4 Exercise Myths—Do You Really Need to Stretch Before a Workout?

Tuesday Jul 29 | BY |
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Myths Exercise

Is it really bad to let your knees go past your toes while doing a squat or lunge?

Does science both fascinate and frustrate you? It sure does me!

The new information that science brings to light is constantly changing, so it often disputes what we think we know about exercise. Sometimes even sacred cows go by the wayside!

Don’t get stuck or hold on too tightly to what you’ve always done or believed, especially when research clearly shows otherwise. In particular, I find there are four exercise myths that fall into this category. Check them out!

Myth 1: Stretch first.

Many of us were taught to perform static stretching before a cardiovascular or strength-training workout. We were taught that it was part of the warm-up and it was believed static stretches helped prevent injuries. Yet, there’s no scientific evidence linking reduced risk of injury or post-workout soreness with a regular pre-exercise stretching routine.

Recent studies indicate that pre-event stretching can actually impair performance by weakening your muscles. For optimal results, stretch after your workout.

Now before you send me an email about this myth, keep reading.

Yes, warming up is a good idea but exactly what needs to be warmed up? I’ve long taught that the best warm-up for an exercise is doing that exercise at a reduced pace. So for instance, going out for a run? Use walking as a warm-up or run at a slower pace until you feel warmed up.

I’m also a big fan of joint mobility movements as warm-ups. There’s also what we in the fitness industry often label “dynamic stretching routines.” These movements can be used as a warm-up as well. For most people usually 5-15 minutes of these is plenty.

The ideal warm-up gets your heart pumping and takes your joints through their range of motion.

Myth 2: Don’t let your knees go past your toes while doing a squat or lunge.

Squatting and lunging are two very popular exercise movements. They are both very essential compound movements, giving you a whole host of benefits when done properly. In order to do them properly, your knee moves beyond your toes, but how much beyond is the issue.

Avoiding excessive forward movement of the knee during a squat or lunge is important. In everyday activities such as climbing stairs, however, your knee and torso naturally move forward slightly and parallel with each other for balance. Your knees also help propel your body forward and upward.

Restricting this movement when performing squats and lunges increases hip stress and could increase the load on your lower back. It’s a subtle movement to notice. But once you adjust your technique, you might notice that you squat, lunge and move with less pain and restrictions.

Myth 3: To burn fat, exercise at a lower intensity.

This one can get complicated so let’s keep it really simple.

Forget the “fat-burning zone” and just get out there and move!

Your body burns both fat and carbohydrate calories to meet the demands of exercise. The proportion of fat or carbohydrate burned in a given workout depends on exercise intensity and duration. When it comes to fat loss however, for most of us the type of calories burned with exercise doesn’t really matter. If you burn more calories than you consume, you’ll lose fat. If you don’t, you won’t.

Don’t overcomplicate this and get your knickers in a twist!

Low-to-moderate intensity exercise can be sustained for longer periods than higher-intensity exercise. High intensity exercise burns more calories per minute. Knowing those two factors, base your exercise intensity on your goals, your fitness level, your health markers and how it makes you feel. Don’t worry about whether you’re burning fat or carbohydrates. The key is to choose an intensity level that makes your exercise program sustainable and will get you the results you want.

Myth 4: Strength training will make you gain weight.

This one is almost the exact opposite. It’s like that old joke, “What weighs more, a pound of feathers or a pound of rocks?”

If you’re concerned about preventing weight gain, strength training is actually something you should be doing. On average, adults who don’t engage in any strength training exercises lose about 4-6 lbs. of muscle tissue per decade, which decreases your resting metabolic rate. Unless caloric intake is also reduced, fat weight tends to increase.

On the other hand, regular strength training on the major muscle groups at least twice a week helps prevent loss of muscle tissue, and can even help to restore it. Adults who strength-train gain about 3 lbs. of muscle weight on average in the first 10-12 weeks, with men gaining slightly more and women gaining slightly less. But if you’re strength training for fitness, your weight gain should be very modest and could be offset by fat loss. And I guarantee you’ll look better, move better and feel better and actually have people telling you that you look like you’ve lost weight!

In the end, there’s lots you can do that will make you gain weight, but don’t think of strength training as one of them! Keep these myths in mind as you learn to separate fact from fiction.

Do you know of other myths about fitness that are untrue? Please share your thoughts.

Shelli Stein

Shelli Stein

Shelli Stein holds a Master’s degree in exercise physiology and has completed over 12 advanced certifications in the field of health and fitness. She coaches and teaches from her home base in San Diego, California. Her specialties include hormone health for women, run coaching, and helping her clients move from pain to performance. She offers free newsletters both weekly and monthly from her websites: www.joyinmovement.com and www.activemenopauselifestyle.com

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  1. So happy to read this about those myths, especially the one about fat-burning. Love the statement, “Just get out there and move!”

    As a runner for 45 years now, I’ve attacked the frequent myths about running in my new book, “Lifelong Running: Overcome the Eleven Myths About Running & Live A Healthier Life.” Lantern Books. Running is really the most effective and efficient exercise there is! (:>) We’ve got to get out kids and seniors out there!!!

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