Should women exercise differently than men?

There’ve been a few times (maybe more) when I’ve been shown up by a woman in the weight room.   Rather than being embarrassed by this, this inspires me to work harder because let’s face it, most men don’t like losing to a woman.

More and more women of today are mixing it up with the men in the weight room and are stepping away from the cardio machines. They’re also being celebrated for their athletic achievements on and off the field and not just for the way they look.

Strong is the new sexy. You’ll get no argument from me.

strong

However, it’s not all sunshine and roses. Parts of the mainstream media and some celebrity trainers (I use that term very loosely) think endless cardio and lifting pink dumbbells are the only way to ‘melt’ those pounds off.

Women have been told for too long that building muscle is ‘bad.’ Instead, words like toning muscles, melting fat, and getting lean have been tossed about because women fear they will look big or bulky if they strength train.

Don’t worry girls, that will never happen to you because of a little thing called testosterone and your lack of it in comparison to men. (1)

women-bodybuilder
She’s had a little help

There are many advantages to building lean muscle, including

  • Increase in physical strength
  • Increase in calorie burn even at rest
  • Increase in energy
  • Increase in self confidence

Should women be excluded from these benefits? No, of course not. Let’s see why (in my opinion) women shouldn’t be afraid of muscle and the barbell.

1.  We do the same things

Despite the obvious differences (hormonal, body composition, organs, etc.)  between a man and woman, we still perform the same fundamental human movements everyday such as pushing, pulling, squatting, hinging and carrying heavy stuff around.

These are movements that we ALL need to get stronger in.

2.  Low weight, high rep myth

As I mentioned earlier, some women have bought into the high rep, light weight mentality because they believe lifting heavier weights will get them too ‘muscly.’ That’s quite ironic because training with low weight/high reps with minimal rest is one of the accepted protocol for muscle building, but I digress.

However, let’s get one thing straight before we go any further, ladies. Building muscle is extremely hard for males and females alike.

To gain a pound of muscle you need a 4500-calorie surplus above what you usually eat. That’s a lot of protein shakes and hamburgers. So, when you lift moderate to heavy weight with appropriate reps and eat like an adult, you’re not going to look like the Hulk.

hulk-2

Keep in mind that it only took the Hulk a few seconds to get huge

Of course, you can get bigger muscles from strength training but it’s not necessary a side effect as evidenced by numerous track and field athletes, sprinters and gymnasts.  These people need to be strong relative to their bodyweight to perform at their best.

Training with heavier weights and lower reps with sufficient rest, the muscles will get stronger but not necessarily bigger. According to the American Council on Exercise, most women will gain around 20 to 40 percent in muscular strength after several months of resistance training. (2)

That’s a big deal. No pun intended.

3.  Strong muscles, strong bones

Another consideration for why women need to strength train and not throw those silly pink dumbbells around is little thing called bone mineral density (BMD) and the issues women have with osteoporosis, particularly after menopause.

Our bones store important minerals such as calcium and phosphorus, and if we don’t consume enough of these minerals our body takes these minerals from our bones, potentially making the bones weaker.

Nobody wants that.

According to Wolff’s law on bone remodeling, bones will adapt to the loads under which they are placed. What does this mean? It means that lifting weights and taking the recommend doses for calcium will keep your muscles and bones strong for life, which is important.

There are also correlations that suggest that more lean muscle mass leads to a higher BMD and prevents the risk factors associated with stress fractures – another reason not to be afraid of muscle. (3)

Wrapping up

Lifting weights and getting stronger have great benefits for both men and women. Women don’t need to be afraid of picking up and putting down the barbell any longer. Besides, men need a little friendly competition in the weight room anyway.

Do you need help getting started, ladies? Then I have the program for you, a 12-week online program that will help you get stronger and more confident in the gym.

This program includes

  • A through fitness assessment. This assessment lets me know where you stand and is the baseline against which we can measure your progress.
  • A Skype consultation to discuss your short-term and long-term goals. This will allow me to write a customized program and to answer any questions you may have.
  • 12 weeks of customized programming, broken into 3 4-week blocks
  • Regular Skype and email check-ins to see how your progressing and to address concerns you may have.

Hurry, spaces are limited. Find out more and grab your spot right here.

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Female fat loss myths

We’re all suckers for a good myth, like believing that the Loch Ness monster really exists or Elvis is strutting his stuff in a dive bar in Vegas somewhere. These myths are harmless, even fun.

loch-ness

However, Ladies, some myths can be harmful, especially when to comes to your fat loss.

