Ladies, if it’s fat-loss time, then it’s time, once and for all, to fix a few training traps you may have fallen into. With the help of a pair of training experts, Oxygen helps you identify some common workout blunders. If you’ve gotten stuck in any of these traps, here’s your way out.
No. 1: Doing Too Much Cardio
Gym-goers spend countless hours performing steady-state cardio as a means of burning body fat and losing weight. Unfortunately, most of this time is wasted because this kind of low-intensity exercise is an inefficient way to lean out.
The key to torching fat and transforming your body is intensity. Cardio needs to be fast-paced and challenging. The solution? High-intensity interval training.
“Intervals are probably the best way to go about burning fat,” says Jessica Janicek, a competitive Figure athlete and personal trainer with New York–based Sci-Unison Fitness. “Aim for a sprint of 30 to 45 seconds followed by a light jog or brisk walk for about one minute. This spike in heart rate, then stabilization, then spike again, is what puts the body into a fat-burning/cardiovascular-conditioning mode instead of a muscle-deteriorating one.”
Get Out of the Trap: Go for two or three 10- to 20-minute HIIT sessions per week, depending on your fitness level. Follow a 2:1 active-rest-to-work ratio, making sure each work interval is done with all-out effort.
No. 2: Choosing Light Weights
Don’t worry, ladies, picking up a heavy weight and lifting it for a challenging set of eight to 10 reps, as opposed to lighter weights for 15 to 20 reps, won’t make you look like a bodybuilder; women’s natural testosterone levels aren’t high enough for that.
“In order for you to have shape and definition, you must first have some hypertrophy [growth] of the muscle,” says Liz Jackson, a Figure competitor, co-owner of The Rack Gym (therackgym.com) in Ponca City, Oklahoma, and owner of Jackson Nutrition. “You accomplish this by lifting a challenging weight. You need to be struggling by the end of your set on the last two to three repetitions.
“Women have to fight for every ounce of muscle they’re able to put on their frames,” Jackson says, “which means you must pick up a dumbbell that’s heavier than your purse! When you train properly with weights, you increase your metabolic rate for up to 24 to 48 hours after the workout because of muscle repair. The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism will be because muscle is active tissue.”
Get Out of the Trap: It’s widely understood that sets in the eight- to 12-rep range are ideal for building muscle, so for starters, pick one or two exercises per muscle group and limit yourself to 12 reps or less per set. If the 11th and 12th reps aren’t challenging, increase the weight. Not every set you do has to be heavy — doing a mix of low, moderate and high reps will keep muscles guessing.
No. 3: Letting Machines Do The Work
Generally speaking, free weights are going to give you more “bang for your buck” than machines. When you do an exercise on a machine, the target muscle — and little else — is being worked. Perform the same movement with a barbell or a pair of dumbbells and a host of other muscles are forced to help complete the exercise.
“[Free weights] require you to incorporate more stabilizing muscles into each exercise,” Janicek says. “Because there are so many muscle groups being incorporated, you’re going to burn more calories and fat faster.”
Get Out of the Trap: Emphasizing free weights over machines is especially beneficial when training the lower body. Include dumbbell squats, barbell lunges, stiff-legged deadlifts, weighted wall sits, dumbbell sumo squats and dumbbell step-ups in your lower-body training.
No. 4 : Neglecting Chest and Back Training
Ignoring certain muscle groups and prioritizing others can lead to muscular imbalances and potential injury.
“The most undertrained muscle groups I see in women are probably chest and back,” Jackson says. “Working the chest hard can do such positive things for women. It will help lift that certain female area that tends to droop with age and children — enough to notice that ‘they’ look a little perkier and feel firmer. Ask your treadmill to do that for you!”
As for back, not only are posterior muscles like the lats, rhomboids and middle traps visible from behind when you wear a strapless dress or tank top, but the back is also one of the most injured parts of the body.
“Very simple moves done to tone this area will make you look as great from the back as you do the front,” Jackson says. “And back training is also great for proper posture and spine health.”
Get Out of the Trap: Chest and back training should be balanced with shoulders and arms. Add push-ups, incline bench presses, bent-over rows, pull-ups and bent-over lateral raises to your upper-body training.