Don’t Fall for These 12 Fitness Myths From TikTok Influencers

Don’t Fall for These 12 Fitness Myths From TikTok Influencers
Photo: Bojan Milinkov, Shutterstock

Exercise science evolves over time, and we now know that a lot of things people used to say about fitness are not actually true at all. You won’t slim your thighs by standing in a vibrating belt contraption, for example. But now a bunch of those dead fitness myths are popping up, zombie-like, on TikTok. They’re still wrong, and you deserve to know the truth. So, here it is.

Ab exercises won’t slim your belly

Screenshot: janny14906/TikTok, Fair Use Screenshot: janny14906/TikTok, Fair Use

You can do all the core exercises you want, and they might build up the ab muscles inside your belly, but they will not do anything to reduce the fat on top of those muscles, no matter what TikTok user Janny14906 says in her dance videos. Only a calorie deficit will reduce fat, and that fat reduction will happen over your full body, not in specific places.

“Tone and tighten” is not a thing

Screenshot: briannajoye_fitness/TikTok, Fair Use Screenshot: briannajoye_fitness/TikTok, Fair Use

In this video, briannajoye_fitness correctly states that you can’t target fat loss, but loses all credibility by saying that the workout will help you lose your “belly pooch” and that you can “tighten & tone” an area. You still can’t spot reduce fat even if you call it “tightening” and “toning.” Sorry, Brianna.

Cardio isn’t strength training

Screenshot: giacfit/TikTok, Fair Use Screenshot: giacfit/TikTok, Fair Use

This video from giacfit claims that jump rope is great in part because it “strengthens upper and lower body.” But jump rope isn’t strength training, no matter how much of it you do. To get stronger, you need to give your muscles harder and harder work to do, not just more reps of the same thing. Jump rope is great for cardio, but it’s not going to make you stronger once you get past a very beginner level.

There’s no magic fat burning supplement you can make in your kitchen

Screenshot: davesweightloss/TikTok, Fair Use Screenshot: davesweightloss/TikTok, Fair Use

Wouldn’t it be great if you could manipulate your body fat by drinking lemon water or apple cider vinegar instead of doing all that pesky exercise and calorie counting? (Actually, I’m not sure if it would, because then we might starve to death from accidentally ingesting too much lemonade or salad dressing.) This video from davesweightloss is typical, claiming you’ll burn fat by adjusting your metabolism with chamomile tea, lemon, and vinegar. You won’t.

You can’t spot reduce fat, even by wearing a waist trainer

Photo: babykarelaaaa_/TikTok, Fair Use Photo: babykarelaaaa_/TikTok, Fair Use

The eternal human quest to slim one’s waist has led fitness gurus of all kinds to look for loopholes. You can’t spot reduce, but can you tone and tighten? You can’t tone and tighten, but can you waist train? Sorry, but waist trainers just make your belly sweaty.

You won’t injure yourself by squatting too deep

Screenshot: vicsalaz_/TikTok, Fair Use Screenshot: vicsalaz_/TikTok, Fair Use

People on the internet love to police each other’s squat form, TikTokers included. But there’s nothing wrong with squatting “arse to grass,” that is, with your butt significantly below your knees. There are many good ways to squat, depending on your mobility and goals.

Tiny pink dumbbells are not challenging enough for most people

Screenshot: alexnowyouknow/TikTok, Fair Use Screenshot: alexnowyouknow/TikTok, Fair Use

Gotta love a dude recommending “toning” exercises for girls. If you want to strengthen your arms, male or female, you need appropriately challenging exercises, with appropriately challenging resistance. Tiny dumbbells and water bottles aren’t going to cut it for most of us. (Although if that’s where you need to start, good for you! You’ll outgrow them soon.)

You still can’t spot reduce fat, even if it’s on your arms

Screenshot: the_stoney_yogi94/TikTok, Fair Use Screenshot: the_stoney_yogi94/TikTok, Fair Use

This video starts out promisingly, asking if you “ladies” out there have been doing tricep exercises but still have jiggly arms. But instead of telling us the truth — that tricep exercises will not remove fat from your arms — the host tells us that we need to use an underhand grip to target a different head of the tricep. Sorry, you still can’t spot reduce no matter what grip you use.

A tiny tweak to one exercise will not completely change your body shape

Screenshot: mariasteixeira_/TikTok, Fair Use Screenshot: mariasteixeira_/TikTok, Fair Use

Are you doing squats with light weight and not getting a dump truck arse? The upgrade you need is likely to be more weight, better programming, more appropriate nutrition, or simply more realistic expectations. It is not a change in squat stance. Yes, sometimes a tweak can slightly alter how you work the muscles you use, and that’s why there exists more than one type of exercise in the world. But these little tweaks aren’t going to cause massive changes in your physique.

You can’t “waste” your workout

Screenshot: nathaliecfit/TikTok, Fair Use Screenshot: nathaliecfit/TikTok, Fair Use

If you’re trying to build muscle, the most important thing is to do appropriately challenging resistance training. The second most important thing is to get enough protein in your diet and an amount of calories that is appropriate for your goals (weight gain or loss). Fairly far down the list is nutrient timing, like spreading your protein through the day or trying to get some of it in the immediate post-workout window. If you do a workout and then don’t have a protein shake right away, your workout is still going to be something like 99.999999% as effective as if you did. Even if you screw up a lot of those important things — like if you don’t get enough protein at all — your workout is never wasted.

Cardio won’t kill your gains

Photo: sarahrav/TikTok, Fair Use Photo: sarahrav/TikTok, Fair Use

Cardio and strength training are both important if you want to be a healthy human being. They’re also both important to reach your athletic goals, whatever those may be. If you’re going for a “toned” look (which just means muscle definition), it’s true that you don’t want to only do cardio. But as long as you’re getting your strength training in and you have a healthy balance in terms of your mental health and time management, there’s no such thing as “excessive” cardio. More cardio can actually support your strength training by increasing your work capacity in the gym.

You’re not going to detox your way to a flat belly

Screenshot: jennifernicolelee/TikTok, Fair Use Screenshot: jennifernicolelee/TikTok, Fair Use

There’s still no such thing as a “detox diet” or “detox water” (although if you have actually been poisoned by a legitimate toxin, you should head to the emergency room to get that taken care of). No combination of fruits or supplements in a mason jar will flatten your belly, or do anything else except potentially taste refreshing. It’s 2021 and there’s no need to repeat myths about toxins that were outdated a hundred years ago. TikTokers, do better.

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