21 of the Most Common Health & Fitness Myths Debunked

Fitness myths are widespread. Some have been around for many decades, while others have sprung up recently through social media.

Some myths may seem harmless, while others can lead to dangerous consequences, hindering progress, causing injuries, and negatively impacting health and the enjoyment of exercise.

It’s time to replace the following 21 fitness myths with fitness truths! Let’s get right into the debunking!

Fitness Myth#1: Many Small Meals Boosts Your Metabolism

Fitness myths: Many Small Meals Boosts Your Metabolism

The idea that eating multiple small meals boosts your metabolism is as outdated as leg warmers in a gym. Your metabolism doesn’t work like a wood-burning stove; you don’t have to add kindling constantly to keep the fire roaring. 

Whether you eat 2,000 calories across three meals or six, your body’s metabolism processes it with similar efficiency. It’s like your bank account; what matters is how much you deposit (calories in), not how often you visit the ATM (meals).

Some bodybuilders love small, frequent meals – and that’s great if eating every two hours keeps them from going hungry. Others prefer the simplicity of three square meals. It’s all about personal preference. Don’t expect nibbling to keep your metabolic furnace supercharged; it remains the same whether you eat two or six meals per day.1 2

If anything, your metabolic rate increases if you eat nothing at all for at least 72 hours.3

The benefit of multiple small meals over fewer small ones is when you’re an athlete or bodybuilder who needs to pound down a ton of calories. Eating them all in a few sittings is just not practical or comfortable. At that point, dividing your daily meals up more makes sense, and it can help with digestion, too. Other than that, it’s mostly up to what you like.

Myth #2: Strength Training Makes You Less Flexible

Stretch after strength training

Contrary to popular gym folklore, strength training does not make you less flexible. When done right, it can improve flexibility in all muscle groups and body parts! 

Sure, if you only do all your exercises in a short, limited range of motion, your muscles might also get short and limited. But that’s not good form. The majority of your exercises should be in a full range of motion.

Each time you do a squat, lunge, or bicep curl and move your muscles through a full range of motion, you actually increase your flexibility. Think of your muscles as elastic bands – the more you stretch and work them, the more flexible they become.

Recent research shows that resistance training (lifting weights) is as effective as stretching for flexibility. If you want to have the flexibility of a ballerina, you likely have to spend a lot of time stretching, but for general flexibility, strength training using proper form will help you, not make you stiff as a board.4 5 6

Read more:

>> Is Stretching Overrated? Strength Training Improves Flexibility

Fitness Myth #3: Certain Exercises Give You Six-Pack Abs

First off, no matter how many crunches, planks, or leg raises you do, you can’t selectively melt belly fat and unveil a chiseled six-pack. That’s like trying to drain only one corner of a swimming pool – good luck with that!

The truth is, abs are made in the kitchen as much as in the gym. You could have the strongest core muscles on the planet, but if they’re hiding under a layer of fat, they will remain a secret. The key to unveiling your abs is a combination of three things:

  • Strength training keeps your metabolism stoked 24/7. Muscles require more energy to exist, torching calories and boosting your metabolism. 
  • Consistent cardio keeps your heart healthy and helps burn the spare tire around your waistline. Running, swimming, or even brisk walking are all great options as long as they get your heart rate up.
  • A balanced diet is your VIP pass to the six-pack club. If your diet isn’t on point, no amount of training will bring your abs out. Lean proteins, veggies, whole grains, and healthy fats are your best friends, but calorie control is key. You must be in a calorie deficit to lose fat anywhere, including your midsection.

So, the bottom line is that while core exercises strengthen and build your ab muscles, they don’t burn belly fat. You have to look to your diet for fat loss and to coax your abs out of hibernation.

Read more:

>> The 3 Best Exercises to Lose Belly Fat After 50

Myth #4: Muscles Turn into Fat Once You Stop Training

Fitness myths: Muscles Turn into Fat Once You Stop Training

Muscle and fat are as different as apples and oranges in a fruit bowl. One doesn’t morph into the other; they coexist, sometimes a bit too closely.

Here’s what really happens:

  • When you stop training, your lean muscle mass starts to shrink or atrophy due to reduced stimulus. It’s now excess muscle mass: your body doesn’t need it to keep up with the demands you put on it anymore. Sooner rather than later, you might look like you’ve never lifted a weight. Fortunately, your body has something called a “muscle memory,” and getting your muscles back is much easier than building them in the first place.
  • If your diet remains the same (or becomes more indulgent) while your physical activity level drops, those extra calories must go somewhere. And they prefer to find a home in your fat cells. 

