Common Gym Mistakes When Weightlifting and Steady State Cardio for Fat Loss

What are the two biggest mistakes I see in the gym? Let me tell you what they are and how to avoid the problems they cause.

What I'd like to talk about today are the two biggest mistakes I usually see at the gym. In fact, I consider it a bit of mission of mine to talk about these things and to help people overcome two of the most old-fashioned and disproving habits that many people still believe and follow.

1. Steady state cardio for fat loss. (If you don't know what this means, it's when you go at one steady pace for a long period of time. Like 30 minutes on the treadmill, for example.)

OK. Let me get this out the way. There are some health benefits to doing a limited amount of steady state cardio, it's just that fat loss is not one of them. Let me say that another way just to be clear:

If you are trying to lose weight, steady state cardio is an ineffective long term method.

Why? Let's break it down logically. Let's say you've never walked on the treadmill before. The first time you do, you go for 30 minutes which would burn approximately 150 calories if you are an average sized person walking at about 3 mph. (Yes, walking for that long only burns about that much and this is just an estimation.)

Once you do this a few times your body starts to get better at it. In other words, it gets easier. Now your body body burns fewer calories for the same activity. Keep doing it and your body will continue to burn fewer and fewer calories. You see, you have to realize that your body doesn't care that you want to lose weight. It just knows that you're performing this activity on a regular basis and so it thinks it's got to adapt and get better at it. Using less and less energy to walk on the treadmill is how it improves.

What's even worse than that, however, is that as your body adapts to this activity, your metabolism away from the treadmill will also slow down. This makes it harder and harder to lose weight and, over time, can lead to injury and any number of metabolic conditions.

What's the solution? There are two, one of which I'll talk about in a second and the other being interval training. What is interval training? It's a method of training where you alternate very high intensity levels with very low intensity levels. Like a 20 second full-out sprint followed by 40 seconds of rest. Do about 5-6 of those and you'll see the difference.

By the way, if you do six 20 second-sprints and you want to do more, then you probably didn't go hard enough.

2. Women must lift weights. Let me be clear about this one, too. It's the weights you usually lift are lighter then your backpack or purse, then that is not lifting weights. If you are trying to lose weight you must do something that increases your metabolism. Building lean body does that, lifting two or three-pound dumbbells doesn't.

Now, I know that you don't want to get bulky, but here's the thing. The hormone that is most responsible for building muscle is testosterone. The average woman produces about 10 percent of the testosterone of the average man. It's why you're looking forward to Twilight 4 and we're looking forward to The Expendables 2. Basically, it means that women, generally speaking, don't have the ability to gain an overabundance of muscle.

So what you should do in the weight room? You should do multi-joint movements using big muscle groups. Like squats, deadlifts, push-ups, pull-downs or pull-ups. Do three to four sets of about eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise. This would be the groundwork for a very nice resistance training program.

I'm sorry if I've busted your bubble a little today, but the thing I most hate to see is people wasting their time or worse, actually making it harder on themselves to reach their goals. All this leads to is people believing that they can't do it and that exercise doesn't work. That saddens me, but I know that with this new information, many more people out there can reach their goals.

Please let me know what you think or if you have any questions about what we've talked about today. Have a great day!

Mitch Rothbardt, CPT, PN Lean Eating Coach




Discover Your Strength!

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mitch rothbardt July 31, 2012 at 11:15 PM
Anthony, It depends on what you're using them for. I certainly don't think they hurt but sometimes it's just not that important to know your exact heart rate. Sometimes it is, though. If you get a lot out of using one then, by all means, keep going!
Smart guy August 01, 2012 at 11:25 PM
The heart rate monitor will help to avoid exactly what Mitch was talking about. If you decide to keep your heart rate at 130 for 30 minutes on a stationary bike, Mitch is correctly that the first time you do 30 minutes on the bike it will be hard and heart rate will stay high but as you get use to the workout the monitor will show your heart rate is decreasing and that will let you know to increase the level of the workout. I would recommend a monitor but if your go to the gym almost all cardio machines have them built in so you may not have to go out and buy one to use one.
mitch rothbardt August 01, 2012 at 11:47 PM
Harry, That's a good point and, in theory, you're right. The thing you have to realize though, is that when we are talking about fat loss you have to work at a very high level of intensity to get a good metabolic effect. What I mean by the term metabolic effect is something that burns the most calories for the longest duration. A person can only work at that kind of intensity for, at most 30-45 seconds. Usually it's closer to 10-20 seconds. If you go as hard as you can for 30 minutes you still will only be working at a relatively low intensity. To illustrate my point, run a 10 second sprint as hard as you can. Could you maintain that pace for 30 minutes? This is where interval training comes in. It allows you to get to that place where you are burning the most calories and will continue burning them when you are actually done exercising. When people are exercising for fat loss it's a big distinction to make. I hope that makes sense. Thanks!
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