winded!
3. Machines are better than free weights.
There are benefits to both machines and free weights, (and now there is a growing trend in “functional training” equipment such as suspension trainers, kettlebells, sandbags, medicine balls, etc.). Machines are excellent for beginners because they help you stay aligned (if you adjust the seats/pads correctly) and don’t require a spotter. They isolate specific muscles which can be helpful if that is your goal. However, most of our daily movements are more accurately mimicked by free weight and functional strength exercises. Free weights utilize stabilizers, or assisting muscle groups such as those in your torso, so you get more for your buck with each exercise. There is a greater learning curve associated with free weight exercises, and therefore probably a greater risk of injury if you don’t get educated first. If you’re looking to purchase equipment for your home or office, free weight/functional equipment is going to be the more affordable and versatile option.