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September 8, 2020

085 | Fitness Myth Busting Mash Up

Fitness Myth Busting with Annie Miller

Get ready for a fitness question/myth busting mash up.

This episode is a compilation of fitness related questions I have received over the years or as of lately. While each of these could nearly be individual episodes, I kind of dig the mash up vibe. Like rapid fire fitness Q&A or debunking session.

Before we get to it, we will be covering:

  • What is a shock phase?
  • What causes muscle soreness and the muscle burn?
  • What causes the muscle pump?
  • Will cardio ruin strength or muscular gains?
  • Should you do cardio before or after a lift?
  • Can you gain muscle while losing fat at the same time?
  • Strength vs hypertrophy set and rep schemes
  • Can you gain strength without gaining muscle?
  • Is HILIT a thing? If so, how?

Fitness Questions/Myth Busting:

What is a shock phase?

I mentioned this in my stories a week ago when I re-entered the gym for the first time in over seven months.

And it’s very important that you grasp what a shock phase is and when you can expect it.

First off, a shock phase would be after a new week of training where your body is undergoing several new types of stimulus or levels of stimulus. So when I came back to the gym after a several month long break, I was increasing all factors of my training by default. Increased load, intensity, volume, and tempo.

This is with the context that I had only been doing at home workouts with a 25 pound kettle bell. Even if I were to only use an empty barbell for every exercise, I would nearly be doubling my load. Are we tracking? I hope we’re tracking.

 It’s called a shock phase because you have an abnormal response to your training stimulus. This normally results in very high levels of soreness. We can expect this in the first week coming back to an “old normal” style or modality of training.

You can also expect that you will not be anywhere near as sore the following week, which is why it’s called a shock phase. Like I said, it is an abnormally intense response to the new training, yet it feels like your body adapts by the next week.

Perhaps you have experienced this.

It doesn’t even have to be that you have taken a long break from training. It can just be any time that a large new stimulus is introduced to the body. For instance even if I was a very well trained in a strength perspective. Like squats, bench, deadlifts, and overhead pressing. If I went to a gymnastics clinic I would be devastatingly sore the week after, but if I kept going another week or two and did the same exact thing, I would be far less sore.

What causes soreness and muscle burn?

Lactic acid doesn’t make you sore or cause the burning sensation in your muscles.

Micro tears in your muscles cause soreness. Hydrogen ion build up creates the burning sensation you feel. That’s also not lactic acid or even lactate. Though lactate is produced at the same time hydrogen ions are released, but it’s the hydrogen ion that makes the pH more acidic.

ATP is our muscle/energy power source. it’s what we need for our muscles to function. To contract. ATP is produced through a process called glycolysis.

Hydrogen ions are formed as a by-product of glycolysis. Thiiiiiisssss is a factor in muscle fatigue as well as the burning sensation you feel due partially to the pH imbalance in the muscles.

When oxygen is not present, we have anaerobic phosphorylation. Which uses the cori cycle – this is where lactate is produced during glycolysis as well as the hyrdrogen ion. ATP is produced, as with oxygenation, but lactate is also produced, then transported to the liver to be turned back into glucose so that more energy (aka ATP) can be produced.

Yay science.

Bottom line, neither your delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) nor the burning sensation are from lactic acid. DOMS is from muscle damage (remember the micro tears in the muscle fibers), and the burn is primarily from hydrogen ions.

What causes the muscle pump?

The main factor in the muscle pump is fluid and blood being literally pumped into the muscle faster than it can be cleared out. Yes there is also a temporary shortening of the muscle after several contractions. This all makes the muscle feel “tight” but your actually muscle as a fibrous tissue is not getting larger. Rather it’s being inflated with blood. Like a sponge.

This makes a lot of sense if you think about the fact that the muscular system literally functions like a pump. As your muscles contract and relax they help move fluid throughout the body. When we continuously contract and relax and muscle there is an increased flow of blood to that particular muscle due to normal flow but also increased oxygen demand. And like I said it’s coming in faster than it can be cleared.

