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Paige Waehner

Vote in This Week's Poll: Where did you get your worst exercise advice?

By February 25, 2013

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We've all probably gotten bad exercise advice over the years and maybe it's become so ingrained that we still follow it, even if we're not sure it's the right way to do things. I'm thinking about many of my female clients, who often come in with years of bad advice behind them, the worst being that they shouldn't lift heavy weights because it will make them bulky and hulk-like. Many men, on the other hand, have the opposite problem; growing up with coaches or trainers who teach them that the most important aspect of strength training is lifting the heaviest weights possible, regardless of how much they can actually handle.

And then there are things we hear from well-meaning friends - You're working out too much, running will hurt your knees, shouldn't you eat more? And on and on.

A while back, I wrote about this very topic and I asked my readers about their experiences. Here are some of my favorites:

"I was once told not to lift weights because women's muscles weren't designed to carry weight."
"After all this time I still see hoards of people doing behind the neck lat pull downs & military presses. Can you say, please give me an impinged neck?"
"When I was a teenager, my mother told me that all exercise is bad for women."
"I was told to lose weight before I start to exercise because I would build muscle over the fat."
"After learning I played basketball with male co-workers, my older friend said that I would never find a husband if I did such things."

So, what about you? Have you gotten bad exercise advice and, if so, where did you get it from? Vote in this week's poll and then leave a comment to tell us about the best or worst advice you've ever gotten. For added entertainment, check out some of our reader responses and then share your own bad advice story.

November 10, 2008 at 9:40 am
(1) Peggy says:

Lots of bad “advice” when I was in jr. high and high school. This was 1961-1966. Girls should not run- their female organs will fall and they will not be able to have children. Girls should not excersise hard. Thay are not built for that and will be permenantly injured. And of course, girls that are athletic are – well – attracted to other girls!

Growing up in the old south- what can I say!

November 10, 2008 at 1:57 pm
(2) Steve says:

Sure I have. My doctor told me I should exercise. That’s just too much work.

November 10, 2008 at 8:01 pm
(3) Ashley says:


November 10, 2008 at 8:17 pm
(4) Janica says:

When I got pregnant, my doctor said to stop exercising altogether. I had been running before and was in great shape.

November 11, 2008 at 10:37 am
(5) curt says:

After I had knee surgery and the following physical therapy I started going to the gym. Since I didn’t know much about weights and stuff I got a trainer. I told him I wanted to strengthen my knee to avoid further problems and ultimately begin hiking again and he said he would turn me into “man of steel” and had me do lots of upper body stuff and very little lower body stuff. He ultimately began to cause neck and back problems and I got another trainer. I thought that not only did he not listen to me but he also pursued a program that was far too agressive for someone my age.


November 11, 2008 at 11:31 am
(6) Better than ever says:

The worst advice I got (over and over, in different forms) was from coaches when I was a kid playing sports. For example doing “stretches” that lasted about 3 seconds – which I now know do the opposite of what was intended. Doing “duck walks” which are risky for the knees. The list goes on an on. And when I started coaching kids I repeated some of those mistakes, even though I was trying to employ the most current “best practices” (believe it or not, some of the best practices that used to be around were quite risky). My own extensive experience with sport and fitness now aligns with what I read about current best practices – stretch after playing, not before, and instead warm up by playing the sport at half speed for a while; do extended cardio work, not wind sprints; use heavier weights to build strength, repetition for endurance. Good luck anyone and everyone!

November 11, 2008 at 8:18 pm
(7) offcameherhead says:

Bad advice: “Girls need to stick with light weights, otherwise they’ll get unsightly muscle.”
“Light strolling around the block should be sufficient to get most women in shape.”

November 12, 2008 at 1:23 am
(8) Sigyn57 says:

I hurt my knee skiing when I was in 8th grade and the doctor told me not to ride a bicycle anymore. My knee hurt for years. Now I exercise and ride my bike all the time and my knee is so much stronger and hurts less. (I’m in my 50′s now).

November 12, 2008 at 2:20 pm
(9) Citywoman says:

“If you can do 8 (reps), increase the weight.”

I promptly threw my back out.

I now increase cautiously, and maintain a weight for 3 months before I increase it. I’m 60, and am now lifting 6kg for bicep curls.

November 12, 2008 at 7:55 pm
(10) Theron says:

Not sure if it’s really bad or good advice but I have tried Superslow and Static contraction. Still not sure if they are what they intend. Any thoughts?

November 19, 2008 at 2:32 am
(11) cristina says:

a while back in the gym, I wanted to work on a machine for back muscles, but the instructor was busy and I didn’t know how to do it right. Instead, a guy working out near buy came promptly to offer his assistance and show me how to do it … he looked like he was going to the gym for ages, so I trusted him … 10 min later I had pulled a muscle in my back and it took weeks before I recovered, only to find out later that he showed me all wrong, that he was also doing it wrong, only that he was much stronger than little me and didn’t get a pulled muscle on that machine, yet. well, ever since, I’m always waiting for the instructor and taking with very much caution this kind of advice from others, no matter how fit they look :)

February 25, 2013 at 9:54 am
(12) crow says:

In the mid 80s, I had people tell me, don’t run, your organs will fall out! I kept running and nothing fell out. Imagine that.

I had doctors tell me in response to a question about a running injury, don’t run, sit and rest for three weeks. Hello? How uninformed is that? The goal is to keep exercising with an alternate exercise that doesn’t aggravate the existing injury and do not sit and rest. Keep moving. The body has the ability to heal itself.

I have had folks say at my age I should be resting and maybe do light exercise. I guess not! I am 70 yo and bike 70 to 90 miles a week on trails, run/hike 2X week for 70+ minutes, lift weights, kayak and whatever other adventure comes along.

February 25, 2013 at 10:52 am
(13) Loring says:

Had a yoga instructor tell me that if I was having problems with a stretch, I should “bounce” into it until I could get it. Fortunately, I left the class immediately and told the owners and didn’t injure myself, but I cringe when I think of all the people in that class that probably didn’t know any better.

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