Myths of Exercise Prescriptions
Jamie Hale reviews four of the training myths circulating the fitness world.
This article is based on material presented by the late Dr. Mel Siff who always challenged the status quo and many complacent folks, the "no pain-no gain" school of thinkers, were often outraged, even hostile to his ideas. The problem with Dr. Siff was that he was generally right which made him all the more infuriating. In the world of fitness, we are constantly reminded of rules, theories, guidelines, and exercises prescriptions. The problem is we have begun to take these rules as law. In science a law refers to a fact, something proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. A scientific law cannot be broken. The majority of rules we are exposed to in the fitness world are broken daily. Most of these rules are simply over-exaggerated simplifications that have no sound evidence to support them.
Myth Number One
Maximum Heart Rate and Cardiovascular Fitness
The following are standard and generally accepted formulas:
According to these formulas every one of the same age has the same maximum heart rate. That is like saying everyone is the same height and weighs the same. The traditional maximum heart rate formula is of little value for fitness professionals. It is actually only a guideline, a general starting off point (something to write on cardio exercise equipment). It does make fitness professionals sound extremely intelligent, however. Peter Janssen proposes a more reliable formula for determining maximum heart rate in his book Lactate Threshold Training. The method described for determining maximum heart rate (HRmax), Janssen (2001), is conducted as follows:
The training heart rate of 60-80% that is often prescribed is nothing more than a generalized theory. Advanced athletes usually require higher levels of intensity to provide adequate training to the cardiovascular system, while novice trainees may require significantly lower intensity levels.
Motorcycle racing drivers have been shown to reach 110% of their maximum heart rate for significant periods of time during their race. Their heart rates are beyond 90% of maximum heart rate for hours. How can you have 110% of maximum heart rate? Simply because their current maximum heart rate is incorrect. 100% of anything means you have reached full capacity. Think about this statement for a while. When you take a test with 20 questions and you answered all of them correctly you scored 100%. You reached your maximum scoring range. The same holds true for heart rate. If you go beyond the supposed 100% this implies that the maximum heart rate prescribed was false.)
Summing this up: While standard formulas proposed above were meant to provide trainers and athletes with effective safe guidelines they have created enormous confusion as well. Individuals vary tremendously with regards to intensity levels required to tax the cardiovascular system.
Myth Number Two
"Massive muscles are stronger than smaller muscles"
The Truth: Massive muscles are not necessarily stronger than smaller muscles. In general, Olympic weightlifters and power-lifters are much stronger than massive bodybuilders.
It is important to distinguish between two types of hypertrophy: sarcoplasmic hypertrophy and sarcomere hypertrophy.
Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy refers to enlargement of non-contractile elements of muscle common among bodybuilders. Sarcomere hypertrophy refers to the enlargement of the contractile actin-myosin structures common among weightlifters. The force produced by a muscle depends on the number and pattern of nerve impulses exciting the muscle. It is also largely dependent on intramuscular coordination (the ability to utilize multiple muscles in synergist fashion to carry out a movement).
Myth Number Three
"Heavy weight training reduces flexibility and speed"
You have probably heard that weight training reduces flexibility and speed numerous times. This is a ridiculous statement. The top sprinters, Olympic weightlifters, and numerous other successful athletes train against heavy resistance. After all, a monumental element of speed production is fast twitch fibre recruitment, which is enhanced greatly with proper weight training.
Siff (2000) has shown that full range resistance training is the best way of developing functional flexibility. Olympic weightlifters have been shown to equal or outperform top sprinters in sprints of up to 30 meters. They have also been shown to be second only to gymnasts in overall flexibility.
Myth Number Four
"Heavy weight training makes you bulky"
You have probably often heard people say: "I do not want to train with heavy weights because I might get too big".
Bodybuilders wish getting massively muscular were this simple. In fact, training with very heavy weights in the 1-5 rep range has been shown to contribute little to muscular hypertrophy. Training with sub-maximal loads has been proven to be more effective for gaining muscle mass.
Massive hypertrophy is a result of great genetics, an appropriate training regimen, a surplus of calories and often supplementation with illegal drugs. Big muscles don't just happen. Jamie Hale
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About the Author
Jamie Hale is a Sports Conditioning Coach in the USA, member of World Marital Arts Hall of Fame and contributor to numerous exercise and sports journals.
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