Workout Myths Exposed: Vol. 2

Workout Myths Exposed: Vol. 2

Here are three more training techniques that do absolutely nothing to help you gain strength, build muscle, or improve your athletic performance.

In the first volume of this series we discussed three training mistakes happening at gyms across the country. I’d, however, be flat out lying to you if I said those are the only three I see on a daily basis.

Thus, in an effort to set the record straight here are three more myths that need to be exposed. We’re all, at one time or another, guilty of doing one or more of these, so please read on, help spread the word, and let’s set the record straight once and for all.

Mistake #4: Copious Volumes of Long Distance Running

It seems when an athlete (or even your general fitness enthusiast) seeks advice for conditioning, he or she usually hears something like:

“Let’s see, ummm….just go on a long run 2-3x/week….yeah, that should do it!”

Here are three things more productive than performing copious amounts of long distance running:

  1. Slamming your head against a wall, repeatedly.
  2. Throwing yourself into a shark tank.
  3. Swallowing a live hand grenade.

You see, handing out the, “just go run” recommendation demonstrates the advice giver doesn’t have a clue about proper conditioning, or human physiology.

First, as a strength and conditioning coach, my primary goal is to keep my athletes free of injury. Running is far from the most forgiving activity on the body, for, as a frame of reference, a distance as short as two miles requires roughly 3,000 plyometric repetitions, with forces of 2-4 times bodyweight. Go back and read that again (I’ll wait).

I’d be surprised if you didn’t accrue any kind of overuse injury in your training cycle when placing that kind of beating on your body regularly.

Second, excessive endurance training can lead to a loss in strength and power output (due to fiber type transformations). So unless you’re trying to lose muscle mass and develop that “skinny fat” look, you may want to rethink your long run approach, and opt for something more effective like sprint and strength training.

Mistake #5: Isolated Bicep Work

Every time I see a guy spending more than 5-10 minutes on direct bicep work, a bit of my soul dies inside. Prioritizing the multi-joint “pulling” variations (chinups, rows, etc.) will do much more for your strength, size, and athleticism then curling away in front of the mirror. Even if your ONLY goal is to look better in a sleeveless shirt, it still holds true.

I admit, this is something I didn’t actually believe until I gave it an honest shot in my own training back in college. But think about it for a second.

Compare the chinup and the basic barbell curl. Both involve the same action of the bicep: elbow flexion. However, which is going to provide more loading, and thus a greater stimulus to build muscle? The chinup, in which you’re pulling your entire bodyweight; or the barbell curl, in which you’re pulling on a mere 45-100lbs? I’ll let you answer that one on your own. More weight, more size, more looks when you’re wearing your cut sleeve tee. Got it? Good.

Mistake #6: Wasting Valuable Time on Agility ladders

While it may look effective on the surface, all spending lots of time on agility ladders will do is….make you better at running agility ladders. Yep. That’s it. Unfortunately, most of us have been fed a massive dose of “speed camp” marketing, which essentially states that in order to run faster you should do agility drills, and perform various sprint drills, until you’re blue in the face.

The truth is, improving your movement prowess is a byproduct of developing strength throughout the entire kinetic chain, on top of promoting stability amongst the knees, low back, and shoulders (and developing mobility surrounding the ankles, hips, and thoracic spine). Yes, various jumping and sprinting exercises when done properly may be performed too, but ensure they remain in the proper context.

Remember Newton’s Third Law: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction” (for those of you that purged high school physics from your memory). The stronger you are, the more force you’ll be able to push into the ground (action), thus propelling you further and faster away from the ground (reaction).

The more structurally sound your body is - via proper strength training - the better you’ll control your body as you change directions, preventing you from crumbling like a pile of toothpicks while doing so. How many elite level athletes do you know without a solid posterior chain? ‘Nuff said.

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About the Author

Steve Reed is Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) who holds a degree in Science of Exercise and Nutrition from Virginia Tech, and currently works as a performance coach for Student-Athlete and Adult Performance Training (SAPT) in Fairfax, VA. Reed first began his pursuit of helping athletes achieve healthy, high-performing bodies, through volunteering with the Virginia Tech Strength and Conditioning staff. There he trained the Baseball, Wrestling, Swimming, and Softball teams. Since then, he has helped a wide variety of people achieve their goals including: NCAA athletes, professional bodybuilders, competitive powerlifters, and “average joes” seeking to improve their bodies' health and performance. Reed also has experience working as a Physical Therapy Aide in both Northern Virginia and Blacksburg, and currently competes in various obstacle course races in the Mid-Atlantic Region. He, along with the SAPT staff, publishes a daily blog at http://saptstrength.com/