Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Fitness Myths - Long, Lean, muscles and heavy weights

Now, we promise there is more to come on this topic and in greater depth. However, we here at Aegis are having such a giggle over some of the mountebanks who proliferate in the fitness industry that we had to put a post up about it. In particular we found great amusement over recent advice in a national newspaper that women shouldn't lift over 3lbs in weight in the gym. This particular 'expert' who name drops to gain credibility is one of the prime culprits of this sort of nefarious storytelling. Another of their classics is that they only work the small muscles, and in doing so, this helps to lengthen the longer bigger muscles, which according to her, you shouldn't work in the gym or you'll swell up and become bulky and masculine. This is their 'unique' system, and apparently everyone else is getting it wrong...?

Unfortunately for the general public, there will always be those people who market their 'systems' as being unique based on some spurious claims that often are the antithesis of well-established physiological principles. Another of these is the classic comment that activities like Pilates can give you 'long lean muscles', which thankfully is a myth only talked about by a few, but again enough to make it an often-repeated phrase. Check out THIS article by the late Mel Siff, who provides ample excellent rebuttals of many of these common myths.

Check out this video below of Pilates in action...

Let me give you a quick lesson in basic physiology. ANY activity involves a shortening AND a lengthening of muscles. Adding resistance can cause the hypertrophy, or growth, of muscles. For women, this potential is greatly reduced due to their hormonal system not favouring size gains (amongst other reasons). If muscles are getting smaller from training then that is called catabolism or atrophy and is NOT desirable folks! Does it mean that the more you do the longer your muscles get? Hopefully not as if so then all your joints will become unstable and you won't be able to move....You can reduce levels of bodyfat through training of course, but not through 1000 pelvic tilts. Secondly, muscles are the length that they are - and although there may be reductions in sarcomere (the microscopic 'units' of muscle) amounts through chronic postural shortness - any activity that works the muscle through the full range of movement will help maintain or restore flexibility. It is a MYTH that weight training makes you inflexible - if you don't believe me, just check out this video

These guys lift weights ALL THE TIME and HEAVY ones too! But they also have amazing flexibility....and it isn't just them - many other athletes manage to develop outstanding strength and flexibility (ever seen the physiques on top gymnasts??). It is an outdated concept, based on stereotypical impressions of muscular bodybuilders, that strength or weight training equates to poor flexibility. In just about all cases, the opposite is true.

Finally, the notion that weight training with more than 3lbs is detrimental to women is so wrong it verges almost irresponsible in terms of advice. Even more dangerous is giving this advice to 'real' women based on the training programme of a Hollywood A-lister with a private chef and questionable dietary habits - not to mention someone who is genetically tall, slender, and never really had an issue with her weight in the first place?

Jamie Eason (left) is well known for being a strong girl who regularly lifts weights (yes, heavy ones that weigh more than 3lbs), yet you'd be hard pressed to say she looks either bulky or lacks femininity.

When you consider that research has CLEARLY shown that a loss of muscle mass is the primary reason women gain weight as they age, it really makes no sense to suggest they use such small weights. A new-born baby weighs more than 3lbs, not to mention bikes, shopping, pushchairs, or in fact ANY job - police, fire service, military, whatever, will involve a need for strength. In fact, I have in the past highlighted countless studies, including a fascinating study on occupational fitness carried out in the U.S, that clearly showed the importance of high-intensity strength training in developing all-round fitness. Check out THIS study if you want to see the real EVIDENCE as opposed to the myths and hype.

Hold on, I have to go as Jenny from our team is deadlifting in the gym and its more than 3lbs.....we better stop her!!!!


Jenny said...

I am myself a living proof that weight training does not bulk yo up and make yo look like aman. i have done weight training 2-3 times a week for the last 10 years or so and i go for anything from 5kg and up depending on muscle group and how many repetioins i am doing - never less than 12x3.

for a woman to get bulky she eitehr need to be on steroids or have an enormous amount of male hormones in her body and as we are women we normally hade female hormones.

take my advice and start using weights to build up strength, shape up your body and loose weight long term. Muscles burn claries and fat for at least 24 hours after exercising and the more muscle mass you have teh more you burn.

And do remember that muscles weight more than fat. So while your weight might go up, your dress size will go down.


Fitness Myths said...

I completely agree that fitness myths have outgrown into every household and are annoying to listen to.