… is knowing what to leave behind
And if you haven’t heard of these guys, you need to dig yourself outta of that rock. Bad Rabbits from Boston just kicked off their #AmericanLove tour. Peep this! You’ll thank me later
Last night on PBS, there was a documentary on exercising and what the optimum amount of physical activity provides the optimum results. This is always a tricky theory to answer, because every body is built differently. Our genes play a factor in how our body responds to physical activity and how we process foods. Though genes can play a role in how we look, I do believe with hard work and dedication, we can reverse what we may be negatively predisposed with.
I often get questions around how much to exercise, and for me, I think the ideal scenario would be 5 times a week 45 mins to an hour each session. For the majority, that may be considered way too much, and if you think that’s not enough, maybe you should revisit the reason why you work out. If you’re not training for a competition, there really should be no reason to work out more than that. If you believe so, maybe revisit the reason why you work out.
In this documentary, Michael Mosley defies the traditional theory that spending countless hours at the gym is the primary way to lose weight. Instead, he suggests that doing short, yet intense amounts of hard work is just as beneficial, if not more, than spending hours with steady state cardio. Yes, some people are less responsive to high-intensity training (HIIT), but in general, there are internal (less visible) benefits of this type of training as Michael demonstrates. He even goes as far as suggests that 3 minutes of high-intensity training PER WEEK is sufficient to reap rewards. That might be a bit extreme for me, but it does imply that it’s not quantity but quality that counts!
If you know me at all, you know I’m no fan of steady state anything. In fact, I often refuse to run because I find it more detrimental than beneficial. However, I don’t discourage people from steady state cardio if that’s what they truly enjoy. Ultimately, the goal is to move and be active, so whatever activity that brings you joy and promotes health, you should continue regardless of what this study says. Here’s the documentary if you’re interested.
I wanted to share this article that I thought could apply to everyone just starting out with training OR even for the seasoned gym-goer. A lot of this we may already know, but it’s good to be reminded. The article is titled “30 Rules To Lifting Like a Girl & Looking Absolutely Awesome” written by Nia Shanks, who is the leader of the Beautiful Badass revolution and a co-founder of Girls Gone Strong – The Women’s Fitness Authority. Though the title suggests this is for women, it really applies to everyone! So guys, don’t be afraid to read through this and apply it to your workout routine!
The ones that resonate most with me are 1, 2, 3, 15, 23, and 27. Check it!
1. Lift Heavy Stuff. If you want to look awesome, then you must lift heavy. What exactly do I mean by “heavy”? Ideally it’s a weight that is challenging for 3-10 reps (you can go higher with lower body exercises once you’ve attained a good level of strength). You should have to focus, and work hard, to complete your set on compound exercises like squats, push-ups, deadlifts, rows, presses, chin-ups, lunges, etc.
Also, this serves as a good rule of thumb. Bottom line – pick up something heavy, put it back down, and repeat. Very good things will happen to physically, and mentally.
2. If You’re Gonna do Conditioning, do Real Conditioning. Bobbing up and down on an elliptical machine for half an hour is not what I consider real cardio/conditioning work. Instead, run some hill sprints, pull or push a sled, jump rope, or do kettebell swings.
This type of conditioning isn’t mandatory for fat loss or improved performance, so you may opt for walking or hiking instead, which is totally acceptable.
3. Stop Thinking about Fat Loss; Train for Performance. I’ve discussed in Letting Go of the Fat Loss Mindset and Part 2 why women can benefit from not focusing on fat loss, even if that’s the goal they want to achieve.
Forget about burning calories or working yourself into a useless puddle of sweat with each workout. Make it a goal to do a little better than the list time you performed that workout.
Do not train for fatigue and utter exhaustion – train for performance.
4. Squat. I don’t care which squat variation you choose – front, back, safety bar, goblet – as long as you’re squatting in some form.
5. Deadlift. Just like with squats, I don’t care which deadlift variation you choose – RDL, single leg, conventional, trap bar, sumo, rack pull – you should be pulling some heavy weight off the floor.
6. Dominate your Bodyweight. Push-ups and inverted rows are a great place to start. If you can’t perform 10 perfect push-ups or a single bodyweight chin-up, set up your training so you can achieve those goals. You can also have the goal of performing other bodyweight exercises like pistols, handstand push-ups, and other awesome bodyweight-only exercises.