The following three myths have been circulating for years and now’s the time to put them to bed, for good, so you can get the body you want.

1. Cardiovascular exercise is more important for fat loss then weights

Cardio should be included in every well balanced exercise routine. It has numerous health benefits (reduced risk for heart disease, reduced blood pressure) as well as burning calories.

However, when it comes to fat loss, cardio should never be the primary method, according to Scott Josephson.

“Keep in mind that the biggest concern when trying to lose weight is muscle loss. If you lose fat and lose muscle along with it, you might have a bigger issue to tackle. Less muscle mass equals’ lower metabolic function.

Fat loss programs should ideally concentrate on you controlling the ratio of calories in and calories out, as well as you doing everything in your power to prevent losing muscle”

Losing muscle will sabotage your fat loss efforts.  Lifting weights will prevent this while doing more cardio will not.  So Ladies, get off the treadmill and lift for a change. Your waistline will thank you.

2. “Ladies, you can tone and shape your muscles using this revolutionary method from…..”

thighmaster

 You’ve been feed this bunch of baloney for far too long. Just because this has been repeated over and over again by marketers try to sell you things doesn’t make it true. Listen again to the wise words of Josephson, who will set you straight once and for all.

“Generally speaking and despite what marketing tells us, there is no training system, method, or tool that will ultimately change the shape of a muscle since they are genetically determined. Our parents ultimately have more to do with our physique than just about anything else does.”

So from now on, concentrate on calories in and calories out and lifting weights two-three times a week, and never fall for that line again.

3. Lifting anything heavier than a pink dumbbell will get you huge

You may have seen those female bodybuilders and thought to yourself, “That’s going to happen to me if I lift heavy.” Stop that line of thinking right now. This is not going to happen for two reasons:

1. Those ladies eat, take supplements and train for years and years to get that look.

2. Females don’t have as much muscle building hormone testosterone as men do.

Fear not, Ladies. Training with heavier weights while maintaining a caloric deficit will help you burn fat, make your muscles stronger and help reveal the body you desire.

Now leave the treadmill behind and go mix it up with the men in the weight room. Flexing and admiring yourself is completely optional.

 

 

Fat loss for women

Women have complained since the dawn of time about how it’s easier for guys to lose fat, while women starve themselves to death and don’t lose a pound.

Guys drop the sodas, beer and bread and the fat falls off them while if women even gets a whiff of a candy bar, it goes straight to their thighs.

Believe it or not there’s an explanation for the disparity between men and women when it comes to fat loss. According to Scott Josephson, a nutritional expert, it’s because:

“Men are usually larger in circumference than women thus requiring more calories and therefore can create larger caloric deficits. Men’s bodies usually contain more muscle and tend to utilize fat storage quicker due to these factors.”

In other words, it just easier for guys to lose fat because they have more muscle. However girls, all is not lost. There are a few things you can do to turn yourself into a lean, mean, calorie burning machine, says Josephson.

1. You bite it, you write it

 “Record every bite. You might not think that eating half a cookie, or a few almonds means much, but when you add up these small bits every day, you are consuming more calories than you thought.”

 2. Eat for lean muscles

 “You will need to eat more protein (1.4 – 2.0 g/kg/day) and good fats (essential fatty acids). Eating essential fatty acids does not equate to getting fat. In fact, most EFAs help support the fat burning process and help maintain a lean body.”

 3. Train for lean muscles

“If you want to gain muscle and improve your shape, then you are going to lift some heavier weights. This means that instead doing endless reps with light weights, you will need to lift some heavier weights and challenge yourself.

While performing high rep sets (12 plus reps) does have benefits, it is not the most optimal option to add muscle tissue.”

So, ladies, get off the treadmill and try this strength training routine below. It’s not going to be easy but it is going to be worth it. Trust me, I’m a trainer.

 Instructions

Perform 3 sets for each exercise, and rest 30 seconds between sets; however, when you’re done with the circuit rest 2 minutes before moving to the next circuit. Complete  3 rounds of each tri-set.

1A. Goblet squat, 2 sets of 8-10 reps, 1 set to failure.

 

1B. One arm row, 2 sets of 6 reps on each side, 1 set to failure.

