7 Fitness Myths We Need to Banish


So if you’re familiar with my work I hope that you have gained some understanding of fitness. You are probably a little aware of what works and what doesn’t.

Unfortunately not everyone is as enlightened as yourself and are still susceptible to myths and downright lies being pushed around the fitness industry.

Some of these ideas are pushed out of sheer ignorance, whilst others have ulterior motives with an aim to sell you something.

I want to separate some of that fact from fiction. Let me banish some of these myths. I’m going to examine 7 of these and offer my opinion;

Lift Light Weights to Tone Muscles

I hear this from uneducated people all the time. Sometimes incompetent PT’s even. Lifting light weights over and over will not tone your muscles.

Yes you are witnessing another rant on the whole muscle toning subject. Let me reiterate; THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS TONING MUSCLES.

Your muscles either get larger or smaller. No toning, sculpting or shaping. Your muscles will either increase or decrease in size.

Now that we’ve cleared that up you might ask ‘can lifting light weights increase muscle size?’. Technically yes. It is good to include a variety of rep schemes in your workouts.

However, the best muscle building exercises are compound lifts such as squats, deadlifts, bench presses and rows. These should not be performed to super high repetitions.

The pain of high repetitions of these would be excruciating whilst the margin of error from a form perspective is huge. It would be impossible to perform 25 back squats with perfect form.

Higher rep work should only be done with isolation movements such as machine exercises. If you want to build muscle you’ll have to include a mixture of rep schemes. Just don’t think that light weight equals toning.

Eating Late at Night Makes You Fat

I nearly didn’t include this one because I thought it was too obvious. Then I remembered that many new clients believe this to be true.

The only thing that makes you fat is eating too many calories throughout the entire day. So if you eat 2000kcal calories before or after 6pm it will make no difference from a fat gain perspective.

If eating at night means you end up eating too many calories then yes perhaps it is a problem. It isn’t the eating the late at night itself that’s causing the issue, it’s the over consumption of calories.

So if you want a big plate of chicken and veg at 9pm you go for it!

Do Sit Ups to Lose Belly Fat

‘How do I lose fat around this area?’ is a question I get asked every week. I understand, no one wants fatty bits around their midsection.

But I’m sorry no exercise I give you is going to magically make that fat disappear. No crunches, sit ups, planks, hoola hooping or acrobatics will do it.

It simply comes down to losing body fat. How do you do that? Sorry but you’re going to have to eat less calories than you burn. That’s the only way.

I recommend tracking your calories for a little while using an app such as MyFitnessPal, at least for a few weeks. This will give you an idea of the volume of food you can consume to lose weight.

Do Cardio to Lose Weight

I think the attitude towards this subject is starting to change. People are becoming a little more educated on what drives fat gain and loss. As mentioned previously it all comes down to calories in vs calories out.

Regardless of whether you’re doing cardio or strength training, if you are in a caloric deficit you will eventually lose weight.

Cardio’s main benefit is that it can burn a significant amount of calories. A 60 minute bout on the treadmill could burn up to 600-700 calories.

However, sacrificing strength training for cardio will mean greater losses in muscle mass which will lower your metabolism further. Plus muscles look good, especially when body fat is low! Who’d say no to popping shoulders?

You’re Addicted to Sugar

We’ve all heard it. Carol in this office states that she cannot leave down a packet of hobnobs until the packet is done.

The office know it all chirps up with ‘you’re addicted to sugar, sure isn’t it more addictive than cocaine?’


Perhaps you feel similar, chocolate could be your enemy. Maybe eating that family sized Dairy Milk all by yourself for the third time this week is a sign of sugar addiction. Fortunately not.

The notion that we can become addicted to sugar mostly came from rodent studies. It is true that sugar causes similar neurological effects in the brain as cocaine but that is not to say it is as addictive.

If you were truly addicted to sugar you would pass no remarks on whipping out a bag of caster sugar and spooning it into your gob. You never ‘crave’ sugar like that.

Therefore it isn’t the sugar itself that has addictive effects. It’s most likely a combination of fatty and sugary foods. Perhaps related to the reward centres in the brain.

So don’t blame your sugar addiction next time you over consume, blame your food addiction.

Every Gym Session Should Be Torture

No pain no gain right? Wrong.

You don’t have to feel like you’ve been run over by a truck every time you leave the gym. In fact, muscle soreness is actually a pretty poor predictor of muscle growth.

Yes you may feel a little tender after those heavy squats but it isn’t the pain itself that is driving muscle growth. Squatting to you absolutely drop is a sure fire way to feel burned out and unable to work out for three days.


On the other hand you don’t want to mosey on through your workout lifting half of what you’re capable of and feeling that you’re making a difference. There is some middle ground.

You want to sufficiently challenge your muscles so they grow but not so much so that you crawl out of the gym and can’t bear the thoughts of returning for another week.

You Need to Be In The Gym 5 Times Per Week

We all know the guy that’s in the gym EVERY time you’re there. Does he ever leave? Probably not. He’s probably doing the usual ‘bro’ split; splitting his training up into chest, back, shoulder, arm and leg days. Bet he conveniently forgets about legs some days and does more chest!

Well you don’t have to do that. In fact you shouldn’t do that. If you’re new to lifting then three times a week is more than enough to get results. Perhaps four is better than three but the difference might be negligible.

It takes correct structuring of training to elicit the proper benefits of three days per week programs. Volume (the number of hard sets) is an important driver of muscle growth. Ideally we would hit 10-20 sets of each body part in a given week.

This takes a little thought on how to structure your training. Personally I am a fan of doing full body workouts. This is an easy way to hit all muscle groups sufficiently, with the benefit of making recovery that bit easier.

For example you might decide to do one chest exercise each day. On Monday you would do BB bench press for 4 sets of 6 reps. Wednesday you might do 3 sets of 8 on DB bench press. Finally on Friday you could do 4 sets of 10 reps on incline bench press.

That’s a total of 11 sets per week for chest, which is more than enough to get results for beginners. Split up all your body parts and fit in the correct number of sets for each.

That’s it, 7 fitness myths that we need to banish. If you think of any more do leave a comment or send me a DM!

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If you’re interested in taking part in a program with me why not send me an email to jamesmcdowellhealth@gmail.com

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