Health & Medical Fitness & bodybuilding

Facts And Fallacies Of Fitness By Mel Siff Intro

Toe-touching is dangerous. Squats damage your knees. Never hold your breath during exercise. Aerobic training is essential for cardiac health. Ballistic stretches are harmful. Straight knee situps damage your lower back. Weight lifting slows you down and makes you stiff. Lactic acid causes stiffness. Resistance training is bad for children. And so on and so forth.

If you are in the fitness, wellness or physique professions, you will have heard these declarations and many more. The emergence of fitness and personal training as a discrete profession has bred a host of rules and guidelines, many of which are contradictory and confusing for the personal trainer, aerobics instructor, bodybuilder and sports coach. The newcomer and veteran alike are justified in not knowing what to accept and what to discard. Much of the time they opt for the information disseminated in popular fitness magazines and at fashionable fitness conventions. Even then, information which disagrees with existing dogma usually is ignored or dismissed because the majority or commercialised view has become firmly entrenched as the reigning fitness or physique religion.

The \'thou shalts and thou shalt nots\' of fitness are blindly adhered to with greater fervour than the Ten Commandments of the Bible. Few practitioners ever question the source or validity of this fitness religion, nor are they encouraged to do so, because this would undermine the authority of many fitness organisations, sports equipment companies and fitness professionals. The position in bodybuilding is just as confusing, since the newcomer has to choose between thousands of different routines promoted by hosts of prominent champions of gargantuan proportions, glossy bodybuilding magazines and persuasive equipment manufacturers. In many respects, the world of fitness, bodybuilding and sports training has yet to emerge from its Dark Ages, despite the fact that modern science is applying highly sophisticated methods to produce some extremely exciting findings about the human body and mind.

Why this apparent paradox? Why is fitness and physique training so primitive in so many respects? Why does it incorporate so few of the discoveries of modern science? Why is the fitness profession regarded as a low level profession, practised by those who cannot pass a serious degree at a university or could not make it in the real world of business? Why is there a huge collection of damaging fallacies that rarely seem to reach the public? Why is so much hidden from the fitness professional or physique athlete? Is there a conspiracy which prevents one from finding out what is fact and fallacy? Does it suit mass circulation magazines, equipment manufacturers and medical groups to allow most of us to remain in relative ignorance?

Many of the answers to these questions lie in the image projected by high profile individuals, sports heroes, companies and organisations who talk on behalf of the fitness, physique and sports professions. Very often these self-appointed authorities become shining examples of the saying that \"a little knowledge is a dangerous thing\", yet, sadly, most of their intended audience become committed disciples because they generally are not interested in scratching any deeper than the surface.

Many exercise scientists and medical professionals do not fare much better in this department, even though they have the training and the means to dispel many of the myths and misconceptions associated with fitness and health. Some of them extol the virtues of isokinetic or constant velocity machines for rehabilitation or testing, even though it is scientifically impossible to construct a constant velocity machine. Others warn against breath-holding even during heavy weight lifting, despite the fact that the Valsalva manoeuvre protects the back during lifting. Many accept incorrect concepts such as isotonic exercise (which implies constant muscle tension). Or they believe that shoes diminish the likelihood of impact injuries or that aerobic training is the best way of reducing the risks of heart disease. Some still consider that resistance training is contraindicated for children and older adults.

The majority tend to regard strength training as being far less important than cardiovascular training, even though most adults in the world require far more strength-related fitness and agility than aerobic fitness for executing their daily tasks. Many accept the contention that agonist muscle action is always controlled by opposing action by the \'antagonists\'. Few realise that the heart serves as an endocrine gland as well as a pump. The majority are unaware that the hypertrophy produced by bodybuilding can be different from that produced by weightlifting. For that matter, many of them do not even know the difference between weightlifting, powerlifting and bodybuilding. Indeed, many fallacies abound in the apparently objective and scientific world of medicine as well!

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