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Debunking Common Exercise Myths, Part 1

Myth #1: Heavy weights make you "bulky"

Heavy weights typically do not lead to increased muscle mass, moderate weights do. Muscle mass is more of a function of volume (ie. number of sets x number of reps). Muscle mass is best gained using multiple sets (3-5) for moderate repetitions (8-12) at moderate loads (70-80% 1RM). Using heavy loads (85% 1RM and above) for repetitions in the 1-5RM range will lead to strength gains with minimal hypertrophy. Hence, heavy weights do not make you "bulky."

Myth #2: High repetitions are for toning

I don't know how many times I've heard this. Too many times to be sure. Toning (a term I hate to use) is a result of losing fat and building muscle tissue so that you develop a degree of muscle definition. While there are rep brackets better suited for body compositional changes, there are no rep brackets that "tone." Body compositional changes are a result of the program as a whole, not just the rep bracket being used. As for high repetitions, repetitions of 12+, they are better suited for developing muscular endurance.

Myth #3: You can only burn fat by doing cardio

You would think that by now most people would have realized that cardio is not the only means by which you can burn fat. However, nearly EVERYONE I speak with in the club where I work only knows fat loss by one method: cardio. Sure, cardio can result in fat loss, but it is most effective the first 6-8 weeks of an exercise program due to the changes in hormonal response that occurs with adaptation. Ever notice how many people perform long duration cardio day in and day out only to leave the gym looking exactly the same? I rest my case.

An overlooked method of burning fat is weight training. Many people understand that by adding muscle mass you burn more calories around the clock, which may result in more fat loss. However, what most people fail to realize is that a weight training routine can be manipulated to achieve a specific hormonal response that is conducive to fat loss. In other words, you will get a different hormonal response from doing high repetitions as opposed to doing low repetitions. The key then is to manipulate training variables in such a way that it will promote fat loss. I will elaborate further on this topic in a future article.

Chad Anderson, CSCS operates a personal training, fitness programming, and consulting business while also holding a full-time position as a senior personal trainer at a commercial health club. He holds a BS degree in exercise science with a minor in nutrition and is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA. You can visit his website at


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