Common Training Session Misconceptions

It is becoming blatantly obvious that the role of a personal trainer is becoming more of a motivator and educator than anything else. Fitness has become such a fad that no matter what channel you watch, magazine you pick up, or conversation you overhear, there are exercise and nutrition myths being thrown around like crazy. Actually, I even had a client ask me if cucumber water made you “absorb fewer carbs”. Apparently a co-worker dropped this knowledge bomb on her.

This kind of information (or lack thereof) doesn’t look like it’s going to change anytime soon and therefore, the number 1 job of the fitness professional is to become the information filter. Gone are the days when people didn’t know how to exercise, because now there is an abundance of information. So much so that the average person doesn’t know whether or not they should eat carbs, not eat carbs, only eat carbs before 7pm, do CrossFit, don’t do CrossFit, every cardio session should be HIIT (high intensity interval training), never do cardio….the list goes on and on. To be honest there likely isn’t a definitive answer, but more than ever people need direction in order to be successful.

With that in mind, I want to discuss some of the popular misconceptions of training sessions and how clients view exercise in contrast to that of fitness professionals.


“I need to burn as many calories as possible each workout.”

The goal of a training session is to make you stronger, help you move better, and increase your metabolic rate through positive hormonal release. As you get stronger and improve your movement quality you will become more injury resilient and more durable to the tasks of everyday life. Also, packing on more muscle will increase metabolic rate and provide the body with a more appealing shape. Burning calories is merely a side effect of a strength training session and your calories should be moderated through your diet. It’s a lot easier (and more time efficient) to eat 200 calories less per day than to burn 200 more calories.

“My workouts should be different every session for “muscle confusion”.”

I will agree that variation is important to some degree, but certainly not as often as most would think. You’re exercises need to stay consistent enough for you to get better at them so you can actually test your progress. If you need some variation, you are better off changing your intensities or volumes (sets and reps) while still keeping your core exercises. You can also make the exercises harder as you progress by simply choosing more challenging versions of the same exercise. It has been said that “strength is a skill” and it requires continual practice. This is why most successful strength training programs utilize the same exercises for at least 4-6 weeks.

“If I’m not sore today then my workout yesterday wasn’t that good.”

The soreness experienced after a workout is known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Most fitness enthusiasts experience this soreness quite often when beginning a training program, but after 4-6 weeks it becomes much less frequent. Due to this time period also being the same one in which most trainees experience some of the most drastic results, they often associate the soreness with physique improvements and believe the latter cannot come without the former. What DOMS really signifies is muscular damage or being exposed to a new training stimulus. While it is likely that it could lead to an increase in muscle mass via the repair process, it does not guarantee a productive workout. It is possible to make improvements without any soreness, especially if you are training in repetition ranges lower than 6.

“Every exercise has to be fast and I need to be out of breath.”

Nowadays mainstream fitness has an obsession with CrossFit style training and metabolic workouts. While these 2 types of training have some great benefits, training sessions should not always be performed at maximal speed or effort. When training for strength it is essential to use very heavy weights and a controlled repetition speed. When repetition speed goes up, quality and form generally go down and that is usually a fast track to injuries. It is important to develop different qualities to have a well-rounded fitness program; therefore, you should spend most of your time developing strength and endurance separately. Also, if you choose to perform a metabolic style workout, it is best to use lighter weight and movements that aren’t very complicated.