A good personal trainer can help you to optimize your valuable time in the gym. If you hire a personal trainer, be perfectly clear what your goals are. Tell the person exactly what you want to accomplish in the gym and make sure they understand that you want to learn perfect technique. If, at times your trainer has to just “count reps” then so be it. It’s your hard earned money paying for the workout session.
Myths and Popular Fads
The sub-title of Carl Sagan’s bestselling book, “The Demon Haunted World”, is “Science as a candle in the dark.” For me, this says it all. Knowledge illuminates the unknown by shining a light on what we can and cannot prove. In his wonderfully entertaining book, Mr. Sagan debunks such notions as extra-terrestrials visiting Earth, ghosts, and witchcraft. Mr. Sagan concludes that people, cultures and ultimately entire civilizations will invent explanations for what they don’t understand. Human nature is to find answers to the unknown. Our curious minds then lead us to invent explanations for the unknown.
There is no shortage of myth and popular folklore surrounding weight loss, muscle building, fitness, and nutrition. Some of these ideas have flourished as popular opinion for years, some are what we in the fitness world call “bro science”, while others are short-lived passing fads. Unfortunately, hanging on to these false notions can sometimes lead you in exactly the wrong direction serving to only derail your progress. Let me address some popular myths.
Women Will Get Muscular Lifting Weights
A common concern many women have about weight training is the fear of becoming “too muscular”. Don’t worry ladies. It’s extremely unlikely that this will ever become a problem.
First of all, the naturally occurring testosterone level in the vast majority of women is simply not high enough to achieve overt muscle growth. Without the aid of some kind of performance enhancing drug (synthetic or actual testosterone), significant bodybuilding like muscle development is just not possible. Second, natural muscle development is a slow process. As a healthy male who’s been resistance training consistently for over 30 years I can pass my firsthand experience on to you. It’s not easy to put on serious muscle mass. It doesn’t happen overnight.
If you are indeed one of the genetically gifted statistical anomalies who does build significant muscle mass, you can easily control your growth. If you begin developing more muscle than you care for then adjust your workout accordingly. Back off the resistance training volume and intensity to a maintenance level if too much muscle ever starts becoming a real “problem”. Much more likely is that rather than overt muscle development, your resistance training will result in enhancing your female form. Shapely legs, back, shoulders and a round butt serve to enhance the classic hourglass figure.
Remember back in the early 90’s when Madonna started showing off her buffed well-defined legs, shoulders and arms? Many people, both men and women, admired her new athletic build. Madonna’s confidence in her new physique was inspiring. She was able to show that a woman, in this case a female pop star, could still look super sexy while sporting a chiseled athletic physique.
In the 1990’s both Madonna and Linda Hamilton, from The Terminator I and II films, inspired a generation of women. Buffed female physiques became accepted in mainstream pop culture. Now, with the growing popularity of women’s bikini, figure and physique contests, women sporting athletic physiques have become more and more of a desired look. In my opinion, as a guy who’s into fitness, I think it’s damn sexy. The great thing is, all women have the potential to sculpt their body this way if they want it bad enough. If you choose to tap into your genetic potential, you too are also capable of dramatically improving your figure.
Building Muscle Will Slow You Down
Conventional wisdom says that weightlifting will slow you down and inhibit your flexibility. This false notion is particularly common in the traditional fighting sports such as boxing, kickboxing, karate, and Jiu Jitsu. Many people still cling to the false narrative that if a fighter weight trains and builds muscle he will lose speed and agility. In the case of “juiced” bodybuilders, there is some truth to this notion. When steroids, testosterone and growth hormones are used in order to develop massive unnatural muscle size, agility and flexibility is certainly lost. However, in the case of natural muscle development through good nutrition and hard work alone there is no loss of speed. In fact, agility and flexibility are improved. As any professional athlete will tell you, adding significant lean muscle will only improve your speed, quickness and flexibility. It’s not just professional football player who lift weights. Pro baseball, basketball, and hockey players as well as downhill skiers and even golfers all lift weights.
A great example that busts this myth is the story of one of the great heavy weight champion boxers of all time, Evander Holyfield. At the age of 22 and weighing just 178 pounds Holyfield won a bronze medal at the 1984 Summer Olympic Games. He didn’t carry a lot of muscle then and he was lightning fast. 12 years later in 1996 at age 34 and weighing 215 pounds, Holyfield beat Mike Tyson very convincingly. Mr. Holyfield had added 37 pounds of lean muscle. That is quite a lot of muscle gain since his days as an Olympic medalist. He hadn’t lost any speed - he was still lightning fast.
