Back in the days before Netflix and Apple TV, I used to watch actual TV. Remember? Those times when we were all forced to watch commercials and even infomercials. Ugh!
If you were up past 10 PM it seemed the only available option was some sort of infomercial trying to sell you the latest fitness gadget. Right?
I remember the first time I saw a Tracey Anderson infomercial. (If you don’t know who Tracey Anderson is, she is Gwyneth Paltrow’s personal trainer and known for helping women develop longer & leaner muscles).
I was completely convinced after watching, that not only did I want/need longer & leaner muscles but also that you could actually lengthen your muscles and get leaner without gaining any muscle.
Ha! What a joke?
Now I know better. (Just to be clear, you can’t actually lengthen your muscles, your muscle length is based on your genetics. And you can’t get leaner without sustaining or gaining muscle).
Unfortunately there is A LOT of pseudo-science and BS out there.
Today I share with you 6 of the most common training mistakes I see women making.
1) Avoiding Heavier Weights
Let me start off by saying — YOU WON’T GET BULKY!
This is a huge misconception. It is very hard for woman to build muscle in general. If you are one of the lucky woman who can easily put on muscle, you’ll need to pay attention to what you eat. I’ve had woman tell me they lifted weights for a month and gave up because they got bigger or gained weight. That will happen at first if you’ve made no changes to the way you are eating because you are sustaining the same amount of body fat while building muscle.
With more time, having that muscle will increase your metabolism and therefore burn more fat. Couple that with eating for fat loss and you will achieve the “toned” look.
But in order to build this muscle you’ll need to use heavier weights. No 3 or 5 lb weights. That is not enough tension under load to grow the muscle. Use heavier dumbbells (start where you can use good form) and shoot for doing 8-10 reps. Reps 8, 9, and 10 should be difficult.
If you can do 30-50 reps with the weight you are using — it is too light. When you are in this rep range you’re working muscular endurance which isn’t bad in and of itself, but doesn’t make muscles grow.
Also, you’ll get the most dramatic physique changes by lifting heavy, I promise! So just do it.
2) Spot Reduction..Think Abs
Your genetics will mostly determine where you store fat. And unfortunately, the place on your body you usually want to change first, almost always changes last. We all have an area like this on our body. You are not alone.
Here’s the truth: most everyone has a six-pack, it’s just buried. You need to burn the fat covering it. Focus on intense and short workouts that create a hormonal environment that promotes fat loss and clean up your nutrition. Eliminate processed foods completely.
Also, make sure you are spending your time doing smart abdominal exercises that build functional strength. Many woman don’t realize that just because you have a 6-pack does not mean you have strong abs. When you see a 6-pack you see the rectus abdominis muscle with very little fat over it. It is a superficial muscle.
The functional strength you want to develop in your core comes from working the deeper muscles like that transverse abdominis and obliques. These are the muscles that create stability in your pelvis and prevent back pain and injury. This core strength is foundational to good health and moving well.
And ironically, when I started working on this type of core strength I dramatically changed the look of my abs. Focus on planks, ball work, and kneeling presses.
3) Excessive Aerobic Activity
I’m not sure how this myth has penetrated our culture so much, but excessive cardio will likely not create the body you desire. If you want to be a smaller version of your same shape, then yes cardio can help. But if you are looking to change your shape and create curves and definition – cardio can’t do that.
Cardio includes activities that are low to medium intensity — steady state activities. For example, running, elliptical machine, rowing machine, bicycling, zumba, and most group class activities.
There are a few other reasons excessive cardio isn’t a great choice. Firstly, it is not vert time efficient. If you are strapped for time, it’s much better to get in 15-20 minutes of an intense workout than 45 minutes to an hour of cardio. You’ll burn more calories and create a hormonal environment more friendly to fat burning. Short duration and intense workouts are the choice of most busy people.
Secondly, excessive cardio is stressful on our bodies. Often times it further raises our already high levels of cortisol which increases inflammation and inhibits fat loss. So this makes it a double whammy.
Taking a daily walk is a very smart way to get movement activity up each day and also reduces cortisol. It is a natural relaxer of the nervous system, which is something we all need in our fast paced busy lives.
4) Fear Of Fat
This outdated belief is hanging around from the late 80’s early 90’s. It’s been debunked. You can read more about that here.
Make sure to eat some healthy fat every day. A thumb size amount with each meal is a great starting place. Think avocado, high quality butter, olive oil, coconut oil, and full fat yogurt to name a few.
You actually need fat to absorb many nutrients, including the fat soluble vitamins of A, D, E, and K. If you are a have a larger body type (endomorph) – you’re most likely less carbohydrate tolerant and therefore may benefit from swapping out some of the starch (carbs) for fat instead. Fat also helps you feel satiated and satisfied — very important when eating. (You can learn more about your specific body type here.)
5) Not Eating Enough Protein
This is by far the most under eaten macronutrient and it is extremely valuable. Our bodies use protein to build us, literally. There is high quality research showing that we all would benefit from eating more protein. And that almost all of us eat too little.
How much protein do you eat each day? Do you know? If you’re unsure take stock of what your daily intake is.
Eating between .7-1.0 grams of protein per pound of body weight or 35% of your calories for the day is a solid target. (Just for reference, most of the clients I see are eating between 10-20% protein each day).
Not only does proper protein intake allow you to lose fat instead of muscle, it is essential to building muscle, critical to a well functioning metabolism, and also keeps you full.
6) Comparing Yourself
Our culture sadly fills our heads with unrealistic, photo-shopped, and unhealthy images of what we should look like. There is an overemphasis on being skinny and that somehow it equates to health.
The only way we can know for sure is by assessing how we feel, think, and move each day.
Do we have energy?
Are we in pain?
Can we focus and think clearly?
Do we feel ALIVE in our body?
Do we have a sense of ease?
We also need to get labs and blood work. Things like stress, sleep, and mental health matter immensely too.
Often times we take for granted our bodies because we focus on what we don’t like about them. But what about all that our bodies do for us? Let’s take a moment to be grateful for all of that.
We’ve been taught, especially as woman, that our body is a problem to be fixed. That there is something wrong with it and that we should be ashamed of it.
This is all utter BS. And totally false.
Our bodies are here for us and they can be powerful tools that support us in doing, being, and experiencing more of what we want in our life if we allow them to.
If you want to get started with some short, smart, and efficient exercise programming grab our 30 day exercise program below. (It’s free).