If it seems like you’re a long way from performing even a single traditional push-up, don’t be discouraged. We’ve all been a strength training beginner before. You’ve gotta start from the beginning.
7. Be the Best You Possible. Forget about trying to look like the latest model on the cover of a magazine, or even your favorite athlete. Stop comparing yourself to other people. Focus on becoming the best you possible and highlighting your unique features and abilities.
It may take a little time to discover your natural strengths, but it’s well worth it.
8. You’re Never Too Good for the Basics. Some people search constantly for “unique” workouts or exercises. They think there’s some magical new exercise that will help them achieve their goals and that the basics will no longer work for them.
This is a huge mistake. No matter your training experience level, you’re never too good, or too advanced, for the basics like squats, deadlifts, push-ups, chin-ups, and other compound exercises.
9. Work That Booty. Squats, deadlifts, and lunges have always been staples in my training and my clients’ programs. But sometimes, they’re not enough to produce the results women crave in the booty-department. This is when glute bridges and hip thrusts can play a huge role in helping you achieve booty-liciousness.
10. Get Off the Scale. Your self-worth and results from eating right and training hard are not accurately reflected by the number you see on the scale. Click that link for more information.
11. Don’t Whine or Complain. Everyone had to start from the beginning and learn how to properly perform basic exercises, and so do you. Get in the gym and take action.
I don’t care if you can “only squat 45 pounds.” That’s your starting point. Accept it. Own it. Improve upon it.
12. Don’t overdo the “Core” Work. Everyone wants a flat stomach; but, endless sets of leg raises, crunches, or any other ab exercise isn’t the way to get there. Sure, a few sets of direct abdominal work is fine, but don’t put too much emphasis on it. You’re better off working hard at big, compound exercises and improving your performance.
13. Enjoy the Journey. If you dread your training sessions, then something is wrong. Find a way to make the journey enjoyable.
This can be accomplished by setting training goals that get your excited. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box.
14. Don’t Rely on Curls and Extensions for Sexy Arms. So you want a nice pair of arms? Then make it a point to bust out perfect sets of push-ups or parallel bar dips and inverted rows and chin-ups. Those exercises will do the trick, and will make the rest of your upper body look absolutely awesome in the process.
15. Don’t be Afraid to get Strong. Most women think lifting anything heavier than their purse will make them big ‘n bulky, and even more so a loaded barbell. Ladies, don’t be afraid to get strong. Busting out sets of parallel bar dips, squatting your bodyweight for reps, and deadlifting twice your bodyweight will not make you big ‘n bulky.
It will, however, make you more confident in the gym and your everyday life. Plus, it’s the best way to build that lean, athletic look you so desire. If you’re interested in lifting heavy singles, doubles, and triples for the first time, click on that link for more information that will allow you to do so safely.
16. Eat Food. Eat Real Food. For the majority of your meals (I’d say at least 90%) eat real food. You know, things that you could hunt, grow, and find in nature (wild caught fish, grass-fed beef, fruits and veggies, etc). Oftentimes this single tip helps people shed fat easily.
17. Eat Your Protein. I’m a fan of eating around 1 gram per pound of bodyweight. Protein helps you feel fuller longer, and aids in muscle tissue repair.
18. Embrace the Power of Rows. Numerous women wear high heeled shoes frequently, suffer from poor posture (anterior pelvic tilt, forward head posture, kyphosis), and/or sit most of the day. This is a recipe for not only terrible posture, but aches and pains.
You can’t do too many rows, in my opinion. Make sure rowing variations — cable row, one arm dumbbell, inverted, and other variations — are a staple in your training programs. While it won’t fix the issue completely, it can help. (It would behoove you to be diligent about correcting your posture throughout the day as well).
19. Don’t be Afraid to Train Alone. I stole this one, word for word, from the 30 Rules to Lift Like a Man article mentioned at the top of this page. Women, in my opinion, can be the worst about training alone.
Oftentimes women won’t brave the gym, especially the weight room, if they’re solo. Ladies, if you’re intimidated to weight train alone, it’s time to woman-up. Forget about what other people think or how many men you’ll be surrounded by.