 

1C. Push-up Plank 3 sets 30 seconds

 

2A. Goblet reverse lunge 3 sets 8-12 each leg

 

2B. Single arm chest press 2 sets 6 reps and 1 set to failure

 

2C. Single leg hip extension 2 sets 8 reps and 1 set to failure

 

Go ahead, girls, and don’t be afraid to flex those muscles. You know you want to.

Small changes, big results

Not getting results is no fun. At all.

Whether you’ve studied hard for a test and flunked, you’ve tried a new recipe and it tasted awful or you’ve been consistent with your exercise but the scale and mirror are still not your friend.

You may get discouraged and decide to throw the baby out with the bath water.

 

baby-bath

 

Although I cannot help you with the first two scenarios, exercise is in my wheelhouse and that I can help you with.

Here are some simple exercise tweaks that you can use to keep you progressing, to keep you moving and feeling great and to keep you on the fitness path. Please let the baby stay in the bath. The baby likes it there.

1. Use a different tool

When it comes to resistance training many different tools will do the same job. Take the chest press exercise, for example. You can do this with either a barbell, dumbbells, kettlebells, cable machine, resistance bands or the TRX.

With so many tools at your disposal, you’ll never get bored with training the chest. Here are some variations that you can use to spice up your upper body training.

 

A. Chaos pushup

 

 

 B. Single arm TRX push up

 

 

C. Resistance band chest press

 

 

2. Supersize your exercise

 Gym-goers often do one set of an exercise, rest, do it again and then repeat this entire sequence for their entire training. These are called straight sets and they’re great for building strength with exercises like squats, deadlifts, bench presses and rows.

Unfortunately, this can get boring and time consuming.  If you’re looking to build lean muscle/ burn fat (or both) rather than building strength, supersets are a much better fit.

Supersets are two exercise done back to back with little or no rest in-between. For instance, an exercise pairing of a leg exercise with an upper body move will:

  • Allow you to increase your exercise intensity
  • Cause your heart to work harder to push blood from your lower body back up to your upper body, increasing your overall calorie burn
  • Save time so you can hit the showers early and beat the rush

For example

1A. Squat, deadlift or single leg exercise 8-12 reps

1B. Upper body press or pull variations 8-12 reps

Rest 60-90 seconds and repeat twice for a total of 3 supersets.

 

A. Dumbbell reverse lunge

 

 

 B. Single arm push press

 

 

This is one example of a superset. There are other supersets combinations such as

  • Push (Bench press)/ Pull (row)
  • Arm supersets like biceps/triceps
  • Isolation exercise (biceps)/ Compound exercise (chin ups)
  • Leg supersets like Quads (Leg ext.)/Hamstrings (Leg curl)

Have fun, play with the combinations and enjoy your results.

3. Same exercise, different body position

Changing your body’s position while you’re exercising, (doing a standing chest press instead of a barbell bench press for example), will challenge the working muscles in a different fashion, will work a different set of muscles you didn’t know existed and will give you an unexpected core workout, no crunches required.

And as a bonus, these exercises will increase your coolness and gym cred status by 100%. Trust me, it’s science.

A. Supine (this is lying on your back while facing upwards)

Stability ball hip ext. /hamstring curl

 

Pullover with reactive floor press

 

 

B. Tall kneeling (standing in your knees with your toes on the ground)

 Tall kneeling lat pulldown

 

 

 Bench kneeling overhead press

 

 

 C. Half kneeling (One foot, opposite knee on the ground)

 Half kneeling KB bottoms up press

 

 

Half kneeling single arm pulldown

 

 

4. Do more exercise in less time

 Most people want to get their work done in less time, especially in the gym, so you can enjoy the finer things in life.  You want to get in, get out and get a huge bang for your exercise buck. If that sounds like you, you should try density training.

What is density training?

Density training is about increasing the amount of exercise (sets X reps) you do in a given amount of time. You will improve your ability to do more exercise in less time, which is also known as improving your work capacity.

Furthermore, density training is a fantastic training method for fat loss. You get a better body and improve your fitness level at the same time. What’s not to love about that?

 

Instructions

This type of training is best done two- three days per week with 48 hours’ rest in between sessions. All the exercises listed below will be done for time. The work rest periods are as follows:

Beginner (you’re just starting out) 20 sec work/40 sec rest.

Intermediate (you’ve been exercising for 6 months or more) 30 sec work/30 sec rest.