The result: your muscles shrink, and your fat stores grow.

So, when you see an athlete who used to be fit but now looks fat, it’s not that their muscles magically turned into body fat. It’s more like their former muscle mass is on vacation while fat cells are throwing a party with all the extra calories they’re no longer burning.

Fitness Myth #5: Spot Reduction Works

You’ve probably heard: “Do a million crunches, and you’ll get a six-pack,” or “1000 squats a day for perfect thighs.” Most of us have areas on our bodies that tend to store more fat, and it would be neat if we could work that spot more to hone the fat-burning torch in on it.

Sadly, the human body doesn’t work that way. Spot reduction, the idea that you can increase fat burn in specific areas of your body by doing exercises that target them, is about as effective as getting a tan from your phone screen. This fitness myth has lost some prominence over the decades, but it’s not uncommon for people to waste time and energy doing hundreds of sit-ups in the hope of burning that spare tire.

Your body breaks down fat into usable energy through a complex metabolic process and doesn’t care where it comes from. When you exercise, your body burns fat from all over, not just from the area you’re working. It’s like a team effort; every part pitches in.

Your body decides where to lose fat based on genetics, hormones, and other chemical processes that are out of your control. So, doing crunches for hours on end might strengthen your abs, but it won’t necessarily make them visible if they’re under a layer of fat. The key to losing fat is a combo of cardio (to burn calories), strength training (to build muscle, which boosts metabolism), and, most importantly, a fat-loss diet (eat fewer calories than your burn).

Note: research has shown that spot reduction works, but only to the point of academic interest. You’d have to do an hour of sit-ups to burn an extra gram of fat in your midsection. These findings might be interesting from an academic perspective but have no real-world relevance. Actual spot reduction is wishful thinking and marketing.7 8

Myth #6: Creatine Is a Steroid

Fitness myths: creatine is a steroid

Some people claim that creatine is an anabolic steroid and that it is bad for you. However, you can safely disregard their nonsense as another of the biggest fitness myths. It is a good thing, too, because creatine is one of very few legal supplements that actually work.

Creatine is like the gym buddy who’s always there to spot you. It’s a substance found naturally in your body, primarily in your muscles. Creatine is not a steroid but a go-to supplement for anyone looking to boost their performance in short, intense bursts of activity, like lifting weights or sprinting.

But hold on, you might say – testosterone is also a substance found naturally in your body. That is true, and while both can improve your performance, they do so through entirely different mechanisms of action. Creatine does not mess with your hormones.

Anabolic steroids are synthetic variations of testosterone, the male sex hormone. They’re a whole different story from creatine, often associated with a range of health risks and legal issues.

Creatine gives you a little extra energy boost in your muscle cells, helping you push out that one last rep or sprint. It’s safe, it’s effective, and it doesn’t mess with your hormone levels like steroids do. In addition, creatine is legal and not considered a performance-enhancing drug like steroids – you can chug your creatine shake without worrying about breaking any rules.

So, let’s bust that myth here and now: creatine is not a steroid. It’s a naturally occurring ace in your workout pocket.9

Read more:

>> The Best Time to Take Creatine

>> Creatine: Effects, Benefits and Safety

Fitness Myth #7: More Protein = More Muscles

Fitness myths: more protein = more muscles

First off, let’s get one thing straight: protein is indeed your best friend when it comes to building muscle. It’s crucial for muscle growth and repair, and if you get too little of it, your efforts in the gym won’t give you the results you want.

But here’s the catch – your muscles aren’t like a bank account where you can keep depositing protein and expect them to grow endlessly. There’s a limit to how much protein your body can use for muscle protein synthesis.

If you’re trying to build muscle, your protein requirements are indeed higher than the average sedentary person. While the general population can get away with only 0.8 grams per kilogram (0.36 grams per pound) of body weight per day, you need 1.2–2 grams of protein per kilogram.10 11 That is equivalent to 0.5–0.91 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day.

Once you’ve reached your daily protein target, guzzling protein shakes won’t turn you into a pro bodybuilder. Instead of increasing your protein intake further, eat more carbs and fat if you need more calories. They are more efficient fuels for your body and less expensive, too.

