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Friday, January 1, 2016

5 Common (and Important) Workout Mistakes

Not getting fit
As she strolled in with her soy-latte-whatever, gloating that she made it (OMG!) for the third time this week! I think she wanted me to shower her with accolades when what she really needed was a reality check on the wonders of soy.

Here’s where I’m going to dispense some tough love.  If your hour gym visit consists of
strolling on an elliptical machine with a women’s magazine or watching MSNBC, you aren’t getting fit.

I’ve got five ways to economize your workout and get optimal results without making the gym your home away from home.

1. Stop wasting time on useless workouts.

I love the Kardashians as much as you (OK, not really), but stop watching those shows on the treadmill. Long-duration cardio belongs in the Jane Fonda fitness era. It’s outdated. It almost makes those Suzanne Somers Thighmasters look useful and relevant.

Steady-state cardio can actually be counterproductive, raising your stress hormones and breaking down muscle. I’ve spoken before about other effects of long-duration cardio but for now, let’s agree that unless you’ve got hours and nowhere to go, don’t do long-duration cardio. Even if you’ve got nothing better to do, skip the hour-long cardio sessions. A nice, leisurely walk however, is an excellent way to lower stress hormones like cortisol. But remember, it isn’t “exercise.”

Here’s what to do instead: short bursts of high-intensity cardio (HIIT, or burst training) on your non-lifting days or integrated into your resistance workout.

Juxtaposing HIIT with weight resistance builds muscle, boosts immune function, and burns more calories at rest. If you still think that spin instructor has great glutes, ask him out (he’s probably taken), but don’t make that your sole workout. Focus on the weights, vary things up, and get a little out of your comfort zone.

What does “focus on the weights” mean? There can be a lot of confusion around this so, let me try and clear it up. When I am lifting weights, my focus is to lift as heavy as I can, quickly, but with good form until I am unable to continue. I then rest until I can continue. If you are lifting heavy enough and limiting your rest, you are constantly moving. Your lifting then becomes your cardio. While this is a very intense workout, you will only be pushing that hard for around 20 minutes, focusing on big, multi-joint movements.

Another great way to increase the intensity of a strength workout is to lift as heavy as possible (with good form), and then insert bursts of cardio. For example, after your third set of a given exercise (maybe even your second set), do a burst of your choice, for instance…burpees! As long as you are keeping your heart rate up, you’re getting a cardiovascular workout at the same time.

You can still do your cardio-only workouts on non-lifting days, they just need to be high-intensity, explosive-type exercises for a short workout. Sprinting, jump rope double-unders, jumping jacks and burpees are all examples. These high-intensity workouts can take a lot out of the body. Going this hard 4-5 times a week is probably a little too much. If you are going to be doing high-intensity cardio days, it would be best to alternate those with straight weight training sessions. The most bang for your buck comes from combining cardio into your lifting workout like I mentioned earlier, spending less time in the gym.

2. Get a plan.

I once drove from Los Angeles to San Diego without a GPS and ended up in The-Middle-Of-Nowhere, California. It’s the same with reaching your fitness goals: Blindly going in with no idea what you’ll actually do becomes a recipe for failure. If you want an efficient, effective workout, you need a plan. Spend some time, do a little research, and dole out the cash for a trainer. A little front-end time and energy pays huge dividends down the road.

3. Lift heavy things.

Put. Those. Stupid. Pink. Dumbbells (or the equivalent). Down. Yes, I’m talking to you! When women say they want to be “toned,” what they’re really saying, (without knowing it) is they want muscle definition. They want to wear a sleeveless sexy, drool-worthy cami, right? You get those killer arms and shoulders by building muscle and reducing body fat. Constantly challenge yourself and master your form. (A trainer can do wonders here.) Doing 20-30 reps with those pink dumbbells becomes the road to nowhere.

4. Do less crunches.

Spot reduction might be the biggest fitness myth ever. Those crunches you’re doing while simultaneously texting, will eat up your data plan but they do nothing for your midsection.  Your core is made up of different muscles with the primary purpose of keeping you stable. Moves like kettlebell swings and plank variations challenge those muscles that keep you stabilized. And if you’ve got belly fat, you aren’t going to see those abs, period. Your real ab work occurs in the kitchen.

5. Warm it up.

If you told me you don’t have time to do a thorough warm-up, I would tell you that you don’t have time to workout. Set aside 10-15 minutes and do some dynamic stretching- bodyweight-only versions of what you’ll be doing in your workout. Lunges, squats, and push-ups work well for this. A good warm-up will improve your performance and decrease your risk of injury. Trust me, the last thing you want to do is get sidelined with a torn hamstring! Other benefits include raising your core temperature, preparing your body for exercise, increasing your range-of-motion (temporarily) and establishing a neuromuscular connection… making sure your mind and your muscles are getting ready to talk to each other and are working together.

Whether you’re a newbie or seasoned fitness instructor, you probably see your own mistakes at the gym. Share yours below or on my Facebook page.

You have permission to do so, free of charge, as long as the byline and
the article is included in its entirety:
Fitness expert and strength coach Jini Cicero, CSCS, teaches intermediate exercisers how to blast through plateaus to create incredible transformations. Are you ready to take your fitness to a whole new level?  Find out now!
© 2016 Jinifit, Inc.

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