Advanced (you’ve been getting after it for a year or more) 40 sec work/20 sec rest.

This density training example is a five-exercise circuit (one after the other) using fundamental human movements that will work the biggest muscle groups in the least amount of time. Choose from the following exercises.

 

1. Squat variation – BW squatGobletSumoor Barbell squat

2. Push variation– Incline push upPush upor Dumbbell bench press

3. Single leg exercise- Reverse lungeForward lungeor Side lunge (alternating sides)

4. Pull variation– Rack pullDumbbell bent over rowor Standing cable row

5. Core– Alternating side plankMountain climbersor Front plank.

 

You will complete two- four circuits (depending on how much you have in the tank on training day) for a total training time of between 10-20 minutes.

Training tips

 1. Warm up thoroughly before starting.

2. To minimize transition time between exercises, have all the equipment you need near to you so you don’t need to move much .

3. Keep track of your reps and weight from session to session to measure improvement.

4. Do as many reps as possible within your time frame with good technique.

5. Choose a weight which allows you to complete all your reps with good form.

 

Wrapping up

 We often think big changes are needed when the results that we expect don’t come our way.  However, making small changes to what we’re already doing could be just the ticket.

Use one or more of the exercise techniques above to you get the results you deserve. Small changes can equal big results.

 

Fitness tips for the New Year

The best fitness tip I’ve ever received is consistency is the key. I heard this years ago, when I first started lifting weights.  Let’s face it, if you have no consistency, the best program in the world is not going to save you.

The worst tip I’ve ever received is no pain, no gain, bro. No one I know really likes (or eats) pain except, of course, for Chuck Norris.

 

pain
If you hadn’t noticed, I’m kind of obsessed with Chuck Norris

 

The new year is a time to wipe the slate clean and look onward and upward in relation to your fitness goals. The following tips can be easy applied to any goal you strive for and will help you have your best fitness year yet.

 

1. Schedule your exercise (in Google Calendar), like you would with any important appointment. You’re less likely to skip your training, and this will help you develop consistency.

 

2. Start small When setting goals, a lot of people set big ambitious ones. Instead, break up your challenging goal into smaller manageable chunks to help you stay on track.

For example, if you want to lose 20 pounds in three months (12 weeks) this can be broken down to losing 1 ½ pounds per week (20 divided by 12).

Doesn’t that sound more manageable?

 

3. Change of scenery Exercise outdoors instead of indoors. Ride a bike rather than running on the dreadmill or play basketball instead of lifting weights. Variety helps prevent boredom and will help keep you motivated.

 

 

4. Stand up– Do your whole exercise routine standing up on your two feet rather than lying or sitting down. You’ll burn more calories while standing and train your core without crunches.

For example, you could do an exercise circuit that looks like this.

  1. Goblet squat
  2. Single arm row
  3. Single arm push press
  4. Goblet side lunge
  5. Farmers carry

 

5. Use a different tool for the same job- The shoulder press exercise can be performed with either a barbell, dumbbell, resistance band, kettlebell or cable machine. Each offers its own benefits which helps keeps things interesting and can help prevent overuse injuries.

You can apply this to many exercises such as rows, squats or chest presses.

 

 

6. Change your repetition range Vary your repetition ranges as muscles are built and calories are burned in all kinds of set/rep ranges. Try performing 3 sets of 8 reps, 4 sets of 5 reps or 2 sets of 15 reps instead of your traditional 3 sets of 10 reps.

However, adjust the weight you use.  For example

  • More reps=less weight.
  • Less reps=more weight.

 

7. Have a little funExercise for exercise’s sake can get dull in a hurry. It’s important that you have a some fun when you exercise or quitting could be just around the corner.

When exercise becomes more enjoyable, you’re more likely to stick with it and get better results. Here are a few suggestions.

  • Play your favorite sport
  • Exercise with your friends, co-workers or family members
  • Play with your kids
  • Play catch in the park

 

8. Combine cardio and weights when your time crunched Combine an upper body exercise for 8-12 reps with a lower body exercise for 8-12 reps followed by 30 second cardio interval. Rest for 60-90 sec and repeat this sequence 4-6 times.

For example

Lat pulldown 8-12 reps

 

Reverse lunges 8-12 reps on each leg

 

Ice skaters 30 seconds

 

Wrapping up

Keeping your exercise fun and consistent will set you up for long term success and will help keep you smiling all year long.

Happy New Year!