With all the online fitness “experts” out there, common sense is increasingly hard to come by. All sorts of myths and misinformation are being circulated, making many people more confused than ever. Here is fitness advice that should be common sense (but unfortunately isn't).
#1: Simplicity and consistency are the most important factors to success.
There is no end to fancy, complicated, and unique ways to design your workouts, but the reality is that if you’re a fitness-minded person, all you need to do is show up, give it a full effort, and train the basic free weight exercises.
You could throw in an interval or sled workout twice a week if your goal is fat loss or conditioning, but there’s no need to overcomplicate things with box jumping or endless exercise variations.
And crazy hybrid workouts (Pilates combined with zumba), or training tools that produce diminishing returns (Bosu balls) have no place in most people’s workout if they have performance or body composition goals.
All you need to do if you want to change your body and improve your overall physical performance is as follows:
- Get a written workout plan that fits into your schedule and follow it religiously.
- Never skip workouts.
- Always give it your full effort. There will always be hard days in the gym, but if you give it all you’ve got, these are the days that will make all the difference.
#2: Working out is not a solution to overeating.
A lot of people believe that starting to work out will help them lose body fat. Now, it is true that there’s probably no other behavior more important to overall health than exercise, but that doesn’t mean that working out will definitely lead to fat loss.
A lot of people do forms of exercise that are straight-up ineffective for fat loss. Or, they inadvertently compensate for the calories burned during workouts by eating more at meals. Or, their crazy stressful lives prevent them from developing habits that make noticeable body composition changes.
If you want to lose body fat, you need to adopt a way of eating that allows you to satisfy hunger without overeating. The right exercise program can accelerate this fat loss process, but it needs to start with sustainable eating habits that leave you nourished and satisfied.
That’s where higher protein real food diets that include plenty of vegetables and healthy fat come in—they lead to the release of hunger-reducing hormones and elevate metabolic rate so your body naturally burns more calories daily.
#3: Workout ADD will get you nowhere.
Doing random workouts—lifting one day, a group class the next, and cardio after that—is ineffective if you want to see measureable changes in your physique or athletic performance.
Strength and body composition changes are progressive—they don’t happen after one or two workouts. Gaining strength or getting lean requires you to string together a series of high-quality workouts in which you do similar exercises each time.
The best way to take advantage of this fact is to pick a goal and train using a pre-set workout program that progressively overloads the body. Consistency and focus are key.
#4: You should do weight lifting and cardio in SEPARATE sessions.
One cause of the workout ADD mentioned above is the belief that it’s necessary to do weight training and cardio in the same workout. Packing it all into one session is a nice idea, but this leads to diminishing returns.
You’ll get much better and faster results if you separate weight training and cardio for a few reasons:
- Having one training priority per session allows you to approach workouts with focus and drive so that you can you get much more out of your efforts.
- It keeps workouts short and sweet so that you avoid excessive physical stress and high cortisol.
- Studies show it improves hormone response to training and leads you to burn more calories during the 24-hour recovery period after your workout.
Therefore, if your goal is to lose body fat, try 3 to 4 weight workouts a week, and 2 separate sprint interval sessions lasting no longer than 30 minutes.
If your goal is strength or building muscle, all your workouts should be weight-training workouts—there’s no need for cardio.
If you’re training for an endurance sport like running a 5K, Prioritize cardio and do two separate weight-training workouts a week.
#5: Compound exercises like squats, deadlifts & presses will get you BEST results.
The classic exercises like barbell squats, presses, rows, and deadlifts have become more popular recently, but many people still shy away from these lifts. Whatever the reason for this, everyone should understand that these are fundamental movements that will get you in the best shape of your life.
Men and women, and young and old people alike will benefit from planning their workouts around these exercises for the following reasons:
You train more muscle mass in less time.
You can lift more weight and get stronger faster.
You will get a much greater afterburn than with isolation and machine-based lifts.
They have carryover to both daily life and sports.
#6: Sit-ups and isolation ab training are useless for anyone who is overweight.