Will cardio ruin your strength or muscular gains?

In short, no, for the most part.

At some point, yes training for endurance will plateau or hold back your potential strength and power gains. But you can certainly have hybrid results for a pretty large span of the spectrum.

I always go back to your ability to recover from your training, and fuel that training properly. If you are able to eat enough of the right foods and recover well enough, your body will create adaptations from both the strength training and the conditioning. Look at elite CrossFit athletes for an example. There are plenty of CrossFit athletes that run within the six minute mile range or could wake up and run a half marathon with no problem and place decently high while also squatting double their body weight or more and yes, I’m talking about men and women both.

This can happen because, one, they are eating enough food, prioritizing recovery, and making sleep a top priority. They’re also training 4-6 hours per day L O L. But the same rules apply.

We only make gains on what we can properly recover from.

That leads into the next question that I don’t think I will ever stop getting.

Should you do cardio before or after your lift?

It depends. Both are fine. But it depends on your goals. If at all possible, these are completely separate. Train for strength at one point in the day allow your body to rest, maybe eat a meal, and then do your conditioning at a different point in the day. I suggest doing the strength training early on in the day simply because human growth hormone and testosterone are highest at those points. Especially for women. But honestly it’s not making or breaking your results. Do whatever is sustainable and realistic for you when it comes to training timing.

If you have to do cardio and strength training back to back in the same session, most of the time I will say to do your strength training first and cardio after.

This is the most efficient route in my professional opinion. The conditioning doesn’t wear you out before your strength session, and if you do the strength work first, accumulation of fact is working in your favor when you get to the cardio.

Meaning that you won’t have to work as hard in order to get and keep your heart rate up. But it will likely slow your ability to recover in a timely manner. Or has the potential to do so. This of course depends on what type of cardio or conditioning you are doing.

 If conditioning is your main goal and focus for training then of course do that first when you are fresh and go into your strength training after your conditioning. Simple as that.

Can you gain muscle and lose fat at the same time?

This is essentially asking if you can be in a bulk and a cut at the same time. And the answer is no. Anytime we are putting on muscle mass you are going to put on some adipose tissue as well. So you’re going to gain muscle mass but also some fat with it. This is natural. Depending on the amount of muscle mass you put on, although you are not losing fat, you could be improving your overall body composition. Due to the increase in muscle mass compared to fat mass.

Aside from actual muscle gain or fat loss, it’s possible in this process to “look better” or for you body to change shape due to the new musculature. Which I can’t say I hate.

The idea when you cut body fat is to maintain as much muscle mass in that process as possible. For most people anyway.

Set and rep schemes for strength versus hypertrophy and so on.

There is a large continuum of sets and reps possibilities and combinations.When we look at the continuum of set and reps, you have power at one end and endurance at the other. Okay? so picture that. A single line continuum. One end is power (think 1-3 reps), and the other end is endurance (12-15+ reps).

Between these two, we have strength and hypertrophy. For those who do not know, hypertrophy is muscle growth. Literally gaining muscle. A goal for a lot of humans. And much harder than people, partially women, think it is.

While strength is towards the “power” end of this continuum – think 3-6 reps, hypertrophy can happen through a much larger span of reps.

This is because the main factor in muscle growth is mechanical tension. That can happen in “strength” rep schemes, all the way to 12 reps. If you’re using a challenging load, and progressively pushing that mechanical tension, then you have the potential for muscle gain. This is VERY over simplified.

But the point is, strength requires a tighter a rep range than hypertrophy. Generally speaking. To increase strength you’ll likely need to be consistently working at at least 75% + of your max. This is not required for muscle growth. kapeesh?

This is also why I say Built By Annie is a strength and hypertrophy program. Because we work with a large set and rep range for accessory work, but for the main sets, the focus is typically strength. Or progresses to that spot throughout the year of programming.

Can you gain strength without gaining muscle?

