August 19, 2008
I see it in every gym, people giving 110% doing some of the craziest things. People spending hours and hours in there daily for 7x a week, yet they look the same month after month. Clients spending $1000/month on private training yet their trainer has them doing stuff that is not even related to what their goals are. What is going on? There are more people working out nowadays, belonging to gyms, hiring personal trainers, buying supplements, on so called “diets”, and yet the results are not showing! Sadly it seems most people are making so many mistakes when it comes to training, yet they just keep right on trying. If we can see what we need to be doing, and more importantly what we don’t need to be doing….then maybe the results will start to finally show!These are the biggest workout mistakes that I see today:
- Focused on How Many Calories are Burned Working Out: Honestly what does this matter in the overall scheme of the whole day and fat burning? Assuming that fat burning is your goal, does that mean doing more and more exercise just burns more and more fat? NO! Who said you are even burning fat in the first place? What about stored glycogen? What about breaking down muscle? What about that subway sandwich you had an hour ago? Really this mentality is what is keeping most people from focusing on what matters, your eating! Diet/Nutrition is where 85% of your results come from and will even tell the body hormonally when to burn fat, and when to NOT burn fat. Forget how many calories you are spinning away, you don’t know what is really going on inside of you. Prime your body for all day fat burning and use your workouts as the right hormonal trigger for it.
- More is Better When it Comes to Working Out: This goes hand in hand with thinking that you are burning more fat with more exercise, which is not true. Not too mention the more people workout, the lower they drop their blood sugar and if they go too hard and go into a hypoglycemic state guess what will happen, they will rebound with sugar cravings and most likely end up drinking/eating more calories than they even burned in the first place. Not too mention the increase of cortisol you will get from extended workouts (over 45-60min) that will start to break down and use muscle as fuel. Also when it comes to resistance training, I see people wanting big muscles yet they do the same workout 4x a week. How is your body supposed to grow muscles if you keep breaking them down and never give them time to grow? Remember the saying that “muscles do not grow in the gym”. So resistance train a few times a week, then go home and eat and sleep to grow the muscles. How do you expect the build a big house (muscles) if you keep smashing it down during the construction period?
- Carb/Sport Drinks are OK Before, During and After a Workout: This could be titled instead“don’t believe everything you see on TV or read in advertisements”. If you look around you would think that you need Gatorade all day long (did you know they have an AM version? Are you kidding me?). So you have people working hard on a bike, rowing machine, treadmill (whatever) and then drinking a sugar drink for more energy? Ok, if you are an athlete and are training for increased endurance or power during a 3 hour workout and need ongoing fuel, then maybe you need something….but if you are the average person trying to burn fat and pumping sugar into your body in the process…..you are somehow expecting the rules of fat burning to not apply to you! Forget the workout drinks, drink some water and go burn some fat instead…..well that is only if your diet is also on target to allow you to.
- Not Lifting Heavy Enough: Whether it is women afraid to get bulky muscles (won’t happen), magazines saying you need high reps to “tone” (which is a fancy word for burning fat around a muscle….which doesn’t happen lifting something 50 times), or just people afraid to challenge their muscles for safety reasons. Hands down you get the best results for strength and muscles when you lift in a range of 5-10 reps. So if you are new to exercise, hire a trainer to show you how to properly and safely lift. Exercises and heavy weights do not hurt people……people doing all the wrong things hurt themselves! So forget all those magazines with 40 reps of some lying side leg lift…..go do some lunges and eat right and you will be more tone than anyone reading those magazines….as those people tend to have a lifetime subscription for a reason.
- Having No Real Set Plan (aka “Winging It”): While you don’t need anything overly complicated, you do need to have a plan. Whatever it may be, you need to know if you are progressing in your workouts and not just doing whatever exercises you “feel” like doing. That and you need to keep your rest periods short to get through your workout in 30min (40max). If you can’t get a workout done in 30min, you need a new plan! Most people at the gym are socializing and trading facebook profiles, and they also stay there for hours and look the same month after month. Do your workout, have a plan, get out of the gym and get on with your life……as life should be more than just working out.
- Using the Whole Maze of Gym Machines (Just because it is there): Just because a gym has 100 pieces of equipment to target your calves and rear deltoids….doesn’t mean you need to use them. In fact all you need is a few pieces of free weights and you get done all the exercises that really count. All the rest are just there to keep memberships up and to keep people coming back. Forget isolation exercises and focus on the basic compound movements (listed below). Machines may help people will some movements but overall you don’t need 95% of what is in a commercial gym nowadays.
