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THE 10 WORST EXERCISE MYTHS DEBUNKED

Everybody knows that to keep your body in its best shape, you’re going to have to exercise. But there’s so much conflicting information out there on what kind of workouts are ideal. Unfortunately, a lot of that information is based on nonsense — folk tales, outdated science or just made-up stuff. In this feature, we’ll spotlight 10 exercise myths that you should stop listening to and give you the real truth. Grab a towel, buddy — we’re going to get sweaty.

Stretch Before Exercise To Prevent Injury
The Worst Exercise Myths Debunked
You’re going to have a tough time finding someone who doesn’t stretch before they exercise, but science reveals that it’s not the cure-all you might think. Some studies even found that stretching can reduce your athletic performance! What you really need to be doing before you work out is warming up — yes, this can include stretching, but it’s more important to move your body dynamically to not only loosen your muscles but get your heart rate up. Jumping rope, running in place or other exercises that emulate the range of motion you’ll be doing in your workout are best. Leave the stretching for the cool-down, where it actually does some good.

Running On A Treadmill Is Better Than Running On The Street
The Worst Exercise Myths Debunked
Every gym has a row or two of treadmills that are usually filled-up with people sweating through the miles. But can’t you just run outside for free, like we did when we were naked cavemen? Fitness buffs will try to tell you that jogging on a treadmill reduces the wear and tear on your knees from running, but that’s completely bogus. Knee stress is caused by the weight of your body as you run, and that’s going to be the same whether you’re jogging on concrete or a conveyor belt. The best way to reduce that impact is just to mix up your exercise — run where you like, but also bike, or do the elliptical or swim, all of which are much easier on the knees.

Do Crunches, Get Abs
The Worst Exercise Myths Debunked
Getting a six-pack is a goal for pretty much every bro at the gym, and since elementary school you’ve been taught that the best way to work your abs is through crunches. Guess what? Crunches suck at building the definition between the abdominal muscles you need for a six-pack. It’s much more important that you do interval training and keep your body burning fat effectively — stress and lack of sleep trigger your system to pack fat around the waist. As for exercise, doing squats, chin-ups and deadlifts are going to shred those abdominals way more effectively than crunches.

Lactic Acid Makes Muscles Hurt
The Worst Exercise Myths Debunked
When you feel sore after an intense workout, the common gym wisdom is that it’s due to lactic acid buildup in your muscle tissue. That’s completely false. Delayed-onset muscle soreness, as it’s technically known, doesn’t have anything to do with acid at all. That pain you feel is due to the muscle actually tearing slightly as you exercise — the process of re-growing makes muscles stronger. That’s why you increase the weight you lift on a training regimen, to continue the process of damaging and repairing muscle tissue to make it grow. It’s just how the body works!

Working Out Makes You Gain Weight
The Worst Exercise Myths Debunked
Muscle weighs more than fat, so if you pump iron you won’t lose weight, right? Wrong. Although it’s true that it’s easier to eat less food than to burn off those corresponding calories, there’s no evidence that working out causes weight gain, unless you’re specifically trying to add bulk. Exercise actually helps maintain muscle while forcing the body to burn fat, which is the whole point. This myth probably dates back to studies that found people who exercised for weight loss without changing their diet didn’t do as well as people who altered their food intake too, which no duh.

Focusing On A Body Part Burns Fat There
The Worst Exercise Myths Debunked
If you’ve got a few inches around the gut, you should do crunches. Bingo wings on your arms? More curls. It’s a popular fitness delusion that if you want to cut fat in a specific body part, you should do exercises that target that region. That’s scientifically false, and a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning proved it. The research had test subjects conduct a 12-week program where they only worked one of their legs, then measured the fat burn on both sides. It was exactly the same for the working leg and the lazy one, showing that “targeting” body parts doesn’t burn any more flab.

If You’re Not Sweating, You’re Not Working Hard Enough
The Worst Exercise Myths Debunked
Gyms are stocked with towels explicitly to wipe down perspiration from hard-working exercisers, and trainers will tell you that you need to break a sweat to prove you’re pushing yourself. That patently isn’t true. First, different people have different levels of perspiration — some sweat easier than others. Second, the amount of sweat you produce really has little correlation to your calories burned or muscles built. Some exercises, like Bikram yoga, will have you sweating a lot but not actually burning many calories. Don’t stress about how much sweat you need to wipe off the equipment, just make sure you do it.

Start Your Workout With Cardio
The Worst Exercise Myths Debunked
It’s common sense that when you get to the gym, you knock out 20 minutes of cardio to get your heart rate up and prime your body for lifting. Guess what? That doesn’t work. Cardio — running, doing the elliptical, etc. — can lower your levels of available glycogen, which powers your lifts. You won’t be able to push yourself as hard as you need to — and gains come when you’re pushing. However, doing cardio after your weight training is better for several reasons. Lifting boosts testosterone and cortisol, both of which can spur you to increased endurance. Even better, schedule a cardio session 1-2 hours after you hit the weights.

You Need A Sports Drink When You Exercise
The Worst Exercise Myths Debunked
We have to give props to Gatorade, Vitamin Water and all of their relatives — they’ve certainly carved out a profitable market for themselves as a vital refresher after exercise. But guess what? If you aren’t doing lengthy cardio, it’s possible that you could actually be gaining fat from high-calorie drinks. Sports drinks are formulated to provide the water lost in sweat and the glucose that powers your muscles over long periods. They’re not designed for general exercise and except for special circumstances you’re better off drinking good old-fashioned zero-calorie water.

No Pain, No Gain
The Worst Exercise Myths Debunked
One of the most pernicious exercise myths is also one of the worst for you — the idea that a workout needs to hurt to be effective. Depending on the kind of exercise you’re doing, you could experience mild muscle pain — that burning in your quads when you squat is a good example — but anything more intense than that can often be a warning sign. Any sharp or acute pain means you’re doing something wrong and putting your health at risk, so stop what you’re doing immediately. A better way to tell if you’re done with your workout is when you can no longer maintain good form on your exercise, not when you’re in too much pain to keep going.

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