Most women out there at some point end up confused by all the conflicting information thrown at them by fitness mags, the mom at yoga class or what the all knowing men in their lives tell them. They are torn between doing tons of cardio, five yoga classes a week or lifting weights. Too often these women end up doing a hodge podge of everything with no real focus and wind up looking worse than when they began. There's this thing known as "skinny fat," an awful condition where they look thin in clothes, but actually have a higher body fat percentage than they did before they started to exercise because they lost muscle instead of body fat.
I'm going to assume that one of the reasons women go to the gym is to look better, and looking better usually means becoming leaner or acquiring more curves. You accomplish both by weight lifting. Plenty of women have accepted this as truth, but I still see stuff that makes me want to scream out loud.
Here are some of the mistakes I see women making all the time.
1. It's all about the abs:
Spoiler alert: everyone has abs; you just have to burn off enough fat so they show. To get the more chiseled look you want to build the abdominals but stop thinking that you need to dedicate half your workout or more to doing abs. Once I condition my clients with body weight core work for a bit I graduate them to 4-6 hard sets of 15+ reps using weight. Spend your time building overall muscle and doing things that burn fat in general.
Don't ever go super heavy on your weights for core unless you want a thick waist. Muscles grow LARGER and THICKER under heavy weights. Think about that for a sec. I'll wait... And for the love of all wasp waists out there do not ever do those stupid side bends while holding a plate or dumbbell. Just don't.
2. I don't want to look like a man:
I've spoken at length on this for a quarter of a decade but it doesn't look like this one is ever going to die. You need to lift more than a Barbie sized pair of pink dumbbells for this to happen. Personally I want to body slam whoever made dumbbells, guns and camo pink. Show me a pink pine tree. Go ahead I dare you. You'd have to lift weights all day every day for years while sticking steroids in your butt cheeks to ever really look like a man. Just stop with this one already. On a side note your muscles won't grow super big unless you start feeding them a lot more. Muscles don't just appear you've got to supply them with protein, carbs and a ton of hard work.
3- Scared of looking like a psychotic clown:
If you're scared of making faces and possibly having an unfeminine grunt escape your lips you should probably join a book club or something. Too many women just don't get down and dirty. If you're not making faces or gritting your teeth you're not working hard enough. And if you're worried about your makeup running you're in the wrong place. Wait, why in the hell do you even have makeup on? Crazy clown face = awesome body. Make THAT your new mantra.
4- Insert new fad/tool/equipment name here:
Where do I start? There's the ab roller, weighted hula hoop, body ball, stability ball. The list is endless. So much of a gyms money and space is wasted on small stuff like this right up to the $50,000 Synrgy system that simply take up massive space while two people use one portion of it. Unless you're a high performance athlete it's not needed. The basic stuff is still around because it WORKS. Simplify. Simplify. Simplify.
5- Same ole, same ole stuff:
I'm not sure what the root cause is, a lack of imagination or simply laziness that makes some women keep doing the same routine day-in and day-out. Our body adapts to workouts pretty quickly. That's why there are so many over weight aerobics instructors. They've done the same routine for years and their body is so used to it that it burns minimal calories. I cycle my clients workouts every four to six weeks as needed. Change is good. I promise.
6 – Too Much Cardio:
I ran marathons. All it did was wreck my feet and knees, tighten my IT bands and injure me. The only reason I kept my ass was because I refused to stop lifting heavy. Most of the women I see doing endless cardio while shying away from weights are skinny fat at best. They have a much higher body fat percentage than you'd think. And the minute they get an injury they start packing on the wright because they have no MUSCLE. I won't bore you with talk of how we are programmed from hunter/gatherer days to burn muscle before fat in case we get stuck in a cave starving for a month. Oops I just did... Excessive cardio is basically an artificially induced caloric deficit. Same thing basically. Too much cardio means less muscle. Less muscle means less calorie burning abilities. Which leads to skinny fat. Which leads to just plain fat.
There are better ways to burn fat. Try a 20-30 session of fasted cardio three times a week (take your amino acids to spare your muscles). Keep your heart rate around 115-130. Also 10-15 minutes of high-intensity exercise in the form of HIIT or Tabata spare muscle and burn fat simultaneously.
For the love of god women, EAT! Especially post workout. Gaining fat during this period is not likely. It is very likely however that you will build muscle then, provided you give your body the protein and calories it needs.
It all has to do with insulin, not as in "omg I have diabetes" but as the necessary hormone that carries glucose and amino acids to muscle cells. It delivers those nutrients directly to muscle cells where they're used to fuel, repair, and grow muscle. Sexy, firm, curvy muscles. If you want to build muscle/curves, it's super important that you eat pre and post workout. So stop listening to these awful companies telling you to drink two shakes and eat a salad fit for a baby rabbit and EAT!