Read more:

>> Protein for Strength Training: The Ultimate Guide

>> How Much Protein Do You Need per Day to Gain Muscle?

Myth #8: Lifting Heavy Is the Only Way to Gain Muscle

Go heavy or go home is one of the most common fitness myths. Yes, lifting heavy weights is a very effective way to build muscle, but it’s far from the only way. It might not even be the best way for many people.

If we’re talking about getting as strong as possible, then yes, you have to lift heavy. But for muscle hypertrophy, you have much greater freedom in your workout programs.

Research shows that muscle growth can be accomplished using almost any load and number of reps.12 Sets of twenty reps using light weights build as much muscle tissue as heavy sets of five. The only caveat is that you need to train to muscular failure (perform a set until you can no longer do the movement with proper form) if you use lighter loads. And if you have tried taking high-rep sets to failure, especially with compound exercises, you know it’s not very fun.

Lifting heavy all the time is like playing your favorite song on repeat – eventually, something will wear out. Heavier weights can increase the risk of injury, especially if your form isn’t spot-on. Incorporating a variety of exercises and weights is a safer, long-term approach to muscle building: all the benefits, none of the drawbacks of constantly staying in the same narrow rep range.

Read more:

>> How Many Reps to Build Muscle vs. Strength?

Fitness Myth #9: Supplements Are Essential for Building Muscle

Fitness myths: Supplements Are Essential for Building Muscle

Supplement companies like to sell you the idea that you need their products to reach your fitness goals, be they weight loss, muscle growth, or increased muscle strength. Unfortunately, many people fall for this common myth, especially newcomers to the fitness world.

Supplements are like the sidekicks to a superhero. They have their moments, but the real hero is a good fitness routine and a healthy diet. Your body primarily needs protein, carbs, fats, and a range of vitamins and minerals to build muscle. You can get most of these nutrients from foods like chicken, fish, beans, whole grains, fruits, and veggies. There are only a few exceptions, like vitamin D if you don’t get much sun, vitamin B12 if you eat plant-based, and creatine.

Supplements are meant to fill gaps, not be the main event. If your diet is missing something, supplements can help, but even then, fixing your diet is priority number one. There are a select few supplements, like creatine, you can’t get enough from your diet to significantly affect your training results, but they’re not a magic solution. They’re more like the pineapple everyone loves on pizza – it adds that extra oomph, but it’s not essential. The pizza still hits the spot without it.

The real key to muscle building is progressive overload in your workouts (gradually increasing the weight here and doing one more rep there), adequate rest, and, you guessed it, a balanced diet. Supplements can be helpful, but they’re more like the cherry on top of your muscle-building sundae, not the sundae itself. You can absolutely build muscle and strength without them, as long as you’re nailing your workouts and fueling your body right.

Read more:

>> The 5 Best Supplements to Gain Muscle

>> The Best Supplements to Get Shredded

Myth #10: Doing Cardio on an Empty Stomach Burns More Fat

Fitness myths: Doing Cardio on an Empty Stomach Burns More Fat

The idea behind fasted cardio is that exercising on an empty stomach forces your body to burn fat for fuel instead of the food you’ve just eaten. It’s also one of the most common exercise myths of all time.

It is true that when you do fasted cardio, your body, in its quest for energy, might tap into fat stores a bit more than when you’re fueled up. Your blood sugar and insulin levels are at their lowest, which primes your body to burn fat. That sounds like the way to go if you want to shed those pounds effectively, right? You better get on that treadmill before breakfast, even if it is the last thing your body wants to do before the sun has even peeked over the horizon.

Not so fast! It’s not about the fat you burn during the workout but the overall fat you burn in a day. Whether you eat before exercise or not, what really matters for weight and fat loss is your total calorie deficit over time. Think of it like your bank account – it doesn’t matter if you withdraw money in the morning or evening; what matters is if you’re spending more than you’re depositing.

Studies show that the differences in fat loss between fasted and fed cardio are minimal at best.13 14 It’s like comparing two nearly identical superhero action figures – they might have different capes, but they’re essentially the same toy.

Ultimately, the best time of day to exercise is when you feel your best and can put in the most effort. So, whether you love your fasted morning workout or prefer to train with a meal or two in your body, what really counts is consistency, intensity, and overall diet quality.

Read more:

>> Fasted Strength Training: Good or Bad for Your Gains?