Chances are, if you follow all of the rules in this list, you’ll be out-lifting most of them in a few months. Get back there and proclaim your spot in the weight room and show everyone what it means to Lift Like a Girl.
20. Some Days You won’t Feel like Training. Suck It up, Sister. You’re gonna have days where you don’t want to go to the gym. Maybe you had a long day, or you just “don’t feel like” training.
Unless you’re sick or truly need a break from lifting (and this does happen), do yourself a favor and get in the gym. Go through your normal warm-up. More often than not, you’ll feel great and will end up having an awesome training session. Many times these training sessions can lead to PRs (personal records).
21. Adopt Eating Habits that Work for You. Maybe you want to try a method of intermittent fasting. Maybe you just want to listen to your body and eat when you’re hungry. From experience with myself and my clients, it doesn’t so much matter when and how you eat, as long as you’re making smart food choices. Plus, you’ll obtain much better results and have a lot less stress if you adopt eating habits that fit into your lifestyle.
22. Earn Your Isolation Exercises. So you want to really bring out your deltoids or improve your arms? Great. That’s fine. But, you need to earn those isolation exercises by working hard on the big, compound movements that provide more “bang for your training buck”. For example, if you want great shoulders, you should work really hard at overhead presses, first and foremost. Once you get strong on that exercise, then feel free to add in a few sets of lateral raises.
Don’t perform endless sets of isolation exercises at the expense of the compound movements that provide the majority of the results.
23. Don’t Overdo Cardio. This is a huge mistake a lot of women make. Usually, whenever a woman decides it’s time to lose some fat or improve her physical appearance, she starts a rigorous cardio regimen. Day in, and day out, she spends hours doing cardio. The vast majority of your success relies upon nutrition compliance and getting strong in the weight room on the basic exercises. Nutrition and progressive strength training are the most important factors for building an awesome body, not cardio.
If that wasn’t the truth, I wouldn’t be saying it. And, my clients wouldn’t keep hiring me.
24. Set Motivating, Performance Oriented Goals. Most women workout to lose fat, and that’s all they think about. Not you. You Lift Like a Girl. That means focusing on performance goals like performing push-ups, achieving your first bodyweight chin-up, or deadlifting 1.5 times your bodyweight.
Let the other women track the calories burned on the elliptical machine. You’ll be too busy in the weight room training your way toward goals like squatting your bodyweight for 10 reps.
25. If You Can’t get to the Gym, use Bodyweight Workouts. You don’t need a gym to train hard and build a body you’re proud of – strong, lean, healthy, and athletic. If you can’t get to the gym, or you’re traveling, you should be doing bodyweight workouts.
26. Challenge Yourself and see What You’re Capable of Doing. Don’t be afraid of taking on new challenges, like learning kettebell exercises, or the Olympic lifts. Perhaps you want to compete in a powerlifting meet.
Take a chance and see what you’re truly capable of doing. You just may surprise yourself and find a new hobby in the process.
27. Train around Your Injuries. This is another one I took directly from the 30 rules to Lift Like a Man article referenced at the beginning. Even if you have an injury, that’s no excuse to stop training entirely. Maybe you have a bum shoulder, or elbow. You can still find ways to train your lower body with intensity and enthusiasm.
Likewise, if you have a lower body injury, you can still train your upper body. The circumstances will not always be ideal, but you can’t make excuses. Train what you can with persistence and determination.
28. Realize that Success Leaves Clues. It baffles me when women compliment my physique, and when I tell them how I built it (heavy, compound exercises and very little cardio) they exclaim, “Oh, I can’t do that. I don’t want to get big and bulky!” Well, if you like how I look, and how other women look who engage in heavy weight lifting look, why do you think you’re an exception and will mysteriously end up “big ‘n bulky”?
If you want to look like a marathon runner, train like one. If you want to look like a strong woman who can lift heavy, dominate her bodyweight, and face any physical challenge presented to her, then train that way.
29. Have the Right Plan of Attack. Having concrete goals like being able to deadlift 1.5 times your bodyweight is awesome. However, if you don’t have a solid plan to get there, you’ll end up frustrated. If you don’t know how to set up your training properly, seek an expert or resources that will help you. Your training must match the goals you’re trying to achieve.
