Today we are going back to Gym Myth Land to debunk some more fitness bullshit we’ve been fed for years. Today, we ask: Is lifting max weights the quickest way to muscle growth? Does a treadmill put less stress on your joints than road running? And are machines safer than free weights? Hmm. Let’s find out.

LIFTING MAX WEIGHTS IS THE QUICKEST WAY TO MUSCLE GROWTH

  1. When you walk into the gym, what’s a common sight? The most jacked people in the gym are lifting the heaviest weights… so you gotta go big or go home all the time, right?
    • A study out of Brazil says probably not. They had participants perform sets of seven to nine reps or 21 to 36 reps. The first group lifted more weight but both showed similar muscle growth. 
    • Should you lift heavy? Of course, but not all of the time. You’re not gonna lose any muscle mass by trading in heavy bench day for some really good tempo dumbbell work… hell, you may even come out STRONGER. What a concept!
  2. That’s great and all, but how does this apply to you? Every few weeks you want to change up your rep schemes. We like to build our programs in one or two week rep blocks. So let’s say week 1 you have 4 sets of 10 reps, next week you may have 4 sets of 8 reps, after that could be 4 sets of 4-6 reps… you get the idea. It’s all about building up your strength in a steady fashion to keep you from fizzling out in workouts but more importantly to keep you from getting injured.
    • This is also called progressive overload. So, your reps are coming down, but you can and most times be adding weight little by little
    • Hot take: you don’t have to kill yourself to be strong.

USING A TREADMILL PUTS LESS STRESS ON YOUR JOINTS THAN RUNNING ON PAVEMENT

  1. I read in an article from NBC News that 49% of a survey over 1000 Americans have heard this tidbit, and 28% of those same 1000 people actually believe it to be true.
  2. This is a myth and not a myth… why? Because in theory a treadmill can actually have more give, shock absorption, than running on pavement. Science says that this is because a surface can help evenly distribute the vertical forces that happen each time your foot hits the ground… which should help reduce impact on your knees. BUT science has also shown that it’s not a very big difference in impact when you’re running on a treadmill versus asphalt. It may feel like less impact.
    • Also, while a treadmill can feel less rough on your knees, the belt on your treadmill has been shown to add extra stress on the achilles tendon and other lower leg muscles, tendons, and ligaments… so that’s something to consider if you’re going to take up running.
    • When asked, doctors and scientists can agree that when it comes to which is better for you; treadmill or outdoor running… it’s a toss up. One isn’t any better than the other, they’re just different.
    • If you’re running just to get some cardio into your life, treadmill it up. If you’re training for a race, running out in the wild as much as possible is going to be the best option for you.
    • Running on the road will help condition your body better for the impact of running. And most races are held outside, so it acclimates your body to actual hills and terrain that you wouldn’t get from running on a tread

MACHINES ARE SAFER THAN FREE WEIGHTS

  1. DID YOU KNOW that many exercise machines are designed for men? So ladies, if you feel like the machine just doesn’t feel right… you’re not imagining things, they’re literally not made for us. Rude, right?
    • I do love a good machine exercise from time to time though, they’re not blacklisted, but I don’t use them as often as I used to.
    • Machines can be useful, if you have access to them. Sometimes, as a trainer, it can be easier for us to attract people to strength training, because the machine makes new clients feel more confident.
  • Pros:
  • Some machines are better at isolating an area to overload it.
  • Machines can make a more efficient use of space in a gym where there are many people training at once.
  • Working with machines can be quicker, because it’s easier to change the weight with a pin or a switch versus going back to the rack for new DBs or reloading a barbell.
  • For newcomers to the gym, machines can be safer… if proper training has been given.

    Cons:
  • Movements done on a machine may not have the natural movement of a joint that you’d get with free weights.
  • It’s harder to recruit stabilizers with machines.
  • Machines are no fun for people who are shorter or taller than the average population.
  • Most machines are specialized, which means you need several to get a session in.
  • They’re expensive.
  • Free weights are amazing, even if some see them as “old school.” You can do SO much with them, but they require some boxes to be checked, so if you’re looking at free weights over machines, there are a few things to consider.

    Pros:
  • They’re less expensive and don’t have to take up a lot of space.
  • They’re more versatile, which we love. There’s an exercise for every muscle group.
  • They’ll help you develop greater power versus machines.
  • Free weights give you more efficient gains because they require many muscle groups to be activated at a time, that’s going to lead to increased strength and muscle size, changes in body comp, and weight loss.
  • Free weight exercises will help you better train for sport as opposed to machines.

    Cons:
  • Changing weights can take up some time and can be a hazard if you don’t properly secure weights during exercise. (Don’t be like the EZ curl bar bros that almost broke my foot.)
  • Using free weights can take up a pretty good amount of space, and if you have too many people in a space that’s too small… that can lead to safety issues.
  • It’s not always possible to completely isolate a muscle with free weight movements.

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