>> Intermittent Fasting: When to Work Out

Fitness Myth #11: You Can Eat Anything as Long as You Work Out

While there is truth in that a good workout or a regular exercise routine gives you a safety net for your food choices, you can’t out-train a bad diet.

From a pure calorie standpoint, weight management can look like a simple math problem – calories in versus calories out. You might not see any weight gain if you burn off the excess calories from junk food, but it’s not just about quantity. Quality is equally important.

Picture your body as a high-performance sports car. You can fill it with low-grade fuel (junk food), but it won’t run as well or as fast. Quality fuel (balanced nutrition) keeps your engine (body) in tip-top shape.

You might not gain weight if you eat poorly but exercise, but your body composition could still be off. Calories in vs calories out says nothing about what those calories accomplish in your body when they get to work. A hundred calories from a soda might get you a quick sugar rush, while 100 calories from a bowl of Greek yogurt with some berries builds new muscle tissue for several hours and gives your body nutrients with many health benefits.

Also, exercise has its limits. To burn off a single slice of pizza you wolfed down in two minutes, you might need to run a 5K. That’s a lot of running for a slice.

Besides, balancing everything you eat with exercise to burn off calories is not good for mental health and is a slippery slope to eating disorders.

We need to think big picture when it comes to health, exercise, and nutrition. Eating anything you want and burning it off might work for a short sprint, but it’s a no-go for the marathon of life. A balanced diet keeps your heart, brain, and muscles happy for the long haul.

Read more:

>> Eating for Muscle Growth: When, What, and How Much

Myth #12: Cardio Kills Your Gain

Fitness myths: Cardio Kills Your Gain

One of the most common myths in bodybuilding is that cardio slows your gains down to a crawl or makes you lose muscle.

Fortunately, that’s all it is: a myth. Cardio doesn’t magically make your muscles disappear. It’s not like you go for a run, and poof, there go your biceps! Cardiovascular exercise, when done in moderation, doesn’t hinder muscle growth. In fact, it enhances your overall fitness and can even help you perform better in the gym.

A healthy heart means better endurance, which translates to more stamina during your weightlifting sessions. More stamina means you can lift more and longer.

Now, there is something called the specificity principle. You get good at what you do, and your body can only recover from so much training. That means that no, you most likely will not be able to combine your bodybuilding or powerlifting efforts with a career in marathon running. There might be some genetic marvel out there who can do it, but for most of us, that’s too much for our bodies to adapt to.

However, doing moderate amounts of cardio will not swoop in and steal all your hard-earned muscle. In fact, recent research can’t see any negative effect on muscle growth or maximal strength gains from combining aerobic exercise and strength training in your training program.15

If you do cardio on a regular basis, just remember to compensate for the calories you burn. Your muscles aren’t just built in the gym but also in the kitchen. You want to ensure you’re eating enough protein and calories to fuel both your muscle growth and cardio activities.

Read more:

>> Is Cardio Bad for Your Strength Training?

Fitness Myth #13: Eating Fat Makes You Fat

Another common myth, and not just in the fitness world, is that eating fat makes you fat.

It is true that consuming more calories than you burn leads to weight gain over time, but the type of calories does not matter as much as the total number of calories.

Fat is more calorie-dense than carbohydrates and protein (9 kcals/gram vs 4 kcals/gram). However, simply eating fats does not directly make you gain weight. Long-term overeating causes weight gain, regardless of whether those calories come from fat or carbs.

Protein is something of a special case – calories from protein almost never get stored as body fat. That doesn’t mean that protein is “free calories,” though. In a calorie surplus, you can bet that something (meaning calories from fat or carbs) gets stored instead, even if it isn’t the protein itself.

Research shows that if you eat more calories than you burn, more fat calories than carb calories are stored as overall body fat, especially if we’re talking about short-term overeating.16 However, fat gain requires a caloric surplus. You cannot gain fat without it, regardless of your macros.

If people get fat from eating fat, it’s because many foods high in fat are delicious and easy to eat, making their calorie intake skyrocket. Then again, the same can be said for many foods high in carbs, especially refined and sugar-loaded ones. You can also get fat from healthy foods, regardless of their fat or carbohydrate content, but they are significantly harder to overeat.

Myth #14: Free Weights Are Always Better Than Machines

Saying that something is always better than something else is bold. And it almost always turns out to be a myth. Many hardcore gym bros will have you believe that free weights are superior regardless of people’s training goals or fitness levels.

