Could you be getting better results from your workout?

By Joe Dowdell, CSCS
September 09, 2012

Q: What are the top three mistakes women make when trying to get a lean body?

A: This is a great question because it affirms an important point: To get the best results, investigating what you're not doing is just as important as what you are doing at the gym. Here are the three most common mistakes that hold women back:

1. Too Much Emphasis on Aerobic Activities and Not Enough on Strength Training

Most women fail to realize the value of strength training. And when I say strength training, I don't mean 20-30 repetitions using 3-lb dumbbells. I'm talking about lifting challenging loads like 8-12 repetitions maximum (RM). What does that mean? Repetition maximum refers to the maximum number of repetitions that you can perform with a given load while still maintaining excellent form. In the above example of 8-12 RM, the last perfect repetition should fall within the 8-12 rep range. If you are not able to perform 8 reps with a given resistance, use a slightly lighter weight that allows you to do so. On the other hand, if you can perform more than 12 reps with the resistance, then I suggest increasing the load a little.

Strength training, especially at higher intensities, promotes something called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). Sometimes referred to as "afterburn," EPOC is basically an increased rate of oxygen intake following strenuous activity. During the post-workout recovery process, excess oxygen is used to facilitate all of the processes that restore your body back to its resting state and to help it adapt to the exercise (stress) just performed. The "afterburn" also fuels your metabolism to return your body temperature and heart rate back to its pre-exercise state. Some research shows that this increase in resting metabolic rate can last up to 72 hours after your workout is over, with 24-48 hours being more the norm. Higher metabolic rate means more calories burned, so if changing body composition is your goal, this is key to success.

It's also important to remember that lean muscle tissue is very metabolically active (it burns calories at rest). The more lean muscle tissue you have relative to your overall body composition, the greater your potential to burn more calories. While cardiovascular training, especially steady-state cardio, burns calories during the exercise session itself, it does very little to promote the process of EPOC.

2. Program Hopping

What exactly is program hopping? In a nutshell, it looks something like this: A woman will go to a bootcamp class on Monday, a spinning class on Tuesday, a barre class on Wednesday, a yoga class on Thursday, a Pilates mat class on Friday, and then finish off her week with a hip hop bootylicious sculpt class on Saturday (OK so I made that last class up). The bottom line is that too many class-loving women, despite all of their efforts to exercise, never look any different aesthetically.

There is nothing wrong with adding a little variety to your training program, you just need to be smart about it. Try performing the same total-body strength training routine on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. On Tuesday, mix in a spin class, try a boxing or kickboxing class on Thursday, and schedule in your favorite yoga class on Saturday. Try this schedule out for a month. I guarantee you'll be happier with the results, and if not, change your schedule slightly until you find what works best (but still isn't your class-hopping frenzy).

3. Not Enough Protein in Your Diet

Research shows that 10 percent of women don't even get the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of 46 grams of protein per day. To optimize your body composition, you should aim to double that amount. One study from the University of Illinois found that when women doubled their protein intake (twice the RDA for protein), they lost more body fat and experienced a greater improvement in body composition than those who followed a lower-protein diet. Another study from Purdue University found that women report being less hungry throughout the day when eating a high-protein diet. It's tough to find a reputable study that doesn't support women eating more protein. Aim to include a protein source (eggs, chicken, fish, lean beef, Greek yogurt, etc.) in every meal and snack.

Comments (1)

March 14, 2019
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