30. Don’t Stop. Don’t. Ever. Stop. Weight lifting should be a lifelong journey, not a short-term solution. Sure, you may start working out because you’re only concern is looking better, but find a way to make training a passion.
First off, let me just say that this post is semi-factual and semi-biased, because I absolutely HATE cardio. With a bad case of ADHD, I refuse to do steady-state anything. So the question is what’s better? Cardio or Strength Train? The quick answer is… it depends… hahaha
What is your physical goal? Do you want to look like a marathon runner OR a sprinter?
(yea, that photo is totally skewed in my favor)
The second question is what is your fitness/health goal? Are you looking to lose weight, gain muscle mass, increase speed and agility, etc.?
And lastly (and the more important question), what is your preference? I mean it really all comes down to this, right? We want an activity that we can maintain and find somewhat engaging and fun; otherwise, it ends up being temporary and we quit. I get it — exercising is far from fun (unless you’re me), but if you can choose one that you’d prefer, you’re more likely to stick with it.
IF YOU’RE GOAL IS TO…
Shed fat and keep it off, then strength training takes the cake. Lifting weights gives you a metabolic spike for an hour after a workout because your body is trying hard to help your muscles recover. That means you’ll fry an additional 25 percent of the calories you just scorched during your strength session. In other words, if you burned 200 calories during you’re weight-lifting sesh, you’ll in fact burn 250. On top of that goodness, for every 3 pounds of muscle you build, you’ll burn an extra 120 calories a day — just vegging — because muscle takes more energy to sustain. So why are we running again???
Reduce stress, then cardio has a one-up on strength training (though you might wanna give cleans a try and see if that reduces stress). Doing steady-state anything obviously doesn’t require thinking or neuromuscular involvement, so it’s easier to get out of your head if you’re just running in place. “Cardio elevates serotonin levels in the brain, a key neurotransmitter involved in improving symptoms of depression,” says Madhukar Trivedi, M.D., director of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center Mood Disorders Research Program and Clinic.
Injury Prevention, then strength train, my friend! The repetitive nature of cardio puts serious pressure on your joints, ligaments, muscles, tendons — and the cartilage in between. “Functional strength training teaches your brain to allow muscle contractions that are quick enough to prevent or minimize injuries,” says lead study author Tim McGuine, Ph.D., senior athletic trainer and research coordinator at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Your best bet: Choose moves that work your core, improve your balance, and force you to bend at multiple joints — so lunges, rows, squats, and presses are all fair game.
Too look mighty fine in the mirror, then strength train. Just look at the photo above — need I say more?
Honestly, what it all comes down to is what you prefer and can maintain. If you enjoy running a marathon everyday, and it brings you extreme bliss, no one should tell you otherwise… and you should run to your heart’s content. In the end, what matters is that you’re treating your body well and you’re doing something that is not only good for your body, but also for your mind… Run, Forrest, run!
One of my favorite workout equipments is the kettlebell. Not only is it a total body workout, but it’s also great cardio-conditioning. My heart rate remains pretty high throughout these sets. Depending on how I feel, I will sometimes go for reps, keeping them low while going for a heavy kettlebell. If I’m trying to keep my heart rate up and burn fat, I’ll keep the weight lower and go for timed Tabata (20 secs on/10 secs off) for multiple, consecutive sets.
There are so many different things you can do with kettlebells… this is just a sample. I wouldn’t recommend working with kettlebells if 1) you’ve never used it OR 2) you’re new to working out. Please be advised this is for intermediate/advanced athletes.
Cardio is my least favorite thing to do, and what’s even worse is when you’re doing it indoors…. (not that running is any better).
BUT, as we age and our metabolisms slow does, and we can’t break down those braised shortribs like we used to, cardio is a must.
SO… here are my cardio options:
1) Do a metabolic circuit, which incorporates high energy, high engagement, total body movements
2) Spinning (cause I LOVE music, and spinning is all about music)
3) Sprints in a basketball court OR a track/field
4) My absolute last resort – a cardio machine. My faves are the stairmaster or the Arc Trainer
5) and my absolute, ABSOLUTE last resort (and this is totally dependent on the weather), running outdoors. Running sucks and IMO for people who don’t know how to work out…lol It’s so bad for your joints and too much running taps into your muscle mass. Most runners don’t incorporate any type of stretching or yoga, so makes this activity even worse….