Debunking fitness myths

Each day we all talk to people that share stories and it can be difficult to separate facts from fiction. I cannot tell you how much time I spend educating friends and clients on the myths we are confronted with. Many myths about fitness have been proven to be wrong.

I am sure you have heard these statements before:

  • Doing crunches or working on an ab machine will get rid of belly fat
  • Machines provide a safer way to exercise
  • Women that participate in resistance training with weights will bulk up and look like a man
  • No pain, no gain

These are all fitness myths. Each of the above statements has been disproven by scientific evidence.


First, simply doing crunches or ab exercises over and over will not alone get rid of belly fat. Doing these exercises will help strengthen these muscles, but they will not show as they get stronger unless you decrease your body fat above the abdominals. You cannot pick and choose where to burn fat. You need to decrease your overall body fat percentage to bring your abs to the surface.


Next, machines must provide a safer way to exercise. This is not always true. Unless the machine is set up for you to use properly, you may be putting yourself in a bad position creating muscular deficiencies. Working strictly on machines also removes the functional aspect of fitness.

Women & weights

Third, if you’re a woman and you exercise like the man next to you, then you will look like them. This is not the case. Women have 20-30% less testosterone then men. The only way you could bulk up as much as him is lifting far more weights than the average woman and having some sort of chemical imbalance. Don’t be afraid of weights. Resistance training will help you lose weight quicker, and keep it off for a long period of time.

No pain, no gain

Last, we hear this saying more than just in relation to fitness: If you’re not feeling pain, then you will not see any gains. This is far from the truth. There should be some soreness a day or two after exercise due to the muscles repairing themselves. This is a soreness or tightness, it is not a pain. Having pain during exercise could promote lifelong harm to your body. If you feel pain during an exercise, one or two things may be happening. You may have a pre-existing injury, or you are exercising out of proper position. If you feel pain, re-adjust to a proper position and see if it comes back. If the pain stays, go and see a medical professional to fix the problem before it is too late.

The bottomline

Often times it is difficult to decipher facts versus myths. Before believing what you hear, research it to find a good scientific answer. It may be true, but often times in fitness, these myths provide people answers as to why you should not exercise or do certain things – many offer invalid justifications.

And, never hesitate to ask me about what you hear on the street – I will gladly find you the truth.

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Moms: The myth of diastasis recti

To build a good business, you need to find your niche, build excellence within your niche, and own it! It works. Former GE CEO Jack Welch emphasizes this strategy to success throughout his book, Winning. Pick your niche and own it! There is a woman in the Twin Cities who has built a business on potty training other people’s children – and she has been incredibly successful. I know of another business that recycles sand – insanely successful. I support good businesses built on small, solid foundations.

Unfortunately, I have been bombarded with information (via Facebook) from a fitness business which has made a niche of diastasis recti and gone a bit wayward. Diastasis recti is a real condition – but the business’ methods are inaccurate, invalid, and much of the marketing is flat out bullsh%$t. They have blown the condition out of proportion. One of my goals of this blog is to educate. I want you to think critically about information that you see – and being able to see through the gimmicks and ploys.

What is diastasis recti?

Diastasis recti is a separation between the left and right side of the rectus abdominis muscle,
which covers the front surface of the belly area.

Diastasis recti is common among newborns, particularly premature, and pregnant women. In newborns, the muscles have not been fully developed and as the muscles develop this condition diminishes. In pregnant women, the abdominal muscles become lengthened and stretched as the abdominal cavity enlarges. Because of the length of a pregnancy, it will take some time for the muscles to return to ‘normal’ length and condition.

The business markets to the desperate moms out there – wanting to rid their baby fat. They are giving moms an excuse – in many cases illegitimate – for the remaining belly. This is fine – what I dislike most is that the offered solution is contrary to scientific evidence and knowledge. Therefore, it is not efficacious and effective.

No crunches?!?!?

The business (I prefer not to name it) promotes a crunchless (and situpless) fitness program to help moms. Sure, I get it. But the company states that crunches will worsen diastasis recti and promotes the alternative of working other muscles of the core. It is true, you can do plenty of exercises for your rectus abdominis without doing crunches. But what is wrong with crunches?

What is a crunch?

A traditional crunch begins with lying face up on the floor with knees bent and feet flat on the ground. The movement begins by curling the rib cage (NOT shoulders) towards the pelvis. Crunches can also be done standing or sitting. But what is the primary action of a crunch? Contraction of the rectus abdominis – which is the opposite of the lengthening which occurs in diastasis recti. So – tell me why crunches are bad, when they target the weak and lengthened muscle?

Situps are a whole different ball game and you cannot honestly put them in the same category as a crunch. Can a situp worsen diastasis recti? Sure, when you are doing them incorrectly and/or before you have progressed into being able to do them properly. With that said, you start with a crunch, move into a 1/4 situp, etc. (Progressions, progressions, progressions!!!)

Further, you also contract your rectus abdominis in ANY prone position – planks, pushups, mountain climbers – so you better not do any of those. Oh, and you also contract your rectus abdominis when you squat, bench press, step up, lunge – interesting, you contract your rectus abdominis to properly perform any and all exercises. Now I have thoroughly confused myself and I have no idea why anyone would believe that doing a crunch (properly) is what can do the most harm to an existing diastasis recti or that it could CREATE one.

Diastasis recti = lengthened and weak rectus abdominis

Crunch = contracted and strengthened rectus abdominis

A crunch contracts the muscles that supposedly lengthens and causes diastasis recti. I will let you determine if that makes sense.

Instead, work your transverse?

The business highly encourages transverse exercises instead of your traditional crunch. Yes, the transverse abdominus is also known as the natural girdle. But if diastasis recti is a condition that has stretched out and added length to the rectus abdominis, do you not need to perform exercises that contract the afflicted muscles (i.e., crunches)? Think about that. I know I am becoming repetitive but c’mon! How does working the transverse abdominus instead of the rectus abdominis improve the impairment causing the condition, diastasis recti?


The business is overgeneralizing the condition and unnecessarily scaring individuals into thinking that they need the program. Supposedly, you can measure the size of your diastasis recti by feeling for a gap – well post-pregnancy gaps are normal and all individuals have a certain amount of gap because of the belly button (duh?). It is far fetched. Further, any company that promotes such an ill-founded self-diagnosis should be ashamed.

To claim that diastasis recti is more common that most individuals believe is ridiculous. To claim that a man’s beer belly is a diastasis recti – sure, he needs to lose fat and strengthen his abdominis recti – NOT avoid crunches and be led to believe that he has a condition.

The bottomline

There are far too many myths out there. And just because a condition is real, do not believe that you can diagnose yourself! Is diastasis  recti a real condition and something to be concerned about? It is real. But if you are going to follow the advice and not do crunches, then you had better not exercise at all – because you might make the diastasis recti worse. Further, you had better remain lying down for the rest of your life, because sitting up and getting our of bed will make it worse, too.

Finally, be careful who you trust with your fitness. This is your life and this is the only body you will get!


Pregnant women should avoid crunches, situps, and other flexion movements. Not because of diastasis recti but because of the risk of impinging the nutrient supply to the fetus.