If you’re overweight, ab training, whether you try some magical 15-minute program or do it for 45-mintes a day, will never get you a visible six-pack.
Great abs require two things:
- You need to have low body fat. Studies show ab training has zero effect on body fat, making it a big timewaster. Instead, adopt a smart diet that leads you to eat fewer calories than you expend, and a workout program that includes weights and intervals.
- You need to develop the muscles in the abdominals and lower back. The best way to do this is with moderately heavy weight training, using multi-joint exercises such as squats, deadlifts, chin-ups, presses, and one or two ab exercises like Garhammer raises or a jackknife.
#7: If it feels easy, it’s not doing anything.
With all the misinformation out there, a lot of people think that all they have to do is show up and muscles will appear.
There’s no need to kill yourself everyday in the gym, but you do have to work hard and give it a full effort if you expect changes in your strength or performance.
Unfortunately, most people don’t effectively overload the body. For example, studies show that people sell themselves way short, underestimating the intensity with which they are training by as much as 35 percent.
To optimize the training effect a few things are necessary:
When training with weights, always choose a weight that you can’t lift more than 14 times—this correlates to about 65 percent of the maximal amount you can lift. You can go heavier too, choosing weights that make you reach failure by the 8th, 10th, or 12th rep, depending on if you want to build strength or are training for body composition.
Time all your rest periods. Few people actually time their rest periods, which is a huge mistake because it leads you to waste time and reduces the training effect.
For fat loss, choose rest intervals in the 10 to 60 second range. For strength gains, rest as much as 3 minutes, or do circuit training in which you alternate lower and upper body exercises, taking 1 to 2 minute rest periods.
#8: The mainstream media should never be trusted for workout advice.
You’ve heard it all:
“The best way to lose belly fat is with 40 minutes of aerobic cardio.”
“Squats will damage your spine and knees.”
“A 4-minute workout is all you need to get fit.”
This is all useless workout advice. The media is regularly distorting the results of exercise science research in order to give you attention-grabbing, but hopeless recommendations.
The problem isn’t the research studies as much as the fact that the media takes them way out of context. Most people are so confused they do nothing. At best, they leave people with workout ADD so that they switch from one training mode to another, never making any progress.
Get your workout advice from an educated and experienced trainer or another reputable scientific-based source that understands how the human body works.
#9: “Magic bullets” like weight loss supplements almost never work.
There’s no mystery as to how to improve your physique or gain strength.
People just don’t like the answer: Results take consistent training and a smart diet. The magic bullet for fat loss simply doesn’t exist.
You’ll get what you want a lot faster if you accept that the successful people are the ones who show up and use their workout time wisely. They figure out a way to eat that allows them to be satisfied with their meals and avoid hunger.
Be consistent and patient. Stay the course. Follow the plan. You will get what you desire.
#10: Exercise will solve many of your problems if you use the best techniques.
Most people are motivated to exercise for aesthetic reasons like fat loss or building muscle. That’s great, but the true power of exercise transcends aesthetics. Check out the following amazing benefits you can get from exercise:
- Physical activity reduces cancer risk by lowering inflammation and improving immune function.
- Weight training strengthens bone, builds muscle, and reduces belly fat—all factors that help you avoid health complications like high blood pressure, diabetes, and osteoporosis.
- Exercise improves brain function and learning so you’re smarter during your early years and sane in your golden years.
- Working out improves hormone balance and optimizes reproductive health and libido in both genders.
- Training helps you sleep, boosts mood and lowers depression and stress.
The hard thing for most people is to figure out what kind of training to do that will give them all of these amazing benefits. Fortunately you don’t need a complicated lifting program or to spend hours working out.
What you do need is a plan every time you exercise. Your plan should include what exercises you intend to do, weights, and the number of reps, sets, and rest periods.
In addition, interval training in which you intersperse hard burst of exercise with rest will promote fat loss and boost conditioning. Hill or stair walking is a great place to start. Depending on your experience level, try walking or running uphill followed by a comfortable walk back down. Repeat 4 to 10 times.