Letting Go of Old, Outdated and Obsolete Fitness Beliefs

Letting Go of Old, Outdated and Obsolete Fitness Beliefs

December 24, 2023 // Fitness

This December marked 16 years since I became an accredited fitness professional. A lot has changed – evolved – since I entered a field, and an industry, that is still in its infancy, marked by constant changes to the services and products being offered.

Many of my exercise beliefs, references and interpretations I once held  have been adjusted, disproven or completely scraped altogether. And rightfully so. What I knew then was (mostly) what was available at the time. What I know now, and continue to learn today, has provided a whole new lens and scope of understanding that completely reworks the foundation of human preservation and optimization. 

Back in 2007, NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) was considered the gold standard of exercise education as utilized in a commercial setting. Naturally, I dove headfirst into their system, completing all of their advanced courses just as I begun working as a fitness professional. 

Hitting the ground running, I was the NASM book of knowledge, reciting and applying everything that I had learned and been taught. It wasn’t too long afterwards until I started to see that there were many missing elements into what seemed like the complete fitness education service, as the results were mediocre, at best. The rules and constraints that were steadfast in structuring exercise as a formula designed to produce a specific yield fell far short of its mark. Within a few years, new studies and deeper research emerged into this very new fitness industry, changing what was being prescribed at the time and recommended to the general population. NASM was shelved by the top professionals, myself included, as we retooled a more robust exercise experience. The product was constantly changing – for the better – and still is today.

With all of the changes in the exercise interpretations and deliverables over the years, from the nuances to the overall hierarchies on what is necessary to maintain health and wellness, it’s no surprise that there is such a backlog of old, outdated, and obsolete practices being continued and followed to this day. The same formula that may have helped you achieve a certain baseline of fitness is the same formula that is preventing you from unlocking greater adaptations with your own body.

Today is the perfect time to consider a more refined approach, which starts with letting go of the past ways.

— Of course, before I list the strongest ideals that need reconsideration, it’s important to highlight the most important principle that still holds true today:

Anything is better than nothing. Even the most questionable exercise practice is still far more helpful than being sedentary, and that’s indisputable. —

Ok – now onto the chopping block.

The following principles are verified to be old, outdated and obsolete, and are primed for removal from the current-day exercise experience:

  • “Women shouldn’t lift heavy weights – they’ll get bulky”
    • There are immense physiological benefits when women use a challenging strength training resistance (within their capabilities), such as improvements to bone density, blood markers, metabolism and all of the expected muscle and connective tissue formations.
    • Women also possess far fewer muscle fibers and testosterone than men,  both necessary for growth. As well, in order to grow, you need calories, and most likely there is not a surplus being consumed unintentionally. Women will not become bulky from lifting heavy weights.
  • “Make sure to stretch after a workout to prevent soreness and tightness”
    • There is no research to support this long-standing belief and practice. Stretching fascia (muscle tissue) to length provides temporary relief and added range, both which dissipate within a few hours. There is no way to prevent soreness, but rather improve the speed of your ability to recover, which is largely controlled by your sleep quantity, protein intake and overall conditioning.
    • Tightness is governed by your CNS (Central Nervous System) as a protective measure so you don’t access ranges of motion where you presently do not have control. Think of tightness as a form of weakness (or inexperience) in a certain angle/space. It’s a safeguard. Stretching, just pulling something into an angle, without strengthening the tissues’ capacity within that angle, is shortsighted in practice. In mobility training, we implement PAILs and RAILs at length for this very reason – to build strength at length. This is how you address tightness.
  • “Carbs will make you fat”
    • No, no, no, no, no, no. This claim is simply false. Weight gain is the byproduct of an imbalance (surplus) of energy (calories) relative to usage (activity).  No one macronutrient is responsible for an increase in calories. In fact, in terms of caloric density, carbohydrates are far less impactful at 4 calories per gram as compared to dietary fat, which yields roughly 9 calories per gram. 
    • Carbohydrates are considered the body’s most preferred source of energy. There are many different types of carbohydrates, from simple to complex. A teaspoon of pure sugar, a bowl of oatmeal and a piece of fruit are all sources of carbohydrates, and it is the speed of which they are broken down (largely influenced by the presence of fiber and/or protein) that determines how it will affect your blood sugar levels. All carbohydrates are broken down into sugar after being consumed, and while a higher intake in sugar (absent of fiber and/or protein) can trigger a higher resistance to insulin (which causes an increase in fat storage), carbohydrates are not the culprit in weight gain. 
  • “Squats are the best overall exercise”
    • I can vividly remember preaching this notion for a number of years, as I’m sure many former clients reading this will remember when I would push this belief. While the exercise known as “The Squat” can stimulate a number of areas on the lower body, and mimics a natural motion of changing levels through sitting without support, there is no one exercise superior to another. In fact, considering the prerequisites required of the ankles, knees, hips and spine while performing “The Squat”, there are many that should not practice the skill of squatting until they address the limitations of the movement. There is no one gym exercise that is superior to all others.
    • Now, if there was ever a foundational exercise that has the most overall value to the human body, I would put my vote behind diaphragmatic breathing. Learning to connect, control and improve your ability to breathe using your diaphragm (belly) gives you such an advantage in stress management, cardiovascular abilities and core stability. No gym required.
  • “You don’t need to exercise every day”
    • This a loaded topic, and is largely shortsighted within the overall message. There is immense value in prioritizing recovery when needed, allowing your body to rest and rebuild. However, this does not mean do nothing on recovery days. Each day you wake up is another opportunity to improve any of the markers of health and wellness, from heart health and respiratory ability to range of motion access and strength progressions.
    • The best way to thrive is incorporate daily physical nourishments for your health and wellness. This is best practiced using Daily CARs (Controlled Articulation Rotations), which prepares each joint for movement in every possible position that can be accessed. Another natural movement that is non-stimulating but incredibly effective on health preservation is taking a daily walk. Both of these habits pack plenty of value and can be done anywhere in the world. Make these a daily non-negotiable and you will mitigate most regressions, injuries and issues that compound as entropy increases.

As you can see, the science and evidence evolves, and so must our interpretations and practices. 

The more I know, the less I know. 

This is a fascinating educational phenomenon that only reinforces my lifelong curiosity into developing and preserving the human body. 

As we close out 2023, I wish everyone Happy Holidays and continued success in preserving and optimizing our own health and wellness.

Be well and see you in 2024.