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4 Strength Training Myths Debunked by Science


4 Strength Training Myths Debunked by Science

These days, a wide range of fitness information is available online – but unfortunately, much of it is untrue, or lacking sufficient scientific research. False statements and advice related to health and fitness aren’t just untrue — they can be harmful, and even lead to injuries, muscle strains, weakness, and negative effects on the metabolism.   Many of these falsities don’t point to any scientific studies at all, and those that do reflect what WHOOP experts found, among others, to pull from research which is dominated by a male-only focus, and therefore only beneficial to half the global population. A WHOOP data science review of existing athletic performance research shows a mere 6% focused on the female population. “This means that the ‘best practices’ guiding our training are mostly made up rather than rooted in science. Not only is this keeping women from reaching their true potential, but it also puts them at real — but avoidable — risks,” stated Emily Capodilupo, WHOOP SVP of Data Science and Research in her related TED talk exploring research done using continuous vital sign monitoring from wearable devices to highlight the damage done by excluding women from exercise physiology research. Limited research, partial studies, and antiquated information contribute to the spread of health and fitness misinformation – especially so when it comes to strength training. In this article, we will disprove the most common strength training myths regardless of gender by seeing what current research has to say about them.

Myth 1: Strength Training Reduces Flexibility

It’s a commonly held belief that weightlifting and other strength training exercises will cause muscle stiffness and reduce the overall range of motion, but research has found that this is untrue as long as the exercises are performed correctly. In fact, strength training can notably improve joint stability, in turn enhancing your ability to move through full ranges of motion, and increasing overall critical flexibility. A study published in the International Journal of Exercise Science found that six months of resistance training was associated with improved flexibility in young men in areas like shoulder extension, knee flexion and elbow flexion. Another study found that strength training is just as effective as stretching for helping improve range of motion.

Myth 2: Strength Training Makes You Bulky

One of the top reasons individuals, and often women, choose not to include strength training in their fitness regimens is the belief that lifting weights and other types of strength training exercises will make you “bulky.” Strength training simply cannot transform your body overnight. Growing stronger relies on so much more than just strength training, from genetics to adequate nutrition and caloric surplus to increasing the body’s fat percentage, the proper hormonal balance, and more. If your goal is to build muscle mass and bulk up, your routine would likely focus on high volume, heavy weight, and hypertrophy. On its own, strength training helps promote lean muscle mass and decrease body fat. The average individual who lifts weights 2-3 times a week will burn more calories than they consume, so they won’t have to worry about this strength training myth. When performed on this smaller scale, the benefits of strength training include improvements in muscle strength and tone.

Myth 3: It’s Not for Everyone

Another incorrect assumption is that women won’t get the same benefits of strength training as men because women will not be able to gain muscle mass is untrue. A meta-analysis of studies examining the effects of strength training on women and men found that at the onset of training, women can actually gain more muscle strength than men. In the long run, by practicing continued strength training exercises over time, the rates of muscular growth and increases in strength level out on average for men and women. Women can see just as much benefit from resistance training as men can, making strength training for women a valuable fitness strategy.

Myth 4: Strength Training is Best for Young People

Strength training is beneficial for people of all ages – not just those in their 20s and 30s. People of all ages better their health through strength training, and with proper form, the benefits of strength training for adults or even mature individuals is just as critical as for younger populations. Gains include improved overall fitness, endurance, strength, and cardiovascular health, as well as reduced risk of injury and flexibility. In fact, a recent review of 15 studies ranging from 2006-2020 highlighted that even in frail adults, frailty was notably reduced after 24 weeks of resistance training. Strength training is an important addition to the fitness routines of older adults. After age 30, muscle mass declines by 3-5% every ten years. This decrease speeds up after age 60. Muscle weakness is another natural effect of aging. Research has found that strength and resistance training exercises can help counteract these effects and help older adults see improvements in their ability to perform everyday physical activities. This type of physical activity also increases both their muscle strength and mass, improves bone density and reduces the risk of osteoporosis, and boosts metabolism too, helping adults stick to a healthier weight. Some studies also indicate resistance training may lower rates of depression in aging adults as well. There is also recent scientific evidence that long-term strength training can prevent a decline of muscle strength and mobility, as we age.

Tailor Your Strength Training with WHOOP

Strength training offers many actual benefits, like:

  • Increased Strength
  • Improved Bone Health
  • Gains in Lean Muscle Mass
  • Heightened Cardiovascular Health
  • Boosted Mental Health
  • Reduced Body Fat

The best way to maximize strength training exercises is to customize your strength training program based on your individual goals and needs, and to understand the effort you are putting on your body. Strength Trainer doesn’t just calculate how much you lifted — it offers a comprehensive look at the strain and impact your workout has on your musculoskeletal system to help you optimize both your training and your recovery.