With the vast amount of information available to people it’s hard not to be persuaded and develop biases towards certain pieces of information or advice, regardless of firm research or science-backed information.
We are fed so much information online, much of which is simply opinion or anecdotal- ‘what worked for them’. It is so easy to Google an online fitness ‘influencer’ or read a cookie cutter blog to gain information, however this information isn’t always true and can often be misleading and completely false.
Today I want to break down common exercise and rehabilitation myths that you may hear floating around your gym, from family or perhaps even from your GP!
Here we go:
1. Foam rolling my ITB will help with tightness and should be done frequently. Does this myth challenge your current bias or understanding of rehabilitation? If it does, you’re not alone. Your ITB (ilio-tibial band) is a very thick and dense connective structure that runs from the outside of your hip down to the outside of your knee. It is comprised of fascia, which is non-contractile, unlike muscle. Commonly, people will tend to roll out this connective structure thinking it will stretch. Not only is this painful; it is not actually achieving much. Foam rolling the ITB is like trying to roll out a leather belt, it just doesn’t work. If you are able to create some sort of stretch not only will it be very minimal, it will also be very short lived as this non-contractile structure returns to its normal length within minutes. My recommendation: look to mobilise and strengthen the tissue and joints surrounding the ITB, looking specifically at your hip and associated muscles.
2. I need to rest my injury and stop loading the area while there is pain. For most musculoskeletal injuries, rest will not be the recommended course of treatment. Sure, a reduction in load, intensity and volume may be prescribed however, full rest and immobilisation is almost never the key to a successful recovery. Take for example, lower back pain. It is very common advice to rest and avoid bending while suffering from lower back pain. However, the more we rest and avoid movement through that area, the more de-conditioned we become with an increase in sensitisation due to fear of movement and avoidance. It is also really important to remember that it is okay to exercise through a small-moderate amount of pain. Our backs are far more resilient than we give it credit for, and pain doesn’t equal injury. With slow progression of loading and correct technique, a lower back should be placed through movement and appropriate loading. It is the best thing you can do!
3. Lifting weights will make me bulky.To become too ‘bulky’ from lifting weights, you would also need to be eating in a very high caloric surplus. And this ‘bulkiness’ is probably then coming from an excess in body fat, rather than muscle. In fact, lifting weights is the catalyst for positive body composition change and becoming lean. Resistance based training not only increases lean mass tissue, making us stronger, it also helps to increase metabolic rate and total energy expenditure through-out the day. AKA- burn more calories at rest. Take a look at the top bikini fitness competitors of the world, far from ‘bulky’. They are lean and strong. Moral of the story here is don’t be afraid to lift weights. Aside from the aesthetics, it will pay dividends into the future; strengthening your joints, bones and reducing the risk of developing many chronic health conditions into the future
4. Deadlifts are bad for my back. Backs are designed to bend and move! Evidence shows that the relationship or association between bending and lower back injury or pain is very inconsistent, limited and conflicted. Deadlifts don’t cause a change or shift in structure and are actually a great rehab exercise to help manage lower back pain, when prescribed correctly. The best thing about deadlifts is that there are so many variations of the movement! We can trial lifting from a higher rack, lifting with a kettle-bell or even single leg. Weight can be extremely modified, as can range of motion and intensity. The deadlift targets so much more than the back. It looks at grip strength, shoulder strength, gluteals and hamstring groups. Depending on the deficiency in movement and aggravations, the deadlift can be modified and prescribed correctly to help with strengthening the back and surrounding musculature groups
5. My back is ‘crumbling’ away.Unfortunately, this is a very common way to describe osteoporosis when looking at completely normal, age related changes through the spine. This sort of description is far from helpful and only creates fear for the person on the receiving end, often resulting in reduced daily movement and quality of life. If we think about wrinkles on our face they happen normally with age and it’s not a major concern. This is similar to the age related changes that occur within the spine as we age. It is completely normal and expected that our spinal structures change as we age. It is important to note that the spine is surrounded by a lot of strong connective tissue and muscle that helps to protect the area and allow it to remain mobile and allow for load. Research strongly shows that consistent resistance training, bending and moving is the best thing you can do for the back to reduce the risk of osteoporosis and pain.
If you feel like these ideas have completely conflicted with your biases or beliefs, that’s totally normal! We have all been programmed to believe these ideas after years of being told by our treating health professionals, on the T.V and online. I urge you to research into these ideas further so you have a full understanding as to how your body moves and what it is really capable of! We should be constantly learning and challenging our beliefs.