Let’s pitch the two training modalities against each other and see which one comes out on top.

  • Control & Stability: Free weights win here. They require you to stabilize the weight, engaging more muscles and improving coordination. In some instances, like when you want to target a specific muscle group, you don’t want to involve any other part of your body, but free weights have the edge for overall control and stability.
  • Safety & Guidance: Machines take the cake. They guide your movement, reducing the risk of injury, especially for beginners or those with limited experience.17 That’s not to say that free weights are dangerous. They absolutely are not. The injury rate in strength training is very low compared to most other sports, regardless of training equipment.
  • Targeted Training: Machines shine again. Want to zero in on a specific muscle or muscle group? Machines help you target any part of your body with precision.
  • Versatility & Functionality: Free weights come back strong. They offer a wide range of motion and mimic everyday movements.
  • Progressive Overload: Both are great. You can increase resistance with machines or free weights for continual growth and strength gains. Free weights might have a slight edge because a machine weight stack comes with fixed incremental steps, although modern exercise machines sometimes have a knob or switch that allows you to fine-tune your weight selection.
  • Accessibility & Convenience: Free weights are usually more accessible, especially when working out at home or in a smaller gym. They don’t take up much space – a massive bonus for home gyms. However, if you train in a gym, machines are often more accessible for beginners. They appear less intimidating than a rack of dumbbells guarded by gym buffs for many new lifters. Plus, machines are super accessible, especially for those who might feel overwhelmed by the vast array of free weights.
  • Strength and Muscle Gains: Both are great. While most people think free weights are superior for muscular strength, studies find no difference in muscle strength or hypertrophy compared to machines.18

As you can see, there is no clear-cut winner, and definitely no “this is always better than that.” Machine and free weights have their benefits and drawbacks, but the good news is that both are also effective for building strength and muscle. You can use the training equipment you prefer and still get fantastic results. 

Read more:

>> Free Weights vs. Machines: Which Is Better?

Myth #15: Older People Shouldn’t Lift Weights

Fitness myths: Older People Shouldn’t Lift Weights

“Weightlifting isn’t for older adults” is one of those workout myths that is finally starting to go away. Hooray! Strength training is the ultimate fountain of youth and becomes increasingly essential the older you get.19 20

Muscles don’t come with an expiration date. Strength training, which includes lifting weights, is beneficial at any age. As early as your thirties, your muscle mass starts to decline, accelerating the older you get.

Muscle loss due to aging

The good news is that age-related muscle loss is mainly a result of a sedentary lifestyle and is entirely preventable and reversible. All you have to do is pick up those weights regularly.

The benefits of lifting weights don’t stop with your muscles, though.

  • As we age, our bones can become more fragile. Weight lifting helps maintain or even increase bone density. Think of it as an internal armor for your skeleton.
  • Balance and coordination can start to wobble like a poorly stacked tower of weight plates. Lifting weights helps keep you steady on your feet and reduces the risk of falls.
  • Regular strength training can help manage or prevent conditions like arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

Improved muscle mass and strength make you look better and lead to better performance in everyday life and athletic tasks, regardless of age. Many seniors are in extremely good shape, rivaling 20–30-year-olds, and lifting weights is essential to keep your physical fitness as you age.

Read more:

>> Building Muscle After 50: The Essential Guide

Myth #16: Women Should Train Differently Than Men

Of all fitness myths, this one is particularly stupid. Training should be based on individual goals, fitness levels, and preferences, not gender. Whether you aim for strength, endurance, or flexibility, your approach might vary, but it’s all about personal objectives.

The barbell does not discriminate; your gender has nothing to do with how you should train.

Muscle responds to resistance, whether you’re a guy bench-pressing or a gal doing squats. Men typically have more muscle mass, but the fundamental principles of hypertrophy (muscle building) apply to everyone.

Male and female sex hormones like testosterone and estrogen do play roles in muscle building and fat distribution, but they don’t demand completely different training regimes. Women can lift heavy and do high-intensity interval training just like men.

Research shows that women gain similar amounts of muscle as men from lifting weights.21 22

Biceps muscle growth rate

The difference is that men start with more muscle mass. That means that even though women gain muscle at the same rate, they won’t catch up. In general, that is. There are always outliers, regardless of sex.

