More Fitness Myths Busted

02.27.2012 / Blog Posts Health and Wellness

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Will weight lifting bulk you up? Is cardio the only exercise your body really needs?

Becky Johnson, cerified personal trainer and nutrition coach, answers your questions and breaks down four more fitness myths for women...

Myth #1: Drawing your belly button to your spine is the best way to protect your back from injury during exercise.

Truth: While the act of drawing the belly button toward the spine — also known as “hollowing out” or “drawing in” — does in fact activate the transverse abdominis (the deep musculature of the core), a growing body of research in recent years has found that the technique of drawing in can actually decrease stability in some situations.

What You Can Do: Instead of hollowing the abdominal wall by drawing your belly button toward your spine when you're exercising, simply activate and stiffen your abdominals — almost like you are about to be punched in the stomach. This contraction is called bracing and it activates all of the major muscles that girdle the spine (e.g. transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, erector spinae, quadratus lumborum, multifidi) helping to increase the stability of the spine and also improve performance.

Myth #2: The type of sports bra I wear doesn’t really matter.

Truth: When it comes to fitness apparel for women, sports bras are extremely important! They help minimize breast discomfort while exercising and reduce the risk of breast sagging, which can be caused by damage to the ligaments, tissue and other supporting structures of the breasts.

What You Can Do: There are generally two types of sports bras to consider and your physique will help dictate which one may be best for you.

- For smaller-busted women, compression bras are a great option because they flatten the breasts against the chest.

- Larger-busted women should opt for encapsulation bras as the molded cup design tends to provide more support given their heavy duty construction. They also make you feel more “secure.”

Remember that fit is also an extremely important factor. Try many types to make sure the bra fits comfortably and be sure to consider the fabric type of the bra — proper ventilation will help to keep skin cool and dry thereby reducing chaffing.

Keep in mind that bras do have a shelf-life as the elasticity will diminish over time. Plan on replacing sports bras every six to nine months, depending on the amount of usage and your particular activity. By letting them air dry as opposed to putting them in the dryer, you can extend their usable life span. It may be worth going to the local department store or specialty shop and get fitted in the proper size.

Myth #3: Women shouldn’t lift heavy weight.

Truth: The most popular myth regarding women and weights is that weight training will turn you into a bodybuilder. The truth is, it won’t unless you try very, very hard. Women don’t have the right hormone balance to build enormous muscles; even those who are genetically predisposed to do so must train in a very specific way and follow a very particular nutrition plan to make it happen. What weightlifting will do is tighten up your body, improve your physical function and make you look and feel better.

What you can do: Some women stick to the philosophy that women should only use light weight and lift them many times. To strengthen muscles, you must place stress on them. To stress them, you must use heavy weights (heavy for you, so that the last 3-4 reps are hard to complete) and lift them fewer times.

Women who are overweight often shy away from the weight room until they lose the excess fat. But, in fact, by adding lean muscle mass, you can actually accelerate weight-loss by increasing the amount of calories the body burns. Remember muscle burns calories even at rest. So the more muscle you have, the more calories your body will burn.

Myth #4: Cardio is the only exercise your body needs.

Truth: Gravity works against our bodies and is not our friend. The truth is, our bodies are slowly collapsing as we get older, and weight training is what keeps us upright, aligned and strong. Weight training strengthens tendons and ligaments as well as creates good bone density.

While cardio can help with bone density and is an essential part of keeping your heart strong, it doesn’t keep your body in alignment and strengthen your key postural muscles. Keep a balance of weight training and cardio respiratory exercise.

What you can do: Make sure you structure your weekly exercise routine with weight training and cardio. Make a plan, for example to weight train on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and add cardio to 3-5 days of the week as well. I would suggest doing your cardio exercise after your weight training so you give your routine all your energy and strength.

Weight training can lead to more calories burned during a 24-hour period because resistance training can keep your metabolism elevated for 24 to 48 hours after you stop exercising. If you like cardio but don’t enjoy running, try any of these options that place less stress on your joints: Jump on a rebounder, swim, box, bike or use the elliptical.

I hope everyone had a fun and safe New Year. I’m not a big believer in New Year resolutions. I feel small changes all year long create bigger and longer lasting results. But whatever your philosophy, start today with one simple change. Next month I will focus on what every exercise program should have, the right exercise plan for you, steering clear of plateaus and more.

Stay Fit and Healthy,
- Becky

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