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Fitness rules you must break today!

Have a look at common gym beliefs, and how breaking the rules can actually help you achieve your fitness goals more quickly.

     Print Edition: September 21, 2008

Jamal Shaikh
Jamal Shaikh
There’s a vast amount of fitness information doing the rounds, and not all of it is as accurate as it claims to be. Take a look at the lifestyle supplements of popular morning newspapers, and you’ll see what we mean. Almost all of them run the obligatory health and fitness page at least once a week, and you often come across advice that contradicts itself, or offers opinions that are in direct conflict with views that appeared the week before. So, we’re going to look at common gym beliefs, and how breaking the rules can actually help you achieve your fitness goals more quickly.

Rule # 1: Stick to machines to prevent injury
How it started:
Exercise machine manufacturers, obviously!
Break the rule: Exercise machines work by isolating target muscles, thereby promising better results. But this also prevents natural body movement, which may actually increase the risk of injury. On the other hand, when you use free weights, your body makes natural adjustments throughout the exercise’s range of motions. This also works out smaller muscle groups and makes the exercise even more effective

Rule # 2: ‘Shock’ your muscles for best results
How it started: Bodybuilders who noticed how a new workout routine helped them achieve better results.
Break the rule: Switching exercises, sets and reps is one thing, but purposely overloading your system is a sure precursor to injury. Contrary to popular belief, being completely fatigued after your evening workout isn’t a sign of a good exercise session. In fact, exercise stimulates the senses, and a good post-workout meal later, you should be raring to paint the town red.

Rule # 3: There’s nothing like the treadmill to lose weight
How it started: Novice gym-goers who found that the treadmill was the only machine they were confident of using.
Break the rule: Cardio is the best “old-fashioned way” of losing weight. Remember, when you’re running for X amount of time, you’re burning calories only during that period. On the other hand, lifting weights (even light ones) and putting on a bit of muscle mass torches fat 24x7.

Rule # 4:

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60 crunches+60 leg raises every day=Great abs
How it started: Human nature, which overplays the importance given to vanity muscles; arms for men, a slim waist for women, and abs are the muscles of desire for both sexes.
Break the rule: Men’s Health’s September issue has a reader on its cover who has gone from fat to flat. Says Yashwin Srinivas: “Prolonged exercise doesn’t do anything more than lead you to exhaustion more quickly. Instead, do three sets of 12 reps each of crunches, followed by leg raises, three times a week. Keep your form in check. A few weeks later, you’ll be admiring your torso.”

 —Jamal Shaikh

(Jamal Shaikh is Editor, Men’s Health)

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