With the Internet, we’re saturated with health and fitness market information. And it’s pretty hard to discern what is and isn’t correct.

Myth #1. Yoga makes your muscles “long and lean”

Facts: (a) Muscles only get longer when the bones they are attached to get longer. So, if you are an adult, your muscles are as long as they’re going to be.

(b) Only losing body-fat will make you look leaner because that’s the definition of getting lean – losing body-fat. Yoga isn’t a super effective way to lose body-fat, but can be great for relaxation.

Bottom line: After you’re an adult, your bones–and therefore muscles–are as long as they’re going to get. However, you can get leaner with a combination of good nutrition, consistent exercise and patience. 

Myth #2. Lifting heavy weights makes women “bulky” nearly overnight

Fact: Telling your trainer, “No heavy weights” because you don’t want to get bulky is like telling your financial advisor, “I don’t want invest because I don’t want to get too rich.”

“Bulky” is a combination of high muscle mass and body-fat. Gaining body-fat is pretty simple. Gaining muscle mass, however, is very difficult and slow for both men and women. It takes (a) 5 or 6 days a week of workouts specifically designed to maximize growth, (b) 8-10 hours of sleep per night, and (c) large quantities of food for 5+ years to build muscles that qualify as “large.”

2-3 days a week of total body strength training with challenging (a.k.a. heavy relative to the task) weights will only help you firm up and maximize your metabolism.

Bottom line: If it doesn’t challenge you, then it will not change you. Easy exercise with weights that feel “light” is only good for consuming your free-time. For example: If you’re doing an exercise for 6 reps, then you should only be able to complete 7 or 8 quality reps.

Myth #3. More crunches = more abdominal definition

Facts: (a) The limiting factor in abdominal definition is body-fat. The thicker the layer of fat over the muscles in your abdomen, the less definition you see. Crunches do very little to help you lose body-fat because it trains small muscles in a small movement at low intensities.

(b) If you have a history of low-back pain, then crunches might be a dangerous activity. Research from the world’s leading expert on low back pain (Dr. Stuart McGill) shows that crunches are “the most potent mechanism leading to [spinal] disc herniation.”

Bottom line: A defined midsection is the result of low body-fat levels. Low body-fat levels are the result of smart exercise and good nutrition over a long period of time. Strength training and interval training will be the best use of your time because of the high calorie burn, and the long-term impact of strength training on metabolism.

Myth #4. Running is for beginners

Fact: Running is a high-impact exercise that requires high levels of strength and fitness to safely begin. You don’t get in shape by running, you get in shape in order to run. One mile of running is 1,500 single leg hops where you hit the ground with 3-5 times your bodyweight. All of this repetitive, high level stress leads to stress fractures, tendon damage and more.

Bottom line: If you’re new to fitness, strength training will be much easier on your body and help you develop the foundation to withstand the pounding.

Myth: #5 You can target stubborn body-fat with certain workouts

Fact: Workouts can slim your hips and thighs (for example) only because they slim your entire body. Body-fat is like a bathtub full of water. If you take a scoop from the middle you don’t get a scoop-shaped hole, but rather a drop in the tub as a system.

The exercises that do the most to burn off body-fat will engage the most muscle at once. These compound exercises are the exact opposite of the isolation exercises women are sold to tone their so-called trouble spots.  Isolation exercises would be things like the awkward inner and outer thigh machine, and a compound exercise that works these same muscles and much more would be a reverse lunge.

Bottom line: Isolation-based workouts take more time and deliver less in terms of results and real-life benefits. Focus on compound exercises, and do the isolation work if you enjoy them at the end.

About Guest Blogger Josef Brandenburg and True 180 Personal Training for Women

Josef Brandenburg is the co-owner of True 180 – a women’s only personal training studio in Ballantyne – and a best-selling author. True 180 Personal Training for women is a safe space where women who don’t necessarily like gyms can get into the best shape of their lives in a safe and sustainable way. Find out more about them here, and/or find out more about their January Transformation Program.