7 Strength Training Myths

As a physical therapist, I am a strong believer in consistent “heavy” strength training programs for all my patients no matter the age or gender. 

That’s right, I think my 80-year-old grandma should be lifting weights. 

I put “heavy” in quotations because that term is relative to each individual.  

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A 50 pound deadlift might be too heavy for someone who has never trained before, yet may not be enough for a warmup set for those who have dedicated their life to physical fitness.

Once I get a patient lifting heavy weights, they’re often inspired by how much better they feel.

So much so, that some may fall into the rabbit hole of online weightlifting rhetoric. Full of horror stories and the ol’ clickbait.

This resulted in one or two patients recently coming in worried, stating that they’ve read this or that which claimed something along the lines of ‘strength training is actually bad for you.’

I’m here to clear the air.

Today, let’s discuss 7 common strength training myths, why they’re false, and why you should be incorporating strength training into your workout routine today.

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Myth 1: Strength Training Is Only for Young People

The first strength training myth is that “strength training is only for young people.”

Strength training can be utilized and is important in all ages and stages of life. 

An argument could be made that as you age, strength training becomes even more important.

Strength training assists in improving muscle strength, bone density, and decreasing fall risk.

A recent review of 23,000 adults over the age of 60 showed a 34% decrease in fall risk for those who participated in a regular strength program (1).

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Myth 2: Strength Training Will Make You Bulky

For most people, particularly women, the opposite is true. 

Strength training will help you burn calories, lose fat and develop muscle (3)

In fact, many women who want to “lose the last 10 pounds” with Chain Effect find that they do better when they forget the “cardio only” approach and instead, work on fat re-distribution through a combination of strength training in the gym and nutrition counseling via Telehealth.

Read about Performance Nutrition for Athletes, here.

There are many different strength training programs that will all achieve different results.

Utilizing the proper exercises, weight selection and repetition range, you can achieve your goals of increasing muscle without looking bulky.

Myth 3: Strength Training Is for Men 

Strength training comes in all ages, genders and skill levels.

Women can improve both their mental health and their physical health from strength training.

A 2018 meta-analysis released in JAMA Psychiatry concluded that weight training benefitted mood in adults with and without depression. “People who were depressed before the study showed improvement. Those not depressed were less likely to become depressed” (6).

As far as physical benefits go, one common issue in women, particularly as they age, is osteoporosis and increased muscle weakness.

However, this review showed an increase in bone density of the lumbar spine and hip in postmenopausal women who participated in training 2-3 times per week for 1 year (5).

Fewer broken hips means significant increase in physical and mental quality of life for all.

Myth 4: Cardio Burns More Calories Than Strength Training 

Cardio enthusiasts love this one.

Exclusively within a 30-minute window, yes, cardio will burn more calories than strength training within the duration of your session. Again, if you’re only looking at calories burned within those 30 minutes.

However, let’s look at the finer details.

Strength training is shown to boost your metabolism in two ways. 

  1. By increasing your resting metabolic rate during the training itself. (Higher metabolic rate means you’ll burn more calories.)
  2. By keeping your metabolic rate further elevated for up to 72 hours after exercise (3).

Which means that even when you are done training, your body is still burning calories!

Furthermore, there’s a third benefit that often goes overlooked.

Strength training is far more effective at building muscle, and muscle burns more calories at rest than some other tissues, including fat.

Increased muscle mass from weight lifting means, again, more calories burned, even at rest.

Myth 5: Strength Training Is Bad for Your Joints 

Actually, the opposite is true! 

Strength training improves joint health, bone density and muscle mass. 

The CDC has estimated that 1 in 4 adults suffer from osteoarthritis and that number is expected to grow in the coming years. 

I’m sure you have heard the phrase “if you don’t use it, you lose it.” 

This couldn’t be more true for those dealing with arthritis. 

Strength training has shown to have a decrease in pain by 35% and improve lower extremity strength by 33% (4)

This is a consistent long-term solution for those dealing with joint arthritis. 

But what about in healthy individuals? 

This myth may come from individuals who experience joint pain while they workout. 

I’ve had a few patients come to me with stubborn knee or shoulder pain when they’re lifting.

The root of this is usually one of three things:

  1. These clients have improper form
  2. These clients have weakness in one specific movement pattern or muscle group
  3. These clients have an untreated injury

Joint pain during workouts is a wake up call that something needs to be addressed! Sometimes these can be addressed in one, one-on-one 60 minute session. Others require a slightly different plan of care.

Strength movements performed *correctly* are good for your joints.

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Myth 6: Strength Training Will Make You Less Flexible

A big concern that many have prior to starting weight training is that they will become less flexible and lose range of motion.

In fact, a study in 2021 comparing stretching to strength training showed no significant difference in mobility (2)

As anything, proper exercise and weight selection is critical to maintain functional mobility. 

For example, a squat can be actively utilized to help improve hip and ankle mobility.

If flexibility is important to you and your goals, simply contain with flexibility training as you strength train (instead of replacing it fully with strength training) and you’ll be set.

Myth 7: You’ll See Results Instantly 

The last strength training myth is one, I admit, a lot of us wish were true,

In this day in age we expect immediate results. 

However, in order to see noticeable improvements in strength and function, one must commit to a consistent 6-8-week strength program with moderately intense workouts 2-3x per week.

One pitfall I see often is people will get excited about a new program they found online and have all the motivation to stick with it for a few weeks.

But then life sets in, it gets less exciting, so they fall off and don’t see the results they could have if they stuck with it.

This is another reason why it is important to work with a professional – they can provide accountability and motivation to get you through to the finish line. 

Summary:

Now the next question you might be asking yourself is: Where do I start?

There are several variations of strength training programs.

They will vary depending on your current function, goals and past medical history.

It is best to consult with a physical therapist who can take you through a full comprehensive evaluation and take all factors into consideration when creating the specific program for you. 

Please reach out to me if you have any additional questions.

An appointment can be booked online or by calling our office today!

I look forward to helping you achieve your fitness and lifestyle goals.

Author

Written by Jason McLaughlin, DPT, CSCS.

Jason McLaughlin is an experienced physical therapist, certified Functional Dry Needling Practitioner, and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist who uses dry needling and cupping to deliver a first-class experience to his active clients at Chain Effect.