Exercise Myths Die Hard!

 

Advice on exercise is not hard to find. The media identifies new fitness experts often and your local gym probably employs at least a few so-called fitness experts. These days a large number of different sources offer exercise advice —websites, television, newspapers, your best friend, college professors, barbers, mechanics, personal trainers, dietitians etc.. Much of the information provided is conflicting. All of this conflicting information is confusing. Consumers often find themselves drowning in a sea of information; some of the information is correct, while much of it is nonsense.

Some people will be surprised to learn that what they’ve accepted as exercise fact is wrong. A statement isn’t necessarily correct because your fitness coach, college professor, or favorite

magazine said so. How many times have you heard “…well they say” or “everybody says…?” A statement is not necessarily correct just because they, or everybody said so.

Myth: Endurance training is the same thing as aerobic training. Endurance training comes in two flavors: aerobic (with oxygen) and anaerobic (without oxygen).

Training that enhances the athlete’s ability to perform low intensity long- term movement is referred to as aerobic while training that improves high intensity short-term energy production is called anaerobic. In relation to conditioning, it’s important to understand which system is the primary contributor to a specific sport or event.

There are two anaerobic energy systems—the adenosine triphosphate, creatine phosphate (ATP/CP) pathway and the glycolytic pathway. After 3–4 seconds, ATP stores are depleted. After ATP levels are depleted, CP comes into play. After about ten seconds of maximal effort, ATP and CP become depleted and the glycolytic pathway becomes the primary contributor to muscular energetics. The glycolytic pathway involves the breakdown of glycogen to produce ATP.

There is one aerobic system—the oxidative pathway. Most of your daily activities are fueled by the aerobic system. The oxidative system is the slowest and isn’t suitable for high intensity, explosive activities.

Activities that are moderate to high in intensity and last 2-3 minutes are primarily fueled by the anaerobic system. Activities of light intensity lasting over three minutes become increasingly aerobic in nature. Understanding the importance of energy systems can help optimize your training regimen.

At any specific time during training there may be a combination of aerobic and anaerobic mechanisms working to produce movement. To design an effective endurance program it is important to understand which energy systems are primarily used to carry out specific tasks. In addition, it is important to understand energy system use often changes during the training session.

Key Factors: Endurance Training

1) Improving lactate threshold (anaerobic threshold)

2) VO2Max

3) The ability to relax

Training to improve lactate threshold involves training with high intensity levels for 2-3 minutes. The body becomes conditioned to function while experiencing high levels of lactate. When training to improve VO2Max, longer durations with lower intensities are used. Learning to relax is an important part of being able to produce lower or higher intensity movement. Over excitation leads to inefficient movement and excessive energy output.

Below is an example of a Lactate Threshold / Anaerobic Threshold Training session and a Aerobic / Anaerobic Interval Training session.

Lactate Threshold / Anaerobic Threshold Training

Punch out drills

Punch a heavy bag non-stop for 1-1.5 minutes. Throw straight punches with no pause between punches. Perform 3-5 rounds, rest 30-45 seconds between rounds.

Aerobic / Anaerobic Interval Training

Movement performed: running or rowing

Movement performed at a moderate pace for 90 seconds followed by 15 seconds of max effort movement. Perform 7-10 cycles.

Fact: Endurance training may consist of aerobic or anaerobic training.

Myth: Heavy weight training will make you slow and inflexible.

When I began boxing, in my teens, it was common for coaches to discourage boxers from weight training. The common belief was weight training would have a negative impact on speed of punches. At that time, a few coaches believed it was okay to weight train, as long as the weight training involved high reps and light weights. The majority of coaches I have spoken with in the past few years use some form of weight training with their boxers. Some of them are still under the impression that boxers shouldn’t engage in heavy weight training. It is not only boxing coaches that express this fear of slowing down and becoming inflexible when using heavy weights. General fitness enthusiasts and athletes from other sports sometimes express the fear that heavy weight training will make them slow and decrease flexibility.

A properly designed program that consists of heavy resistance training will enhance speed and flexibility. Take a look at sprinters and Olympic weightlifters. Both of these groups train with heavy weights. They are fast and flexible. Olympic lifters are among the most flexible athletes in the world. In fact, an overhead squat is one of the best overall flexibility exercises. People are often surprised at the flexibility required to perform an overhead squat. Beginners often struggle to perform an overhead squat with minimal weight, regardless of strength level. are surprised to find out that an ovehead squat is difficult with minimal weight. A lot of people, when first learning to do overhead squats, use and unloaded bar, or sometimes, even something much lighter, like a broom handle.

