I see you.
Yeah, you. Eyeing the treadmill disdainfully because you don’t know what else to do in the gym or you think that running like a hamster is going to get you faster results.
Once you step off that treadmill, that calorie burn is done. 300 calories is all you’re going to burn. Trying to get that booty or big chest? You won’t get it on the treadmill. You have to walk over to the dumbbells and weights and use them. Cardio has a place, and it’s not as the core of your regimen.
No abs, no tight booty, no broad shoulders. Plus, unless you’re a runner (and even runners don’t do this), you shouldn’t be killing yourself on any cardio machine in the gym, unless you’re doing HIIT sprints (more on HIIT later).
The core of your regimen needs to be weight training to increase your basal metabolic rate, or BMR. If you’re not, then you’re jeopardizing your results and your confidence.
The Science in Lehman’s Terms
BMR tells us how many calories we are burning in a day for basic life processes. If you want to find out what your BMR is, you can calculate that here. You need your weight, age, height, and gender. Mine was 1400 calories a day.
Now, if I want to increase that number and, in turn, decrease my body fat percentage, I have to add more lean mass (muscle). More muscle=more calories to maintain. Building muscle will yield a continuous burn of calories, augmenting your success.
Strength training does just that. It helps you build muscle. During strength training, you tear your muscles on a microscopic level and your body has to repair them using the 9 main amino acids found in protein (this is why you need COMPLETE PROTEINS, vegetarians and vegans take note). When you repair that muscle, it becomes slightly stronger and bigger, and needs energy to repair that muscle, and then sustain it.
This body process raises that BMR and helps us achieve the results we seek. While cardiovascular training has its place in all training, it cannot burn the calories after we are done or increase our calorie burn for the next 24-36 hours.
Just Starting Out?
If you’re just starting out strength training, sticking with compound lifts to build muscle in multiple areas is best. Then you can add in Isolation lifts later to supplement weaknesses in your compound lifts.
What are Compound Lifts?
Compound lifts are movements that engage 2 or more joints (think knees, hips, and ankles, or shoulders, elbows and wrists). David Robson at AllMax Nutrition points out that you can exhaust the muscles and elevate your heart rate quickly by utilizing compound lifts. Compound lifts are your oldies, but goodies: Squat, Deadlift, Bench Press, Dips, Rows, Pulls, etc.
If you can move a greater amount of weight or utilizing 2 or more joints, you’re likely doing a compound lift.
What are Isolated Movements?
These lifts are accessory movements that reinforce weak points in the compound lifts and enhance the overall aesthetic. Robson points out that these movements won’t elevate the heart rate or exhaust the body as easily, but the muscle itself will fatigue more quickly because it’s handling the entire load. Think of curls, shrugs, extensions, and kickbacks.
If you’re only using one joint (such as the elbow or knee) and not feeling out of breath, you’re likely performing an isolated movement/lift.
SOOOO. What’s the Ratio?
Robson recommends using a 2:1 ratio; for every 2 compound lifts, there should be 1 isolated movement. This is to keep things simple, but intense. If you’re not designing your own workout or you’re looking for a scaled movement, this ratio can help you determine which kind of movement you can substitute for the same effect.
For the Ladies…
Ladies, if you think that lifting weights is going to make you bulky, think again. I’ve been lifting weights for 4 years (thanks CrossFit!) and I’m not in the slightest bit bulky. I’m toned, strong, and feminine. The only way you’re going to get bulky is by following a very strict plan to gain muscle and then cut your body fat to less than 10%. Females, for normal body functions, need 15% body fat minimum. Unless you’re competing for your bodybuilding pro-card, you have nothing to worry about.
If you don’t believe me, read Mark Tiffney’s article on it.
Saying “I want to tone just my arms” or “I just want a flat belly” is cool, but I need you to understand that strengthening one zone of your body is NOT A THING, and can be detrimental to your health.
See, when you say you only want to tone your arms, you’re forgetting about your lats, shoulders, traps, and chest, which all support the arms. By only training your arms, your arms become stronger than these other muscles, causing an imbalance. Muscle imbalances, according to Men’s Journal, occur on opposing muscles, (think hamstring and quad or pecs and lats) which open us up to stiffness, limited mobility, and even serious injury. Everything is connected, so you need to care for and work your whole body, not just the parts you really like or really hate.
A New Year’s Thought
You shouldn’t hate your body because of what it looks like or what it can’t do. Fitness and wellness are a journey to explore your limits and push them. You should love your body, and love all of it, not just certain parts. It enables you to do so many good things.
As we come into the new year, our resolution should be to nourish and nurture our potential and to stop hating ourselves by taking out our frustrations on our bodies.
Be good to yourself by going to the gym. Be good to yourself by improving your eating habits. You owe it to yourself.