This post is a broader follow-up to the previous post specifically about Common Weight Loss Misconceptions.
Here, we take the idea beyond just weight loss and into overall fitness.
#1 Proper Form Will Just Happen
A lot of people seem to be under the impression that proper movement patterns are of secondary concern to lifting more weight. “My form needs work, but I hit a new PR!” is a far more common sentiment than I would have ever imagined (if you don’t believe me, just search fitness-related terms on instagram for 5 minutes).
If your only concern is “killing it” in the gym with no regard to the long-term health of your muscles and joints, then I guess proper form can come second. But I don’t imagine that’s why you are reading this article. #context
Proper form only comes when you put it there. End of story.
Sure, some movements are more intuitive and easy than others, but some require a lot of practice, awareness, and even coaching (like the squat and deadlift).
Do not “learn” an exercise, get it “meh,” and then start upping the weight assuming that the kinks will work themselves out. They won’t. Chances are, they’ll stay exactly the same and, eventually, lead to injury.
#2 Squatting is Bad For Your Knees
Squatting is not bad for your knees; squatting poorly is bad for your knees. But so is kneeling down poorly, getting into and out of a car poorly, sitting on the toilet poorly, plopping on the couch with your legs all weird and tucked. But squatting? Nope. Your body is meant to squat.
To be clear, though, this does not mean your body is necessarily ready to squat. If you’ve spent years conditioning yourself to only sit in the unnatural position that chairs force on you—like so many of us have and continue to—then squatting to full depth with weight on your back is not something I would recommend immediately. You may have to work on some mobility and flexibility first, but the squat itself is not bad for your knees.
#3 Lift With Your Knees
I hear this one a lot. The thing is, it’s almost right, but not quite. I think it stems from incorrectly assuming that the opposite “don’t lift with your back” is “do lift with your knees.”
Don’t lift with your back is solid advice, but it’s incorrect to move the burden down to the knees. Lifting with your legs is a little more accurate, but it’s still not completely there.
What you should be doing is lifting with your hips.
This means that the lower back (and upper back, for that matter) remains still in relation to your pelvis, and the movement is relegated to the joints where your femurs (thigh bones) meet the pelvis. This utilizes a massive system that’s comprised of large bones and many muscles (including the glutes—the body’s most massive muscle group) rather than relying on the tiny vertebrae of the lumbar spine or the knee joint.
Your knees will move in order to help you change position (you know, from “person who’s about to lift something” to “person who just lifted something”), but the burden of the weight will be on the hips.
#4 Eat Six Small Meals A Day
I’m not 100% sure where this one came from, but my guess is that it gained traction due to an over-reliance on carbohydrates in the diet. The theory goes that you need to eat six small meals a day in order to “keep your metabolism stoked.” Bupkis.
In the context of the Standard American Diet (appropriately abbreviated SAD in many cases), this may appear to make sense as the over-emphasis of carbohydrate-rich foods is likely to cause swings in blood sugar (you eat and it goes way up, then it’s cleared and goes way back down). But even then, it’s less “keeping your metabolism stoked” and more “making sure the crazy blood sugar swings you get from eating the garbage we’re telling you to eat don’t get too out of control...by eating said garbage more frequently.”
If you’re switching from eating several small meals to eating 3 (or even 2) larger ones, it might be a little rough at first. But once you have everything with your nutrition dialed in terms of food choices, you’ll notice your hunger signals changing. You will no longer get hangry or have large, distracting hunger pangs. You’ll likely stop experiencing light-headedness or small headaches that come with low blood sugar. Hunger will simply be a signal to your body that it might be time to eat something.