Most of my female clients come to me with the goal of losing weight, specifically targeting their butts and bellies. They like to focus on cardio training and ab workouts. When I introduce weights they eye me suspiciously and when I increase the weight they invariably tell me they don’t want to “bulk up.” I even trained one woman who wanted to tone her arms but stood firmly against lifting anything more than five pounds. They tell me they admire my upper body but when I train them the way I train myself, they protest.
I understand, I had the same incorrect ideology for many years. I was a cardio junkie who would spin for an hour or more on the elliptical machine five days per week, watching the “calories” tick off on the display. It was only when I started incorporating lifting – and lifting heavy that I started to see real changes in my body. Now I dedicate two or more gym sessions per week solely to lifting, (after a quick warm up) and it is easier to keep weight off. I can eat more food and my muscles are toned and defined.
There are a few reasons for this. The first and probably most well-known is muscle confusion. Your body is smart, you need to outsmart it. When you perform the same activity over and over for your workouts, your body will adapt and become more efficient at this activity, and you will burn fewer and fewer calories doing the same thing. By interspersing different types of workouts between your cardio sessions, you are challenging your body and forcing it to burn additional calories.
The second reason occurs after your workout. After any type of exercise, you continue to burn calories once you’ve stopped moving. You get a metabolic bump from your efforts. Resistance training gives you a greater metabolic bang for your buck long after you’ve stopped lifting as compared to steady state aerobic activity.
The third reason also occurs after exercise, but is even longer-lasting. Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat, so even after your sweat session and post-exercise metabolic bump, the muscles you’ve built continue to act as a metabolic furnace.
Here is what I recommend to help turn your body into a fat and calorie blasting machine:
~ Lift at least twice per week between cardio sessions.
~ Start your lifting sessions with ten minutes of light cardio (running at 5 or 6 mph on the treadmill) to get your body ready for exercise and avoid injury.
~ Choose two muscle groups and two or three exercises for each group (for example, if you are working your chest, you might try pushups, chest flies and chest presses).
~ Perform 3-4 sets of each type of exercise.
~ Choose a weight with which you can do only 8-12 reps before muscle exhaustion. If you can do more, you are not challenging your body enough and should increase the weight. I realize there is the fear of “bulking up,” but this requires an amount of testosterone women simply do not have to build big muscles. My clients are surprised to learn I typically use 15-30 pound dumbbells, depending on the muscle group I am targeting .
~ Try to combine exercises for maximum burn, for example squats with curls, or lunges with shoulder presses.
~ Always incorporate some type of core work into your sessions to keep your middle lean and your body stabilized.
Try it for a month. Many years ago I swapped precious cardio sessions for lifting, and I also swapped to a leaner, more sculpted body.