One of my 1:1 clients asked me this and I think it’s a simple yet fantastic and fair question.

To start, muscle mass is the potential for strength. Okay? So the more muscle mass someone has, the larger potential to build strength that that person has. Just as strength is a prerequisite for power. Hypertrophy is a prerequisite of strength. Mmmmmmk?

With that, it depends. Strength is a skill. It’s not as simple as “gain more muscle, get more strength,” right?

If you have maximized your strength ability with your given muscle mass, then yes, in theory you’d need to put on more muscle mass to potentially increase strength.

But for most gen pop, we need to just train for strength. So much of strength training is actually training the CNS. Training and grooving your neuromuscular pathways. And then adding load and adapting.

So yes, muscle mass is needed for strength. But you can def increase strength without having to put on more muscle. Especially if you’re not an elite athlete. If you have very low muscle mass, then perhaps yes, you need to bring up muscle mass.

High Intensity, Low impact training HILIT – is it even a thing?


Don’t jump down my throat. First off.

One of my clients sent me a post the other day that listed a workout as HILIT. And my client was like, “is this a thing?” Lol I voice messaged her back after reviewing the post.

What the influencer had posted was definitely not HILIT. But, high intensity low impact training DOES exist.

We must first understand what high intensity and low impact are defined as:

Dr. Google says anything from 75%-90% max heart rate to 90% of VO2 max. Imma say above 80% max HR for most relatively fit humans is high intensity. So you are heavily taxing the heart and lungs (cardiorespiratory system). Mmmk?

Now, please google “low impact exercise definition” – the answers are hilarious and so confusing. It’s no wonder people are confused.

For the sake of this explanation, Annie says low impact is specifically referring to JOINTS (skeletal system). I say this because a movement with low impact on the skeletal system could have high impact on the central nervous system. We’re not robots.

It’s VERY important to distinguish the difference between these two systems. And I think that’s something people miss quite often.

If the two can coexist, then put simply, high intensity low impact training can indeed be a thing.

I want you to think about exercises like:

▪️slow sled pulls or prowler pushes

▪️a slow paced five minute walking lunch with a Weight vest on.

▪️The versa climber. Ever used one of those? Low impact but also, DEATH.

In fact much HICT (high intensity continuous training) could be considered HILIT – 20 minute stair climb with a weight vest, high resistance cycling.

These are the exact methods that I used in college for what could be considered high intensity, low impact training. My heart rate was well into the 180s, I was winded, and there was low impact on my joints (one foot on the ground at all times).

Think of someone with pelvic floor weakness or dysfunction.

How might we get their heart rate and respiration in the red zone 85-100% without high impact on their joints (sprinting, jumping)?

It’s a reasonable question, and essentially asking – how can we elicit a high intensity cardiorespiratory response while keeping low impact on the skeletal system? OH SHIT! I know, I KNOW.

It exists.


Most of what you see on Instagram as HILIT, is not legitimately HILIT. Much like most of what you see on Instagram listed as HIIT, is not actually HIIT.

Ideally these examples and explanation will give you the skills to differentiate what is and what isn’t HILIT.

That’s all I have for this fitness myth busting mash up my friends.

Review of the week comes from kmd pt and says,

“Annie keeps it real. She drops so many nuggets of info in each episode that have really helped me navigate being a beginner coach. Her episodes are typically fairly quick but there’s SO MUCH info in each. It has quickly climbed the ranks of my favorite podcasts.”

Remember you need to check the show notes (here) to see if you were review-er of the week, and then keep an eye out to see if you were listener of the month as well. That will be in the show notes and Annie’s Weekly Wrap. You can subscribe to Annie’s Weekly Wrap here!

Fitness Myth Busting with Annie Miller

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I'm an adventurous introvert from Vancouver, Washington who lives on sleep + "me time." I'm a lover of lifting weights, dinosaurs, real talk and traveling with my husband. I am here to help you move better, lift more, bust the myths of the fitness industry, and inspire you to love the process.

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