Since first starting to train a few years ago, I’ve been asked that question probably two dozen times preceding what someone thought was a concrete ‘fitness principle’.
“But wait, I thought that weights make you bulky?”
“But wait, I thought that circuit training makes you weak?”
“But wait, I thought that athletic movements are just for athletes?”
“But wait, I thought you can’t lose xx lbs that quickly without crash dieting?”
I had the exact same preconceived notions before I learned better. They are legitimate inquiries in which it is our job as fitness professionals to answer. The problem is, there are a lot of ‘fitness professionals’ handing out crappy advice and over the years that crappy advice can manifest into one big crappy myth.
These are a few of the many fitness myths that we’ll address today using a few Performance360 members as tangible evidence in “But wait, I thought…”
“…that weights make women bulky.”
Debunked by: Jacquelyn Molino, Kristen Petersen, Nikki Hass
By far and away the biggest question that I get from women as they are simply TERRIFIED that weights will make them suddenly look like huge beefcakes. I even wrote an entire article debunking this fear but it’s always worth hammering the point home many times over because most people need continued evidence to ease a legitimate fear. I know that I need visual evidence many times over before an opinion of mine is reversed. I’m hard-headed.
I’ll start by giving you a handful of women at the gym who are great examples as to how certain types of circuit weight training not only WON’T make you bulky, but will actually make you leaner and substantially stronger.
Jacquelyn trains three times per week, always does weight training and frankly can lift some pretty heavy weight for her frame.
Nikki trains at roughly the same frequency and does squats, deadlifts, kettlebell swings, the works…all of those exercises that only powerlifters and athletes should do, right?
Why is it that both women are leaner, more toned and stronger if all weight training makes you bulky? How could this possibly be happening?
The reason? High-speed, low-weight compound movements like squats, deadlifts, cleans, presses and pull-ups are fantastic for the leaning and toning process because they work so many different muscles at once, and because of the targeted muscle fiber type they also have an enormous impact on your strength without increasing size of the muscle.
You simply move at way too fast of a pace in circuit-style training to ever get bulky as a female.
“…that circuit training turns guys into weaklings.”
Debunked by: Brandon Flora, Jason Weber, Sean Mackin
Jason pulling #405 x 3 (started at #275)
Brandon pulling #415 x 1 (started at #240)
I am particularly tickled by this one given the type of guys that usually make this accusation. It’s usually a guy who may or may not have gel in their hair when training. They might potentially superset their workout with a pre or post-tanning salon trip. Generally a high probability they are plain fat and almost a complete guarantee they are nowhere near the word “strong”.
In all seriousness, the knock on circuit training is that you lift weights at too fast a pace to increase your strength. Traditional strength training calls for very long rest periods and sessions generally lasting a full hour. It allows for greater nervous system recovery up to three minutes between heavy sets and calls for a very high volume of sets completed (often up to eight or nine).
I have used those training methods and seen excellent results with them. One of the strength figures I look up to, Eric Cressey, uses this approach and he knows more in his pinky than I do in my brain.
However, just because one method is effective doesn’t mean it has dibs across the entire industry. If you can get strength gains while also leaning out (which traditional strength training doesn’t achieve), then I say, ‘let’s freaking do THAT.’
I’m 168 pounds and at my best could pull 365, nothing earth shattering but supportive of the notion you don’t have to get huge or spend an insane amount of time in the gym to increase strength. There’s a certain demographic of guys that would call me something along the lines of ‘skinny punk’ and say I have no business teaching strength, but I’d love to see flat-brim Steve who does 17 variations of bicep curls get his ass on the platform and put his strength to the test.
“…that only athletes should do plyometric work.”
Debunked by: Emilie Krajan
Emilie is not a current or former athlete but she has achieved a very high level of strength, aerobic conditioning and body composition for herself. She is maybe 5’3″ and can jump on a 36″ plyo box (a gym record). She isn’t training for a sporting event or anything close. She just wants to be lean, strong and in good shape and that’s exactly what she has accomplished through a variety of training that happens to include plyometric work.
A lot of places would say that only advanced individuals can do plyometric work. The standard adage is that you should have at least a few months of proper baseline training underneath you before you start launching your body places. While I certainly would never argue with the reasoning of building up to more advanced work, I simply don’t believe certain plyometric implements to be that advanced.
