7 Fitness Myths All Men Should Leave Behind

1) You can target fat burn.

Our dream is to be able to do one specific, targeted workout and lose weight in our problem areas. Unfortunately, that's just not how our bodies work. We can't control how and where we will lose weight when we exercise. Doing an arm exercise to try to get rid of some fat and flab may only result in belly fat burn at first.

Exercise can obviously reduce your overall body fat, but the idea that you can pick and choose where that fat is burned is just not so. If you want a specific area to slim down, you just have to keep working on your fitness until your body decides it's time to deplete those particular fat stores.

2) Weight machines are better than free weights.

Or vice versa. The truth of the matter is that both serve their own purposes. While free weights offer quicker strength gains because they demand more balance, coordination, and your total control and autonomy, machines offer stability and security that can be great for solo trainers, physical therapy, novices, seniors, and those who want to test their limits in a safer environment.

Free weights, by contrast, have what their name implies...freedom. Machines tend to isolate muscles, while free weights work more groups and fibers and allow for variations. Both of these types of weights have their benefits for athletes. There is not a superior route—simply what you need for your circumstances.

3) You should always do cardio before weights.

If you've ever consulted a personal trainer at a gym, you've probably heard this old chestnut. It's likely less about getting you to warm up and more about their squeezing in a break or another client. While a warm-up is important before doing heavy-lifting, it doesn't have to be cardio. It's more valuable to actually warm up with the motions you'll be doing while lifting weights.

Grab weights with half the weight you want to lift, then build up gradually. This will be a primer. Then you can move on to your cardio work.


4) Supplements are necessary for peak performance.

There's this strange idea that you need supplements to max out your performance potential. Here's the truth: you don't. What you need is balanced nutrition. I recommend that every athlete consults with a nutritionist to figure out what diet is suitable to their needs. But ultimately, supplements aren't necessary if you're getting all of the macros, vitamins, and minerals necessary from your meals.

Is that to say supplements are bad? Not necessarily. You may find that you have a hard time achieving certain things with your diet, and a little boost is needed. What's important, however, is to identify just that: if it's needed. Don't jump on supplements, vitamins, and boosters just because it is expected. Your first line of defense should be fresh fruits and vegetables.

5) Not sore? Not trying hard enough.

No pain no gain, right? Wrong! We've all heard something like this before. I won't lie, there is a certain level of satisfaction that one feels when you're a little sore and stiff after a good, hard workout. But feeling sore is not actually linked to fitness gains in any real way. Not when it comes to DOMS, or delayed onset muscle soreness. What it is linked to is doing movements that your body isn't used to, overtraining or the slowing of the downward phase in your reps. It is natural to experience DOMS in the beginning, but it should diminish over time.

The idea that fitness should reap pain and the reward is archaic. While some soreness can be good and you do need to work your muscles to grow stronger, being unable to function for days after a workout is a sign that you're doing something wrong.

6) Running on a treadmill is just as good.

Sometimes the treadmill is necessary. The weather might be awful, you might be out-of-town and in need of a quick run in the hotel gym, or for whatever reason, you just might have to do it. But one's marathon training just can't be completed on a treadmill.

Why? Treadmills don't offer some of the seemingly minute but extremely important conditions that terrain offers: wind resistance, uneven pavement, and more. These things add up to engage more muscles and demand more energy. In the end, running in the real world results in more endurance and speed than a treadmill ever will.

7) Squats will hurt your knees.

I think we've all head this one, and you'll only hear it more as you get older. Properly done squats (not too short or low, but parallel to the floor), gives you increased strength and stability around your knee joints. This is incredibly valuable as we age, where knee replacement and knee problems become more and more a topic of conversation.

Squats are effective exercises that make all of us, even the inexperienced, better athletes.

Fitness myths can not only cause injury when we do work out but then can stop us from trying things that will keep up in peak physical condition. Question the advice that you hear—ask your doctor, read for reputable sources, and vet what you hear around the water fountain.

You might just uncover a myth or two.

What's a bad piece of fitness advice you had to unlearn? Share it in the comments.