Nearly everybody who's started out with the dream to get into shape, build muscle or lose fat, has fallen prey to some type of fitness myth. Many times, those myths come from sources and publications that we trust. Maybe it's false advertising that leads somebody to start a myth or the quest to get rich. Or maybe it's just simple ignorance.
The fitness industry is no exception. As with any commerce industry, there's the potential for myths that develop into frauds, dangerous exercises, worthless supplements or just incomplete information. If there is money to be made, you are guaranteed to find some popular fitness myths.
These 6 sources of myths, deception and fraud are not all inclusive. They are the top contenders for a variety of reasons which will be explained below.
The best way I know how to combat and avoid falling prey to any of these misconceptions and myths is to travel down the path of education.
It's far less costly to educate yourself (just learning from a variety of sources) than fall victim to ignorance and waste years and sometimes thousands of dollars on false information. Not to mention the frustration that myths can incur.
These 6 sources can be myth-makers or myth-busters!
1. Websites and Magazine Editors:
Without a doubt, magazines and websites can be a popular source of bodybuilding myths. Sometimes the story will just have it's facts wrong. Or it might be an editorial. Sometimes editors have to take an old story and put some popular spin on it to make it more interesting.
If something is published that is controversial (the recent Soy examples) it can be fuel for further research and studies but more often than not, people take a single article in a popular magazine or newspaper as fact.
There is a common belief that if it's in print… it must be right.
Am I right about that so far?
Pick up an issue of Cosmo, Us, People or look at back issues of most popular fitness magazines. How many times have you seen a new twist or angle put on the ever popular, "Arnold's Arm Routine."
It's part of life to re-create, re-package and enhance old stories. Just keep in mind that myths can start anywhere.
2. The "I Feel It" Syndrome:
Just because it worked for me, doesn't mean it works for you. This can apply to training programs or supplements. The "I Feel It Syndrome" simply doesn't take into account the Principle of Individual Differences. Everybody is slightly different. If a beginning builder happens to respond very well to some strange exercise (not taking into account they are new and will almost respond to anything) it doesn't make that exercise or routine one that will work for everybody.
I cannot tell you how many times I've personally heard people tell me that Creatine is a worthless supplement that simply doesn't work.
While it might not work for them (roughly 30% of the population does not respond to regular creatine products) there are over 300 peer reviewed and published studies that show many benefits of creatine and that it does work.
For starters, I'm going to take 300 journals with well researched documentation over "somebody" in the gym telling me it doesn't work.
3. The "Big Guy" Syndrome:
A younger bodybuilder might look up to the biggest guy in the gym, but without knowing how the big guy got big… it can be a real source of myths. How he or she got big might be 1) hard work and dedication 2) genetics 3) drugs 4) combination of all the suggested. The person asking simply doesn't really know how they got bigger and most likely it will be a combination of hard work and dedication along with some pseudo-scientific explanation of their training.
Reminds me of a story one person told me.
A very large bodybuilder was the envy of all the younger guys in the gym. They always wanted to know his "secrets." He never told them until one day, this young guy was pestering him.
"Do you really want to know the secret?" The Big Guy asked.
"Yes!" Said the young student.
"It's Alpo Dog food. Seriously. Something they put in there just builds muscle. I can't explain it." The Guru said.
[ 2 weeks pass ]
The younger guy see the big bodybuilder again and says, "You know I really don't like the taste. I just can't keep eating the stuff."
Now I can't tell you if this is true. It's probably a myth in itself. But it lends itself to proving a point that you can get a lot of myths from the biggest guy or gal in your gym. And over time, it can be pretty costly or foul tasting depending on the advice you receive.
4. Supplements Salespeople:
How many supplements have over 300 peer reviewed and published studies behind them from various sources? Not many. Supplement salespeople have a clear agenda to push their products. Which is fine expect you don't know what they are thinking, their agenda or if they have some quota to fill. Just keep in mind they may or may not know what they are talking about. Keeping yourself informed will help you make the right choices and help them direct you to what you want.
5. Equipment Salespeople:
Similar to the supplement salespeople, how many highly trained and fully qualified equipment sales people are fully aware of biomechanics and how exercises related to the body? Not a whole lot. You could get an entirely different story about muscle building from a Bowflex salesperson over a person at Sears who wants to sell you a weight stacked machine. You can easily fall prey to the machines vs. free weights myths right here.
Heck, I'll put myself on the chopping block here. With the Internet being so popular and everybody having a microphone, all of us who podcast about fitness can spread myths or be a new source of a myth. Much like website or magazine editors, we want readers and listeners and might put new slants on old stories. Hopefully you will research things for yourself, get other opinions, check with your doctor if necessary and educate yourself so that you can make informed choices. Even my podcast is simply there to help you learn to love to learn.
Make no mistake… while this list isn't all inclusive of every possible sources of myths, they are the lead contributors. But that doesn't mean they are inherently bad or you need to avoid them.
In fact, the same sources can be the greatest contributors of myth-busting!
My point is…
Keep yourself informed and just be cautious.
I'm going to close this article out with a quote I think sums up falling prey to the fitness myths that you may encounter. "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance." - Derek Curtis Bok
Source White Market