Is cardio better than weight lifting to lose fat? Should you be hitting the treadmill or pumping iron for the fastest results? Should you be working out longer or actually train less to speed up your progress?
Here are 5 of the biggest workout mistakes you may be making that are preventing you from getting that lean, great looking physique you’ve been working so hard for…
As a matter of fact, these mistakes may actually be making you fatter!
First of all, working out longer doesn’t guarantee faster results. It’s totally possible to spend a couple hours every week at the gym without making any progress at all. This is why it’s very important to to train more effectively rather than longer.
Stop focusing on cardio
The biggest mistake many people make – by far – is focusing too much on cardio and not enough on weight or resistance training. Most people think that cardio is the best workout for fat loss, however that’s pretty far from the truth.
True, if you compare an average cardio workout to an average weight training workout it may look like the cardio workout is burning more calories.
However, when you start comparing the total fat burning effects of that cardio workout with those of the weight training workout over the course of 2-3 days you get a completely different picture and the resistance training is shown to pack a much greater punch than cardio.
One of the reasons resistance training is more effective in the long run is something know as the afterburn effect. This simply means that your body continues working to repair your broken down muscle tissue and return to homeostasis long after you’ve finished your workout.
Of course it also takes time for your body to return to normal after a cardio workout but that period is nowhere near as long as it is after a challenging weight lifting workout. It’s going to take a lot longer and a lot more calories to fully recover.
You may have heard that weight training is for building muscle and cardio is for fat loss. This is completely wrong! It’s a myth! Of course, if you want to speed up fat loss you can definitely do both weight training and cardio.
For instance, the high intensity body weight workouts taught in the Curve-Ball Effect program are a great example of combining resistance train with cardio.
If you’re doing both in the same workout, you may want to do your cardio after you do your resistance training. This way you have maximum energy for your heavy lifts and it helps you deplete all your glycogen stores so you could burn primarily fat during your cardio workout.
Of course, if you want to do your cardio on separate days from your resistance training you can do that as well. However, if you have to choose between cardio and weight training you should definitely go with the weight training.
Train with more intensity
The second big mistake that people make is not training at a high enough intensity. When you hear high intensity you may think of high intensity interval training. However, that’s not what we’re talking about here.
High intensity interval training is just one of many ways you can perform your workouts at a higher intensity. HIIT type training is where you’re doing exercises back to back with very small rest periods in-between, while still usually using a moderate weight.
It’s true that high intensity interval training will help you burn fat, but there are a lot of other ways that you can create a higher intensity workout with weights.
One of my personal favorites is by increasing the length of your negatives which increases your muscle’s time under tension. This is the basis of the Old School New Body program and it’s the reason their F4X method is so effective at burning fat and getting lean.
Another example is powerlifters. A powerlifting workout looks almost exactly the opposite of a hiit workout and to bystanders it might look like they’re resting more than they are actually working out. However, powerlifters have a very long afterburn effect after their workouts.
Some other ways you can increase the intensity of your workout are:
- stacking back-to-back sets reps and cutting down rest time between sets to increase the volume of your workout
- increasing the weight load
- combining both shorter rest times and heavier weights
- Or, as mentioned earlier (and my personal favorite) increasing your muscles time under tension by using longer negatives
You can also do heavy weight training days where you’re focused more on giving yourself an adequate amount of rest time to perform heavy lifts and have other weight training days where you’re focused more on volume through more sets/reps and shorter rest times.
One of the major mistakes many people make in regard to intensity is just simply taking it too easy at the gym. Which brings us to the third mistake:
Being afraid of discomfort
Do you take a break immediately when you start getting out of breath? Or you rack the weight as soon as it starts getting heavy and before you get anywhere close to failure? If so, you’re going to be missing out on a principle that could be vital to your success… progressive overload.
Progressive overload means constantly trying to increase the load or the amount. in other words, it means to keep pushing yourself. So, try aiming for that extra rep or even set. Get out of your comfort zone and keep challenging yourself.
Not switching up your workouts
Your body has the amazing capability of adapting to pretty much anything you throw at it. Doing the same workout for weeks or even months means your body is going to adapt. This means you’re not challenging yourself anymore, making your workouts a lot less effective.
This doesn’t mean you have to do a different workout every time you go to the gym. As a matter of fact, this is almost as bad as doing the same workout time and time again. It prevents you from mastering the exercises and using the progressive overload principle mentioned in the previous step.
The sweet spot for changing your workout plan is about 4 weeks. This means that every month you should consider switching up your workouts. 4 weeks gives your body the time it needs to get stronger using progressive overload while also preventing it from adapting to the routine.
And that brings us to the final common workout mistake:
Using too many machines
If you catch yourself using exercise machines extensively when you’re at the gym, consider ditching them wherever possible and using free weights instead.
The best weight training exercises are those that provide a free range of motion and use compound movements (engage many different muscle groups).
The problem with most machines is that they do the exact opposite. They limit your range of motion (they are locked into a specific movement) and they isolate specific muscles.
The best weight training equipment are dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells and your own body weight. Also cable machines are a reasonable choice because they also provide a free range of motion.
The worst are the machines that have a ‘locked’ range of motion. These can be used to supplement your workout. However, free weights and bodyweight exercises are a lot more effective and provide a lot more bang for their buck than most exercise machines.
So, those are some of the biggest workout mistakes many people make that are preventing them from getting the results they crave and may even be making them fatter. Avoiding them will make your time spent in the gym much more effective and will bring you results a lot faster.
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