Two mistakes women make at the gym

No strength training

The biggest mistake women can make in the gym is avoiding strength training. While the treadmill and spinning bikes get consistent use, the barbell and dumbbells are often neglected. As a trainer, I've noticed many women gravitate toward the 3-pound dumbbells for 15-25 repetitions. Most studies have found the average women's handbag weighs between 8-12 pounds, with one UK based survey averaging a whopping 23 pounds per bag, the same weight as a same child. If the body is accustomed to holding 8 pounds all day, then it won't burn much energy grabbing 5 pounds at the gym.

Many women express that they are afraid of “bulking up” through strength training, however many men have a hard time adding muscle and they have 10 to 30 times more testosterone than most women. Testosterone is a powerful hormone, which among other things tells the body to build muscle. Women have testosterone, just much less than men. What about the female bodybuilders that are very muscular? Isn't that from lighting lifts? No, any female that looks like that is using replacement hormones, like testosterone. Engaging in a properly designed strength-training program would probably build some muscle on most women.

The bigger deal, however, is strength training, especially at higher intensities, promotes something called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. Referred to as the “afterburn,” it increases your metabolism and allows the body to burn additional calories up to 72 hours after strength training. The more lean muscle mass you have relative to your overall body composition, the greater your potential to burn more calories. To take advantages of EPOC use heavier weights. Aim for 8 – 12 repetitions for each exercise. If you feel like you could have done a couple more repetitions than add weight. While cardiovascular training burns calories during the exercise session itself, it does very little to promote EPOC. If the goal is to look better in a bathing suit, strength training should be first on the list. 

No glute exercises

This can go for both men and women, however, it is usually the ladies that want to “firm and tighten” the butt. The glutes are a collection of three muscles: the glutes maximus, glutes medius and glutes minimus. They are important for proper poster, low back health and are a contributing factor in healthy knee function as well.  While the importance of the glutes are undeniable, they tend to underutilized in many programs.

A common weight training session for a female might look something like this; treadmill or spinning followed by forward lunges, the leg press machine, the leg extension machine and maybe squats. Now all those exercises have their own value, time and place, but going back to the idea of “bulking up” this program may be problematic. The way most bodybuilders build muscle is by training the same muscle group with multiple exercises. Again, adding muscle is hard, but this would be the program to do it. One problem with many females weight-training programs is that they tend to be very quad (muscles in front of legs) dominant.

If you want to drop a jean size, trading in quad dominate exercises for glute dominate exercises would be the way to go. Add reverse lunges, kettlebell swings and hip thrusts into the workout to train the posterior chain and balance out the body. This will lead to an increase in total body energy burning, and help lift and tone the butt too.

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