The Worst Exercise Advice I’ve Ever Received

While there’s a lot of great health advice out there, there’s also an overwhelming amount of subpar “expertise” floating around. When it comes to the world of heath and wellness, it seems like just about anyone with a pair of yoga pants is suddenly an authority on the subject. But often, these self-proclaimed “fitness experts” employ clever tactics of misdirection rather than delivering sound advice.

The Cheat Sheet polled six health experts to see what they had to say. Here’s the worst exercise advice they’ve ever received.

1. Eat this, not that

Man looking at food

Here’s what the experts have to say. | iStock.com

As a long distance runner, I’m always being told when to eat and how to eat. Eventually, I decided to listen to my own body and eat when it made most sense for me. I may not have the perfect nutrition routine, but it makes me feel good, which I believe is the most important thing.

Diana Fitts, runner and author

2. Sore muscles equal a great workout

a man resting during a workout

Listen to this advice about muscle soreness. | iStock.com

Here is the number one worst piece of exercise advice I’ve heard given by inexperienced trainers. It’s a myth that is far too common amongst fitness enthusiasts in general: “Sore muscles means you had a great workout.” This is simply false. Muscle soreness is NOT correlated with fat loss, strength improvements, muscle gain, or really anything other than struggling to sit on a toilet.

Dani Singer, director of Fit2Go Personal Training and advisor to the Personal Trainer Development Center

3. No pain, no gain

man crouching down with drink in hand

Know the difference between pain and discomfort. | iStock.com

“No pain, no gain.” “That means it’s working!” “Power through it.” No matter how you say it, cliched or not, getting told to suffer through pain is often a normal part of a workout session. This is more true if you’re training in a sport like boxing or CrossFit. However, it’s very easy to confuse discomfort with pain. Discomfort is certainly a part of many training regimens and lets you know that you’re pushing yourself. Pain should never be a part of a workout. I was pushed in power lifting to the point of serious back damage. You don’t want to mess with your spine, and back pain should never be experienced in training.

Jessa Mehta, founder of Get it Ohm!

4. Crunches are the best way to get abs

Man Exercising Abdominals

Seeing your abs starts with your diet. | iStock.com/Ibrakovic

NOPE. Abs are made in the kitchen! Many clients want to do abs in every workout, but aren’t willing to clean up their diet. It may be harder, but that’s the real way to lean out your midsection. Doing crunches and sit-ups will make your core muscles grow — but if there is fat over it you’ll never get to see them! Stabilizing work like planks are awesome ways to work your core. After all, that’s what those abs are for, right? To stabilize and support our trunk!

Julie Rogers, head trainer at Orangetheory Fitness

5. Exercise in heavy clothing

close up of a a runner on a treadmill

Running on a treadmill in heavy clothing isn’t a good idea. | iStock.com

The worst exercise advice I ever received was to do cardio while wearing a big, warm, heavy sweater. The personal trainer who told me to do that in a NYC gym thought it would help me sweat and lose a few kilos. Of course, it was torture, and I only tried this once. Unfortunately, two other young men who had followed his advice suffered hyperthermia because they were running on a treadmill with big sweaters on. They had to be rushed to the nearest hospital.

The personal trainer was fired, as you can imagine. Some people still believe that you should exercise with heavy clothes on to sweat and lose weight, but it is a really bad, dangerous idea.

John Leppard, fitness consultant for CardioTech

6. Women should not lift heavy weights

Man and woman exercising with dumbbells

Lifting heavy weights has advantages for women as well. | iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages

Women should NOT lift heavy, because it will make them bulky. … If they want to have long, lean, toned muscles, they should only lift light weights for a very high number of reps.

Tyler Spraul, C.S.C.S., head trainer at Exercise.com

[Editor’s Note: This story was originally published September 2016]