Everyone, again regardless of sex, gains muscle and strength at different rates, but the methods remain consistent. Both men and women must adapt their training based on personal progress, injuries, or other factors. That’s not a gender thing; it’s a human thing.

As for the nutrition part of your fitness journey, women might need more iron and calcium, and men might require more calories, but these are nuances in a broader picture of a balanced, healthy diet and adequate rest for all.

Training is a personalized journey, more about your own goals and less about whether you’re in the men’s or women’s section of the sneaker store. Everyone benefits the same way from hitting the weights. If anyone tells you that you should base your workout routine on your gender, you know they are full of baloney.

Read more:

>> Male and Female Strength and Muscle Growth: Do Men and Women Gain the Same?

Fitness Myth #17: Strength Training Makes Women Bulky

If women build muscle as well as men, doesn’t that mean you end up bulky if you lift weights? No, that’s another of those pesky fitness myths. A particularly damaging one, too, as it has prevented many women from experiencing the numerous benefits of strength training.

No one has ever become too muscular by accident. Man or woman. 

Everyone’s body responds differently to strength training. Some gain muscle more quickly than others, but it’s never to the extent of “bulking up” dramatically without dedicating your efforts to doing so. Most women find that strength training results in a firmer, fitter, and more sculpted appearance with better muscle tone and overall strength.

Muscle development is largely controllable. You don’t just wake up one day and find yourself accidentally looking like a bodybuilder. It takes specific, intense, consistent training and a particular diet to achieve significant muscle mass.

Even if you are that one-in-a-million genetic marvel whose biceps grow just from looking at a pair of dumbbells, you can still get all the benefits of lifting weights without the bulk by not going all out in your workouts. Even if that would be a waste of a unique gift.

If you’re not prepared to put in a ton of time and hard work, there is zero chance of getting “bulky” from your strength training. Those who want to build maximal amounts of muscle know the insane dedication it takes.

Myth #18: Cardio Is the Best Way to Lose Weight

Many people believe that if you want to lose weight, the only way is to increase your aerobic activity and start doing cardio. However, scientific evidence does not agree. In fact, the effectiveness of cardio for losing weight is another fitness myth.

Research from more than two decades shows that study participants, at best, lose a small to modest amount of weight and body fat from doing cardio.23 24

That’s not to say that cardio is useless for weight loss. It’s not. It helps you burn calories and is a valuable tool to lose weight, but it’s not the only one nor the best one. Your diet is, by far, the most critical factor. You can eat 1,000 calories in 10 minutes, but it takes hours of exercise to burn that many calories. The amount of time and energy required for weight loss is usually far more than any of us are willing or able to do on a regular basis.

In addition, strength training gives cardio a run for its money when it comes to effective weight loss, especially if you want to lose fat, not just body weight in general. 

  • Strength training, which includes everything from bodyweight exercises to lifting weights, builds muscle, and muscle is like your body’s calorie-burning powerhouse. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, even when you’re just relaxing on the couch.
  • Resistance or strength training can also give you what’s known as the “afterburn effect” (or, if you want to get fancy, “excess post-exercise oxygen consumption” or EPOC). That means your body continues to burn calories even after you’ve finished your workout, like leaving the engine running after a race.
  • And most importantly, weight training prevents the loss of lean muscle mass when you lose weight. A weight-loss program without strength training produces similar results on the scale, but many of the lost pounds will be lean tissue. 

The best approach is to combine cardio with strength training. It’s like getting the best of both worlds. You burn calories with cardio and build muscle with strength training. Together, they turn your body into a more efficient, fat-burning machine. As long as you follow a balanced and healthy low-calorie diet.

Read more:

>> How to Cut: Lose Fat and Keep Your Muscle Mass

>> How to Cut for Bodybuilding: Top 15 Tips for Success

Fitness Myth #19: If You’re Not Sore, You Didn’t Work Out Hard Enough

Muscle soreness, or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), usually occurs when you engage in an exercise that your body is not accustomed to, especially if it involves eccentric (lengthening) movements or if you suddenly increase your training volume.

After more than a century of research, scientists still haven’t agreed on what DOMS is. One thing is for sure: it’s not a reliable indicator of muscle growth or effective training. Muscle soreness is expected when you start a new workout routine, try a new exercise for the first time, or amp up your training intensity. However, it’s more about your muscles being surprised at what you’re putting them through than an indication of a sudden growth spurt.

