Nine new fitness myths – here's how you can show your customers your expertise by smartly debunking them
The fitness world is not the disc you find on a barbell, but rather a kettlebell – okay, that was a just a joke, the latest findings from the world of training science are not quite that radical, but even so: Today there is a never-ending stream of rumours regarding the best ways in which to improve strength and endurance, as well as the methods to be avoided at all cost. Prof. Dr. Stephan Geisler from the IST University of Applied Sciences in Düsseldorf believes that it is essential to debunk these myths. In the following, this sports scientist will shine a light on the most recent myths – so that you can confidently show your customers the truth while also optimising your own workout.
Hard facts from the expert: Prof. Dr. Stephan Geisler is the Professor for Fitness & Health at the IST University of Applied Sciences in Düsseldorf (www.ist-hochschule.de) and Assistant Professor for Olympic Weightlifting at the German Sport University Cologne, where he received his doctorate in molecular sports medicine. The focus of both his research and instruction is weight training. He has been educating students and fitness trainers for more than 15 years and has written for various international trade publications. He offers tips and tricks for athletes and trainers on his YouTube channel “Der Fitnessprofessor” [The Fitness Professor] (www.youtube.com/user/DerFitnessprofessor) and on Facebook (www.facebook.com/DerFitnessprofessor).
Myth 1: The greater the pain, the greater the impact
Does your customer believe that training has to hurt if it’s going to help? Do you believe that too? Well, this myth’s days are numbered. According to the sports scientist: “If a professional weightlifter were to go for broke on their first workout of the week, they wouldn't be able to do a thing for days afterwards – and that is something they simply cannot allow to happen.” Instead, he says that people should not try and test their limits every time they exercise. “In my opinion, too many people believe that it is necessary to push themselves to the limit, to a point of muscular exhaustion, yet it really isn't all that important.” In fact, even advanced power athletes should not work out until it hurts unless they are about to start a week of holiday where they can really put their feet up. When it comes to pain, it is essential that you proceed carefully. “Lots of people interpret their muscle fatigue or cramps the following day as pain, yet each of these sensations might actually be an indicator that they have had a hard and effective training session,” explains Geisler. As a result, it is up to you to properly assess the persons you are dealing with so that you can determine whether you need to ‘torment’ them a bit more.
Myth 2: Stretching will cause muscles to shrink
Do your customers shake their heads in disbelief when you ask them to do stretching exercises – because they are afraid of losing face, or rather, their muscles? With this knowledge update, you should be able to convince them otherwise. According to the expert: “Recently, a colleague in Canada proved that stretching in and of itself is enough to result in muscle hypertrophy.” The ‘how’ still hasn't been fully explained, but scientists believe that stretching results in additional micro-injuries to the muscles, which could in turn lead to the excretion of satellite cells that promote muscle growth. Even so, the sports scientist does not recommend extended periods of stretching directly after a hard workout. “This is because during long and intensive stretching, muscles are no longer properly supplied with blood while being stretched – and this can delay the recovery phase,” says Geisler.
Myth 3: Cardio training is out
Do you believe that an hour on the treadmill would be enough to scare off any private training customers? You're probably right, at least for anyone who is not looking to run a marathon. This means that it is your job to make this appealing to them, because completely ignoring endurance is really not a good idea. As the expert explains: “Sports science has demonstrated that cardio workouts are very important.” Yet endurance training the way it used to be promoted – spending a time equivalent of two full-length films on an exercise bike or heading into the woods for a run – is not the only way this can be done. “These classic methods are really only suitable for those people who are actually able to relax in that way,” says Geisler. For everyone else, brief HIIT units incorporating strength exercises have similarly positive adaptive impacts on the cardiovascular system. Why are these also of interest to power athletes? Because good basic endurance improves the fat metabolism and shortens the regeneration period.
Myth 4: A person's BMI reveals their fitness level
Okay, if your customer has done very little sport in the past, the body-mass index can certainly offer a reliable look at their fitness level. Things become more difficult, however, when your training recommendations have been so well received that your client has put on a good deal of muscle. In cases such as these, the BMI value may classify someone as obese even if their body fat percentage is below ten percent, and that is the problem with this index: it does not take muscle mass into account. So what can be done? “Athletes are better off using the Fat Free Mass Index, or FFMI for short,” says Geisler. In addition to weight and height, you also need to know the body fat percentage to calculate this. For values of 25 or 26, it is likely that anabolic steroids are being used, because it is simply not possible to build such mounds of muscle using solely natural methods. So if you are suspicious that someone is using illicit means, the FFMI offers you a sound foundation on which to act.
Myth 5: Training on an empty stomach will make you thinner
This myth is particularly widespread among women. Sometimes they come into the studio when they are starving, then wonder why their workout doesn’t really amount to much. “Doing a power workout on an empty stomach is not a good idea. Not only does the body need nutrients during such a workout, but it also requires these directly afterwards as well,” explains the sports scientist. In particular, carbohydrates serve as a ‘power supply’, while protein helps build up muscle. Ideally, one should eat long-chain carbohydrates such as whole-meal bread or pasta one or two hours before working out, and then something easily digestible, like a banana, about ten minutes before training. In other words, do not let your customers start lifting weights with low blood sugar, as they will tire quickly and their training will be much less effective. If they had eaten first, on the other hand, they would be able to work out better and burn more calories. In other words, the energy balance is significantly better.
Myth 6: Split workouts are the most effective way to train
It is high time to rethink what is probably your most frequent recommendation! According to the lecturer, that is because recent research makes it clear that: “Split training appears to have been over-hyped.” A study conducted in the USA compared a whole-body workout comprising three weekly training units with a classic two-way split comprising four units – and the split method actually came in second. According the Geisler, “It really is probably better to conduct whole-body training.”
Myth 7: The anabolic window is tiny
There is no need to get stressed about this – there is simply nothing wrong with waiting until after a shower to have an after-workout snack. Geisler: “I believe that our cells are more sensitive to nutrient intake for a good half-hour to an hour after sports training.” Even so, the time during which this ‘anabolic window’ is open varies from person to person, and also depends on the intensity, duration and scope of physical exertion. If your customer does not earn their living doing sports and they are not planning on taking part in the FIBO Men’s Physique Cup, then a few minutes are not going to make a difference.
Myth 8: Great bodies are made at night
You’ll be relieved to know that you can now offer personal training and do your own training during the daytime as well. The reason: “There is not a single study that has demonstrated that any particular time of day is better for building muscle mass – and that includes evenings,” explains the sports scientist. Instead, physical performance is governed to a far greater degree by an individual's biorhythms, and your client has to judge this for themselves, while also combining their workouts with their job and family. Hopefully this knowledge of their potential flexibility regarding the time of day will allow you to relieve some of their stress.
Myth 9: No-one should eat carbohydrates after 6:00 p.m.
Even if your customers are looking to lose weight, that does not mean that they can never again eat risotto in the evening simply because they are afraid of reducing the effectiveness of their training. The energy balance is really what matters here. Geisler is certain: “Some people simply need more carbohydrates in the evening.” This does not mean that they have to sacrifice any of the night-time regeneration that is so important for building up their muscles, however. In fact, the reverse is true: “A chicken salad would put more strain on my digestive system than pasta, and I’d sleep worse with this choice as well,” says the expert.