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Video: Seven workout myths dispelled

updated 10/4/2007 12:58:17 PM ET 2007-10-04T16:58:17

We've all heard the expression “No pain, no gain,” but did you know that's actually not true? Author and celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak dispels this and six other common fitness myths:

Myth: No pain, no gain
Fact: Many people think if their muscles don’t hurt, they’re not having a quality workout. This is way off base. While resistance training can be intense, and some level of discomfort may occur, pain is not required for a successful workout. It’s also important to note that pain can be a warning sign of an exhausted muscle or torn ligament.

Myth: Stretching before a workout will reduce the risk of injury.
Fact: The British Medical Journal published an article in 2002 in which researchers determined that available evidence does not support the role of stretching in preventing muscle soreness after exercise or in reducing risk of injury. It's a controversial finding, but a theory Pasternak subscribes to; he rarely, if ever, stretches with his clients. 

On the other hand, exercises that develop flexibility have been long pursued to enhance performance, fitness and peace of mind. Stretching is a vital component of yoga, martial arts, gymnastics and ballet. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that a basic stretching program be followed at least two to three days a week. 

So what’s the bottom line? Despite lack of scientific evidence that stretching before exercising will prevent injury, the majority of sports medicine specialists still support flexibility training.

Myth: The best time to work out is early in the morning.
Fact
:  The truth is, it doesn’t matter when you work out, it’s just important that you do work out at some point during the day.

Myth: If you’re not going to exercise intensely and frequently, exercise is a waste of time.
Fact: We don’t have to run our absolute fastest or train our absolute hardest to achieve results. In fact, the human body burns fat most efficiently at our target heart rate (which is 80 percent of maximum heart rate). Even 25 minutes 5 times a week can get you major results and change your entire status of health. The downside to exercising sporadically is that your body adapts to the workouts, becoming more efficient and conditioned, only to become deconditioned when exercise ceases. Although progress may be made initially while exercising at a low intensity, the body must be regularly challenged for further change and adaptation.

Myth: Exercising the same body part every day is the best way to increase strength.
Fact: Like your mind, your muscles need a challenge. If you do the same math equation every day, you know the answer before you even put the pencil to paper. It’s the same for muscles; you need to mix it up to keep them working and evolving.

Example: Many people think they need to exercise just their lower abs to reduce a potbelly.  Actually, while ab exercises define muscle, cardio exercises burn fat. A cardio workout on an elliptical machine will do more to tighten the waistline than a round of crunches.

Myth: Running is the best way to get in shape.
Fact: Running and jogging are great ways to exercise, but they can be hard on joints. The point here is, there is no “best” way to get fit. Whichever way you choose to exercise, be it walking, swimming, cycling, etc., if you burn more calories than you consume, you will lose weight.

Myth: Heavy weights make big muscles and small weights make lean muscles.
Fact:  If you’re using free weights, there are many different variables — sets, reps, tempo, intensity, rest, exercise selection, duration and frequency — that can all be adjusted to achieve optimal results without looking too muscular. Choosing various core stabilization exercises, including stability ball push-ups or single-leg squats, will burn more calories, have a smaller likelihood of increasing muscle mass and be much more likely to lead to a lean and toned physique.

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