Holyfield had been scheduled to fight Iron Mike Tyson in 1990 but Buster Douglas upset Tyson and then Tyson was sent to prison, delaying the Holyfield clash by 6 years. In preparation, Holyfield added some serious muscle, moving up from barely a light heavyweight to a true heavy weight. How did Holyfield add 37 pounds of lean muscle? He adopted a bodybuilding workout routine lifting heavy weights to failure. He lost no speed, quickness or flexibility. As far as I’m concerned the case in closed.
Improving performance through muscle development is not limited to the fighting sports. Muscle development slowing you down is a myth of a bygone era. No matter what sport you play, lean muscle development will only improve your game.
Some self-described “nutrition coaches” have latched onto to a popular new fad called Fasting Cardio. Their logic goes something like this. If you do intense cardio on an empty stomach there is no blood sugar to burn therefore you will only burn fat. They advocate Fasting Cardio as the quickest way to loose fat.
What happens in reality is something quite different. The stress of intense cardio while you’re blood sugar deprived triggers a survival response. The scientific approach views biology through an evolutionary lens. Our hunter gather ancestors could survive a harsh winter with little muscle however they wouldn’t last long without stored body fat. Our hard-wired survival mechanisms response to Fasted Cardio is to save the stored fat and instead cannibalize muscle tissue for energy. Obviously this is counterproductive to everything that you’re trying to achieve.
Perhaps I can best support this argument with the advice of the many contest prep coaches that I’ve had the good fortune to be associated with over the years. When building nutrition and training plans for figure, physique and bodybuilding competitors; professional coaches have got to get their clients body fat percentage pretty low. These coaches never have their competitors doing Fasted Cardio. They will instead tell them to spread their limited calories throughout the day. Eating just before a cardio session is often the only way their clients can get through a workout. The benefit of daily cardio training is two-fold, total calories burned and the residual increased metabolism effect that can last 24 hours after exercising.
The most likely result of Fasted Cardio is not only cannibalizing hard-earned muscle tissue. You will likely give yourself a headache and become irritable. Never exercise on an empty stomach. You’ve got a killer body to build. You need energy in the form of blood glucose to get through your cardio and resistance training sessions.
This one is an oldie but a goodie. If you want to lose belly fat then do lots of sit ups. Right? Or if you want to get rid of the fat on the back of your arms then do lots of triceps work. Right? Wrong!
We all have a genetic predisposition to store fat on particular parts of our bodies before storing it on other parts. The first place you store it is the last place that you lose it. Women tend to store fat on their hips, thighs, breast, and the back of their arms first whereas men tend to store fat on their bellies. Focused resistance training certainly tones, strengthens and develops the muscle underneath the particular area you are working but it will have no effect on the stored fat in that area.
The solution to losing fat, anywhere on your body, comes back around to the energy equation. Burn more calories than you consume and you will lose fat. You’ve got two levers you can pull. You can eat fewer calories, you can burn more calories through cardio exercise, or preferably, you can do both. Fat lose is achieved by maintaining a calorie deficit.
Our genetics control where on our bodies we are predisposed to store fat. If you’re the person who stores any excess fat on your belly first then that is going to be the last place you lose it. If the first place you gain weight is on your hind end and you want to shrink that backside then you’re going to have to put yourself into calorie deficit. Fat lose can only be achieved by consuming fewer calories than you burn. Period.
No Magic Pill
There’s no shortage of people trying to sell you a quick and easy fat lose solution. Whatever the problem happens to be, it’s human nature to seek out the easiest solution. The path of least resistance is usually our first choice and clever marketers take full advantage of this.
Plenty of enterprising folks are earning big bucks exploiting the mass desire for an easy weight loss fix. People want a magic pill. Websites, magazines, and TV advertise magic pills guaranteed to make you lose weight. The “easy” solutions are packaged in countless forms. You can buy expensive ready to eat meals delivered to your doorstep that are guaranteed to make you lose weight. Go to any bookstore and you’ll find an ocean of fad “diet” books, all claiming to offer the latest break through weight loss solution and foolproof diet plan. There is also no shortage of “new” workout plans you can sign up for from military boot camp style group training that meets in city parks before sun rise to “hard core” work out DVD collections available online or advertised on TV infomercials. The hard cold reality is this. There is no magic pill or easy fix. There is no secret gimmick. The real solution is calorie control, good nutrition, and exercise.
There is nothing new under the sun. There is no magic pill nor is there some new secret “diet” or weight loss breakthrough. Gimmicks don’t work. You can lose all of your unwanted body fat, put on lean muscle, look great and feel great with nothing more than my new book as your guide. I outline a no-nonsense, straightforward practical approach in Get Fit, Lean and Keep Your Day Job.
Yours in fitness,