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Over the years there have been a number of training and nutrition related myths which have a number of people believing them. So let’s clear up the fact from the fiction shall we?
People often believe that they can spot reduce fat (burn fat in specific areas) by performing body part specific exercises. For example, if you want to burn belly fat, do hundreds of sit ups. If you want to burn fat on the back of your arm, do tricep dips. What people don’t realise is that fat loss occurs when you burn more calories than what you consume of a period of time; and because fat is stored globally, not locally, when you burn fat you will be burning it everywhere in the body and not just in a specific body part (or area).
If however you tend to be storing an excess of fat in a specific area, it may be that your hormones are not in balance. While men naturally battle to lose belly fat and women tend to battle with their thighs, increased levels of certains hormones can actually cause you to hold fat in specific areas. For example, if you are carrying fat on your shoulders and hips, you may have an increased insulin resistance. If you carry excess fat on your upper arms and chest, you may have lower levels of androgen hormones (which include male sex hormones like testosterone).
The just of it is that you cannot spot reduce fat through exercise. So if your diet is on point, instead of concentrating on tirelessly working the area you want to lose fat, rather perform a balanced weight training program (which works all of your body parts equally) and add HIIT cardio into your routine. If you find you are losing fat everywhere else but not in that specific area, then consider checking your hormone levels.
There are a lot of things in life where if you do them more, you will get better results. Take studying for a test, the more you study, the better you will know the work and therefore the better you will do. However, fitness is not one of things. The reason is that you don’t actually build muscle while you are in the gym, you actually build it while you recover. While working muscle to break down muscle fibers is a necessary part of growth, it is in the hours after training where the muscle is repaired and rebuilt. The breaking down process can occur within a few minutes while the repairing process can take up to 48 hours.
With that said, if you subject your body to more training than what it can effectively repair from, you will be breaking down more muscle than what you will be building, meaning won’t see any positive results. More isn’t always better.
I am sure you have all heard this one – do low reps if you want to build muscle and high reps if you want to lose fat. While a low to medium rep range will help you gain strength and build muscle, higher reps won’t help you to lose fat. I am not sure where this comes from but perhaps it is because you get a muscle burn from higher reps which people may think will result in fat burning, however, I can assure you that it won’t. The burn is actually caused by a build-up of lactic acid in the muscle which gives a burning sensation in the muscle.
In actual fact, lifting heavy weights in a medium rep range (8-15) will help to burn more calories during your workout due to the increased demand placed on the muscle and after your training session because of the phenomenon known as EPOC.
Achieving an overly muscular physique is extremely difficult, even for men who have an abundance of the primary muscle-building hormone testosterone. For women, it is even more difficult and I can assure you that it won’t happen by accident.
Lifting heavy weights will actually help to build a toned physique, provided you have a low body fat percentage.
When it comes to getting a bulky look, this is mainly dependent on diet. The reason power lifters look like this is not specifically because they are lifting heavy weights; it is because they are eating to fuel the activity at hand. They work to find a calorie intake which optimizes their performance. Aesthetics is not their primary concern. So basically, if you are eating a surplus of calories in conjunction with heavy weight training, only then is there a chance of becoming bulky.
There is a certain amount of truth to this myth in that yes, machines do work to isolate the muscles better. However, the context of the statement “machines target the muscles better” refers to the fact that in targeting the muscles better, you will get more growth. This is most certainly not the case.
While machines do isolate the muscle, they provide support along a pre-defined path and range of motion which is not suitable for every body type. This means that you may not be working through a complete range of motion and that stabilizer muscles won’t be called into play.
Free weights on the other hand work through a complete range of motion and require stabilizer muscles to prevent the weight moving back and forth as well as side to side. Another benefit of free weights is that you can perform compound lifts with these. This will help with a natural release of testosterone and growth hormone, both of which can help you build muscle; plus, these lifts burn a significant amount of calories.