Similarly, as your body gets used to a workout, the soreness decreases, but that doesn’t mean your muscles have stopped growing or getting stronger. They’re just getting better at handling the stress you’re throwing at them.

Note: some people keep getting sore after every workout, even after years of consistent training. No one knows why, but it doesn’t mean better or worse results.

According to research, a workout routine that produces some muscle damage is likely beneficial for muscle growth.25 However, DOMS is a poor indicator of the good kind of muscle damage.26

What does this mean? It means that instead of soreness, more reliable indicators of effective muscle-building workouts are progressive overload (gradually increasing the weights, reps, or intensity of your exercises) and consistent performance improvements. Yes, the training that leads to muscle growth can cause DOMS, but DOMS is not the reason your muscles grow. It also means you can forget this fitness myth and focus on the job: forcing your body to improve by doing things it can’t handle.

Myth #20: Stretching After a Workout Prevents Muscle Soreness

Here’s another myth that involves muscle soreness (DOMS), although this one is mainly about the effectiveness of stretching. The belief that stretching after a workout will prevent or help mitigate muscle soreness is one of the most prevalent fitness myths out there.

However, it’s nothing but another of those common misconceptions the fitness industry is filled with, even if it is touted as the truth by professional athletes, self-proclaimed fitness experts, and your certified personal trainer.

There are two main types of stretching: static and dynamic. Static stretching is where you hold a stretch for a period, like touching your toes and holding. Dynamic stretching involves moving parts of your body and gradually increasing reach, movement speed, or both (like leg swings).

While dynamic stretching as part of a warm-up can get your blood flowing and prepare your muscles and joints for action, there’s little to no evidence that either static or dynamic stretching after a training session reduces DOMS.27 28 29

What does help, you ask? The most effective way to reduce DOMS is more physical activity. Stay active, move around, and keep your muscles in action. Everyone knows how bad DOMS can hit you when you sit around and then have to get up. You feel at least 20 years older and stiff as a board. Massage can also be helpful. Besides that, good old rest, hydration, and a balanced diet are the crucial players in muscle recovery.

So next time you stretch, remember that the main reason is to increase flexibility and prepare your body for movement, not to banish the soreness gremlin.

Fitness Myth #21: You Should Train Every Day

Even if you love the fitness lifestyle and working out, saying you should train every day is like saying you should eat cake every day because it’s delicious – tempting, but not always a recipe for success. Another fitness myth? You bet.

Your muscles don’t grow bigger and stronger during your training sessions. It’s during the hours and days following the workout that they adapt to the stress you’re exposing them to. Without adequate rest, you’re just tearing things down without giving them a chance to rebuild.

Working out daily, especially at high intensities, can lead to overtraining, compromise your immune system, and make you enjoy your training less. Symptoms include fatigue, decreased performance, mood swings, and increased risk of injury. You want your training to build your body up, not break it down. It needs rest and recovery to respond to the hard work you’re putting it through.

Can you work out every day? You can, but it’s likely not a good idea unless you’re a high-level athlete with advanced recovery abilities. Not if we’re talking high-intensity workouts where you go all out to beat your previous best. Intense training every day is like constantly using your phone without charging it. Eventually, it’s going to conk out.

That being said, you can do some form of exercise every day if you want to, but mix it up. Throw in some light-to-moderate workouts in between your all-out sessions. Some light activities like yoga or a brisk walk on your “off” days often hit the spot and energize you instead of wearing you out. But complete rest days where you just take it easy are also nice for both your body and brain.

No rest? No progress. Simple as that.

Final Words

There you have it! Twenty-one of the most common fitness myths: debunked and condemned to the dustbin of bro-science.

Unfortunately, the fitness world is filled with these myths and others like them. At best, they are harmless nonsense, but at worst, they prevent people from enjoying the benefits of exercise.

Hopefully, you have enjoyed this dive into the realm of the biggest fitness myths and learned something new along the way. If only one person gets to improve their health and quality of life by not listening to outdated myths, this article has served its purpose and more.


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Andreas Abelsson

Andreas is a certified nutrition coach and bodybuilding specialist with over three decades of training experience. He has followed and reported on the research fields of exercise, nutrition, and health for almost as long and is a specialist in metabolic health and nutrition coaching for athletes. Read more about Andreas and StrengthLog by clicking here.