Setting the Story Straight

by Michelle Fiscus. 0 Comments

The health and fitness industry is not as regulated as it should be. There are dozens of trainer certifications—all with different criteria. You could stumble upon someone who holds a Masters in Kinesiology just as likely as a person who earned their credentials online in two hours. Because of this discrepancy, there is a whole lot of misinformation out there. In addition, the media doesn’t help out the cause by focusing on sensationalistic headlines and pseudo facts to sell magazine covers. Today, I hope to dispel some of these fitness myths you are likely to come across.

Myth 1: Lifting heavy weights makes women “bulky”, while light weights and high repetitions keeps women ‘toned”.

Ladies, this one is obviously for you. But, men might be able to use this information to help plan their own training and convince their girlfriends/wives/sisters, etc. to hop off the cardio machines and pick up some dumbbells.

Women are not going to “jiggle proof” their arms with 5-pound curls. In fact, if anything stands a chance to tone up your arms, it’s heavier weights. I know most magazines show lithe girls lifting pretty colored dumbbells, but that’s not going to get you the results you want.   

And while I understand your concern about bulking up, it’s just not physiologically possible.

Women don’t have the hormone levels to support that kind of muscle growth (even women with high androgen levels). Men can only put on a certain amount of muscle in any given time and that assumes they are eating enough calories with the right macronutrients and training hard.

Myth 2: Fat does not turn to muscle and vice versa.

When you start working out, you may notice your trouble spots are transforming from flabby to firm. It may appear that your fat has morphed into muscle, but that is simply not the case.

The two are totally different tissues. You can lose fat, or at least shrink your fat cells. You can also create an environment of muscle hypertrophy, where your muscles grow. Doing them simultaneously is hard. And even when it appears that everything is happening at once, it’s much more complicated process than that. If your diet and training are spot on you can come close to that kind of body recomposition. 

The good news is if you decide to stop training for some reason or if you get injured and cannot train anymore, that muscle is not going to turn into fat. The muscle may atrophy and get smaller. You may not look as “hard.” But, if you stay in a deficit or at a caloric maintenance level, fat cells are not going to get larger. The problem is, most people who stop working out also start eating more. It’s the combination of moving less and eating the same (or in excess) that piles on that. And even then, your muscle is not morphing into fat.

Myth 3: To shrink/grow/shape your trouble spots, spend more time on them.

At first glance, it seems to make sense that if you don’t like your abs, hundreds of crunches may solve that problem. Or if you hate the backs of your legs, maybe you use the leg curl machine but not the leg extension. Guys are notorious for working on their chest but neglecting their legs.

The truth is you can’t spot reduce an area. Where you lose fat is determined in large part by your genetics. You cannot will it away from certain places and you can’t work it off either.  If you lose weight, everything will be smaller—including the part of your body that bothers you the most. But you cannot pick and choose what shrinks first.

Oftentimes, this body part obsession turns into a problem. When you work on only certain muscle groups, the others are going to fall short. You are going to develop muscular imbalances which can affect your posture, cause aches and pains in your joints and put you at risk for injury.    

The way to correct this is to think about symmetry in weight training. For every chest exercise, spend an equal amount of time on your back. If you want to reshape your entire body, do a full body workout 2-3 times a week and focus on diet to get the results you want. 

Hopefully, you’ve come away from this article a little more informed. When it comes to your fitness and health, if something sounds too easy or too good to be true, it probably is. Try to approach magazines with a dose of skepticism, question information that doesn’t seem right, and keep your interest at heart.

If you come across some information and want to know the fact from fiction, email the author at


Michelle Fiscus writes a regular column for Michelle and her husband own a personal training and nutrition business based in Frederick County and hold industry certifications and credentials.

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