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Common fitness myths: Part II

Posted by Elizabeth Comeau  December 12, 2012 07:30 AM

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RyanHealy100.jpgRyan Healy is a personal trainer for the Lynch/van Otterloo (LVO) YMCA in Marblehead. She is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA, and earned her BS in Exercise Sports Science from Elon University. Find more posts by her in conjunction with the LVO YMCA at She can be reached at

Remember; please consult your doctor before starting any exercise program.

In my post last week, I covered three common fitness myths. This week I’ll cover another three popular misconceptions trainers hear all the time.

To work the abdominals, you must do crunches
Sit-ups and crunches used to be the meat and potato exercises when people thought of ab work. With new science developing and research studies coming out, there has been a big shift away from these exercises, based largely on the research of Stuart McGill, a spine bio-mechanics professor from the University of Waterloo. His research suggests that repeated flexing of the spine at its weakest point (as is targeted during crunches) can eventually contribute to a herniated disk or bulge because we can only bend that area so many times before it becomes weak and prone to injury. Because the main function of the abdominals is stabilization of the trunk and bracing the spine, exercises that work on these two elements while keeping the spine in a neutral position are great for the core. Try performing different plank variations, stability ball roll-outs, walkovers, push-ups, or pallof presses.

Resistance training should be broken up by body parts
Traditionally our ideas about weight lifting have come from bodybuilders. You’ll often hear people in the gym say they’re doing a “leg day” or a “shoulder day”. Lifters will isolate a certain area of the body and work that alone. While this can work well for bodybuilders, an alternative concept to this is training movements, not body parts, which works well for a majority of the population. The idea is that as humans we have normal movement patterns that integrate many muscle groups. Muscles don’t normally work in isolation in everyday life. We push, pull, squat, bend, lunge, and twist. Training these movements in a balanced way makes strength training more functional and applicable to the tasks and activities of your daily life. To learn more about this concept, see this video.

Women should stick to doing cardio instead of lifting weights
Throughout many commercial gyms, I often see a multitude of women on the treadmills, bikes, and ellipticals, but few are to be found near the dumbbell or power racks. Teaching women how to strength train is something I’m passionate about, and I even wrote about it back in September. There is often a fear among us ladies that resistance training will lead to massive muscle gains, but we just don’t have enough testosterone to elicit that kind of response. What we can gain from strength training, is a faster metabolism, lower body fat levels, more defined looking body, stronger muscles, and better balance, coordination, flexibility, and bone strength. What’s not to love?

Staying fit is an important part of staying healthy. This blog will offer exercise tips from experts as well as share the personal journeys of Globe staff members committed to fitness. No matter your age or energy level, we invite you to join in and share your own story. How do you find time to work out? What are your daily challenges? Let us know and read along -- and together, we can all get moving.


Elizabeth Comeau is a social media marketing manager at She will be blogging about her personal fitness journey and using a device called a FitBit to track her weekly goals and progress (see below). Follow her journey and share your own. Read more about Elizabeth and this blog.

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