- Mentality that You Need a Gym to Get in a Good Workout: This is probably the worse mental mistake people are making. Say you don’t have time to get to the gym, or are on the road travelling, or whatever other excuse you want to use…..so does that mean you can’t workout? NO. But many people will not because the gym is seen as the only place that they can workout. The gym industry is a tragedy in the sense that they make most their money off the 90% of people who sign up, show up for a week or two and then come back like 3x in the next year….yet get billed monthly. If you knew the break even point on membership for gyms you would probably laugh (as a small gym may need 500-1000 members, and a bigger gym 10,000+). You don’t need a gym to go run a trail, do some pushups on your living room floor, lunge across the kitchen, take the stairs at work, do some pullups at the park on the kid’s monkeybars, or whatever. No more thinking you need the gym….the gym may need you, but you don’t need it!
- Spot Reduction and Isolation Movements are the Focus: Want big triceps? Do some heavy dips. Want big biceps? Do some heavy chinups. Want big calves? Sprint! While you can add in some isolation movements in a workout if you like, they should be at the end and all done within 10minutes. The bulk of your workout (whether you goal is fat loss or gaining muscle) should be with compound body movements (see a pattern here?) like squat, deadlift, overhead press, pullups, etc. Isolation movements are for bodybuilding magazines to keep writing about so they can sell new subscriptions for years to come. Want abs? Then hold something heavy over your head and brace it with your abs….or do a plank. Forget the situps and go focus where it matters….with your eating.
Ok so we have gone over alot of mistakes people make, but now what are some of the solutions then? It’s easy…..keep it simple and focused and consistent…..results will follow!
- Eat Real Whole Foods to Burn Fat and Exercise will just Accelerate it: We know that eating whole non-processed foods are the best way to burn fat and gain muscle. Eat whole food proteins, healthy fats, veggies, fruits, nuts….and skip the breads, cereals and other processed foods. You need amino acids, vitamins, minerals and many other nutrients available in plenty with whole foods for maximum fat burning and muscle building. Eat a diet of whole foods, forget the stuff that is destroying your body (esp sugar!)
- Keep Your Main Workouts Short and Intense: It doesn’t matter how many calories you burn during a workout, what does matter is how much fat you can burn all day! Short and intense workouts are not only great to stimulate fast twitch muscle fibers but to also get the right hormones going (such as GH) to burn fat and build muscles. Keep your rest short (30 sec) between your sets if you are lifting weight and add intervals before any cardio session. Doing that along with proper eating will get amazing results.
- Have an Active Lifestyle, Go Play! Life is fun! So go play with your friends, dog, kids or just off by yourself. Go hiking, biking, walking, rowing, dancing, boxing, frisbee in the park…..whatever you find fun and interesting. Some of the best bodies you will ever see are people who are very athletic and active (and may not even have a clue how to lift weights and workout). Enjoy what you do and chances are you will do it for a long time to come (and probably live longer because of it)
- Keep Your Workouts Simple and Effective. Focus on Movements that Count: I always say get in-get out in 30min. If you can’t get a good workout in 30min, then you need to rethink what you are doing. More is not better when it comes to resistance training, smart is better! You don’t need some super secret Russian-East German Progressive Overload training system from 1965 either. The basic full body movements like squat, lunge, pushup, bench, pullup, bent rows, overhead press, cleans, snatches, and deadlifts will get your more bang for your buck if you challenge yourself and keep the progress going. I don’t care if you do 5×5 or 3×10s. Do them with intensity and with heavy enough weights and then go eat and recover. You can add in secondary movements at the end of your workouts (like arms or planks for abs) but they are not the main focus. Results are simple yet we think we need a super complicated program to get them. Don’t get “paralysis by analysis”, just take action and modify as you go. Need more help for what to do for workouts? Well guess what….your solution is now here.
- Stop Listening to Advertisements and Magazines: You don’t need a gatorade, you are not training for 4 hours a day like a professional athlete, there is no such thing as spot reduction no matter how many ab crunches you do (or whatever ab-infomercial tries and sell you on). Advertisements and magazines are there to sell you on something, just remember that.
- Do Your Workouts Anywhere and Just do Something Daily: Have some fun and make fitness a part of your daily lifestyle! Think you can’t get a good workout at home or at the park? Think again…..all you need is your body and a way to make it move and work the muscles. Pushups, pullups, squats, lunges, planks, dips…lots of things to do. You can also use minimal equipment and bring it with you like some dumbbells, kettlebells, set of bands and use simple equipment outdoors like a playground, set of rings or bodyweight bars (as seen above). Do it in your backyard, on your porch, in your garage…wherever!
- (Re)Read these Posts: I made these a while back to help people know what really matters, and it helps to keep re-reading and seeing where you need to focus on for results: Fat Loss 101 andMuscle Building 101.
So there you have it. All the things you need to be successful in your workouts. Again remember the most important things are to focus on eating right, keep your workouts simple and intense, do the major movements with resistance, and then just keep active and consistent with your workouts. Before you know it, months will pass and you will be amazed at where you are! So start today with something….and most importantly just enjoy your fitness lifestyle! Go Play!
Above photo by sirwiseowl