Muscular strength increases often occur with increases in speed. In novice athletes, it isn’t unusual to see an increase in other motor qualities when maximum strength increases (assuming that weight gain isn’t too fast, which generally means a decrease in relative strength). Performing full range of motion strength training movements such as squats, jerks, and Olympic lifts enhance flexibility.

Sprinters, Olympic lifters, and football players train with heavy weight. The majority of athletes participating in speed power sports train with heavy weights. Don’t let the fear of becoming inflexible or slow prevent you from heavy weight training.

Fact: A properly designed heavy weight training program will make you faster and more flexible.

Myth: Training with exercise machines is safer than training with free weights.

Machine training offers some benefits and in some contexts might be a little safer that free weight training. But, machine training has limitations, and should not always be used at the expense of free weight training. There is always a chance of injury, with any type of exercise.

Machine Training: Safety Issues

The use of seated vertical pressing machines often result in an excessive forward movement of the hip, leading to hyperextension of the lumbar spine.

Hack squat machines can impose excessive shearing forces on the knee and eliminate natural movement patterns (generally, it’s a poor substitute for free standing squats).

Lying inclined or vertical leg press machines often result in forced lumbar flexion (weak mechanical position for back under these circumstances; don‘t excessively round the back when performing this movement).

Foot rests on seated vertical pressing machines are often located in a position which makes it hard to stabilize your body. Keep your feet on the ground if you are having difficulty stabilizing your body using the foot rest.

Most bench press machines require you to begin the movement from a mechanically weak position (bar at chest which inhibits pre-stretch). However, this can be good if you are trying to eliminate the stretch-shortening cycle.

When using standing calf raise machines, pay close attention to lower back position. It is not unusual for trainees to hyper-flex their lumbar spine and induce injury. (I seen this happen numerous times in my training facility).

Using seated spinal twist machines often result in flexion of the lumbar spine while rotating. Use of these machines can also result in excessive loading on spinal ligaments. Be very careful if you use this device.

Standing hip adduction/abduction machines that require you to pull or push the straightened leg against a loaded lever arm often result in excessive simultaneous spinal rotation or flexion/extension. This type of action has potential to injure the lumbar spine. An alternative to this machine is the performance of abduction / adduction movements while using ankle straps attached to a cable. This allows more freedom of movement and doesn’t limit the body to one plane of movement.

Smith machines that guide the bar to slide upward on a restricted path usually impose larger loads on the shoulders and wrists than standing or seated presses with free weights.

Machines that require you to sit prevent you from using your hip, knee, and ankle joints to absorb shock. Holding the natural pelvic tilt is hard to maintain while sitting. Spinal flexion or hyperextension occurs more easily and spinal stress becomes more likely while sitting.

Fact: Machines have their role in training, but the claim “machines are safer than free weights” is not always the case; machines are often dangerous.

Myth: In most cases slow training is more effective and safer than training with fast movement.

Proponents of slow training claim slow exercise minimizes momentum and maximizes muscle tension. Momentum, is defined as mass times velocity. Large momentums may be generated by moving light loads quickly or heavy loads slowly.

According to Chaffin and Anderson, ergonomic studies have shown that more low back pain and disability is produced by some forms of relaxed sitting than by Olympic weightlifting, especially if spinal flexion occurs for prolonged periods of time (As cited from Facts and Fallacies of Fitness (Siff, 2000). At slow speeds or at rest, the body is always affected by gravity. Slow speeds or a static position can be just as stressful and dangerous as high speeds.

Slow training advocates assert that maximal strengthening and hypertrophy occurs with their methods. However, training protocols used by athletes, bodybuilders, and general fitness enthusiasts, that utilize fast movements often result in a large increase of strength and hypertrophy.

Thinking about moving the load fast, whether the load is heavy, light or moderate, leads to maximum motor unit (nerve and muscle fibers it connects to) recruitment and high levels of force production. Trying to move a heavy load while thinking “slow” often results in less than optimum force production. You won’t be able to lift the load.

In an effort to avoid large momentums, the safest thing to do is to eliminate training all together. This would mean not only an elimination of weight training, but also an elimination of sports participation. Sports participation often involves movements that are rapid and generate huge momentums.

There are a number of factors that contribute to exercise injury: defective equipment, excessive assertion during illness or injury, inadequate recovery time, excessive range of motion for a particular joint, inefficient patterns of movement, excessive warming up leading to fatigue, lack of concentration, trying too hard to impress others and so on. Slow training is not a safeguard against injury.

Fact: Slow training is not the best way to train. It may be a preferred method in some circumstances, but it is not the maximal training mode to enhance strength or power production. Slow training may induce large momentums, contrary to what is often promoted by slow training enthusiasts.

This was a concise list of some popular exercise myths. In future articles more exercise myths will be exposed.

Jamie Hale