It stands to reason that most athletes are in pretty good shape, right? Excluding this guy, most team sport athletes are in peak physical condition. So why wouldn’t the rest of us at least try and mildly emulate their diet and training?
For one, because they often train six hours a day and no one in their right mind would do that casually or for fun, but that doesn’t mean for 30 minutes a day a few days you week you can’t incorporate some of what they do to your own program, right?
Wouldn’t it be effective?
You don’t have to start out jumping on 40″ plyo boxes out of the gate. You can do some light cone hops or perhaps some 12″ box jumps. The reality is that jumping and throwing things requires your muscle fibers to fire in a much different demand than traditional or even advanced lifting. It’s a great compliment and excellent training for typeII muscle fiber (the precise fiber type that creates the defined look and is responsible for high performance).
“…that you can only lose 20 pounds fast by crash dieting.”
Debunked by: Too many to list
- Danny Scott: down 25 pounds in 6 weeks
- Jason Weber: down 20 pounds in 9 weeks
- Dee Nipper: down 23 pounds in 9 weeks
- Carol Parma: down 20 pounds in 9 weeks
- Chris Cisek: down 8 pounds in 13 days
- Valerie Henry: down 8 pounds in 21 days
What separates this from some ass backwards cleanse garbage? These are folks who have stripped pure fat from their body while maintaining and even gaining lean muscle, strength and conditioning. BIG difference than stripping muscle and feeling like complete crap.
These are real people getting excellent results. If you belong to P360, pat ’em on the back next time you see them and if you’re not sold on the results then I invite you to come to a class on me and talk to them yourself.
I have overheard many, many trainers tell clients that it’s going to reasonably take three or four months to lose 15 pounds.
Traditional belief says you can lose about a pound or two per week and still ‘be healthy’.
Uhhh, you know what’s ‘being healthy?’ NOT having 20 pounds of excess fat on you. So I say, let’s go ahead and get that off you lickity split, mmkayyy?
Proper training with a committment to carbohydrate-timed/inulin-controlled diet is going to shed fat. And quickly. If you’re circuit training and watching your carbohydrate intake then weight is going to fly off at a pace you didn’t think was actually possible, while also seeing your strength go through the roof.
“Those people just put that weight right back on, right?”
You know who puts weight back on?
Fat people who crash diet and don’t exercise, not people who bust their ass four times a week and maintain a healthy nutritional lifestyle choices rather than some stupid ‘diet’ that Kim Kardashian might have done.
The real nitty gritty of circuit training’s dominance in the fat loss world can best be explained by afterburn effect.
Consider this scientific analysis.
Tremblay A, Simoneau JA, Bouchard C.
Impact of exercise intensity on body fatness and skeletal muscle metabolism.
Metabolism. 1994 Jul;43(7):814-8
The group measured circuit training against standard steady-paced cardio over 15 weeks and concluded that the subjects on circuit training experienced nine times greater fat loss than their ‘cardio’ counterparts. This is largely attributed to the fact that your body continues to burn calories at an increased rate for up to 48 hours after a circuit training session, known as afterburn.
Traditional resistance and steady-paced cardio only provide an hour or two of afterburn.
“…that intense circuit training is a 20-something’s game”
Debunked by: Rick Dengler, Dee Nipper, Carol Parma
You know, I used to be guilty of thinking this one. When I first started out training clients three years ago I was uneasy about throwing a person over the age of 50 into a challenging, dynamic circuit.
That fear changed after I started working with Mick Dapcevic who was actually my very first male client. He was 40 and got after it, and it really opened up my eyes to age and performance not always correlating.
Well, my wig’s been blown clean off since by the men and women of P360.
“Age is just a number.”
It’s one of those cliches in which I firmly believe. If you think old, you’ll feel and act old and your body will follow suit. But if you continue to unleash your body and let it work in the primal ways it’s used to, it will reward you with excellent results, health and strength into the second half of your life.
While this is certainly a small sample size of folks, the main takeaway is that you don’t have to blindly listen to traditional fitness principles and accept them as rule. Tradition is largely driven by middle-of-the-road actions whose nature is not to create a significant disturbance in the standard quo.
Sometimes, it’s up to you to shake the foundations and get outside the norm if you want to create exceptional results for yourself.