I’m often asked generic questions such as what’s the best exercise? Or which exercise is better for a specific goal… and in all honesty it is really challenging to answer these kinds of questions concisely as it really depends on many variables which are individual to each person. It is exactly this point that is so important yet very rarely emphasised in the media or blogs etc. People are always been sold on the quick fix and time and time again the individual exercise prescription is ignored, hence the questions mentioned earlier. Have you ever noticed that the magazine covers are always trying to sell the same thing? “best exercises for chest” “flat tummy secrets” etc.
So, I’ve selected some usual myths and questions from clients, friends and social media followers and given the answers below. I must add I have kept my answers quite simplistic however, please do feel free to contact me if you would like a more in depth explanation.
“Is yoga the best option to get more flexible?”
It really depends on the reason why you are not flexible in the first place. It also depends on the teacher (stay away from the ones that physically force you into a specific position). One possible reason you are not flexible could be because you are not strong enough… and if this is the case then putting yourself into positions that require a lot of strength is not a good idea as you could very easily get injured (this applies to the majority of yoga poses). Understanding your body is key to choosing what is the best approach. Don’t get me wrong, yoga is a great way to exercise but due to it’s popularity there should be more emphasis on educating their students.
A statement I hear often is “Yoga is mainly stretching”
No it’s not! It requires a lot of strength too.
“I need to be more flexible. What can I do?”
Why do you need to be more flexible? Are you a ballet dancer, gymnast or circus performer? In most cases, no!
We are all different, just because some people in your exercise class are more flexible than you that doesn’t mean you are not flexible. We all have our own ranges of movement as the brain determines how far our body can go safely. Forcing past these ranges of movement can put yourself at risk of a serious injury.
“I was told I have tight hamstrings and I need to stretch more as I can’t touch my toes”
Firstly that’s a big assumption by the person who made that remark especially if they came to this conclusion just by looking at you. It’s like going to your doctor and having them guess your diagnosis by looking at you without conducting any tests or examinations. Yes you might have tight hamstrings and if you do, you need to figure out why and stretching will not fix it. You should see someone who can perform a specific assessment to determine which muscles are activating and which are not and who can give you exercises to help with this so you can correct to the potential underlying problem.
“Is Pilates the best approach for back pain?”
Pilates is great. The awareness component is particular good.
ie the emphasis on mind and body connection. Pilates performed alongside some weight training/ personal training should be the second step after a rehab specialist assessment and/or treatment.
“Being a women, if I do weights will I bulk up?”
Unless you take loads of drugs, do a bodybuilding training program, eat like a demon the answer is never. If you keep doing stupid jumping around exercises or any other kind of non-sense fitness activity you won’t get even “toned”.
“Which diet is best?”
If diets worked everyone would be walking around with their ideal body. Quick approaches fade as fast as they come. Yo-yo diets, starving or eating empty calories are not the answer. Do you realise how unhealthy it is to do that? The key is to have a balanced lifestyle. This way you will always be ready for a holiday or spontaneous get aways.
“Is cardio best to lose weight?”
NO. If you want to lose weight you need to be in a slight calorie deficit. Cardio can be added to your program but shouldn’t be the only activity that you do. Building some muscle is super important to increase your metabolic rate and therefore burning more calories even when you are at rest for example watching tv. Don’t forget that what you eat plays a huge role in not only your body composition goals but also your mood, sleep and recovery.
“Body weight training is more functional then machines”
Don’t make me laugh….
The titles given to exercise such as Pilates, Yoga, Personal Training or Fitness are there to help us distinguish the approach however all of it is exercise and can help us to get healthier and fitter but if performed with a lack of knowledge or guidance can actually hurt us. It all come down to what YOUR body can tolerate and fitness professionals should be aware of this when coaching one to one or teaching classes.
So, on a more serious note as fitness professionals we should all take more responsibility when talking about these subjects covered in the article. There are lots of research papers and reliable sources out there to help expand ones knowledge. Creating myths due to laziness and ignorance only affects the industry and makes us all look bad.