Yes you are reading it correctly. We are going international. Well, for one time that is. This post is going to be in good old English! Let me explain: i had quite a few English speaking people showing interest in my workshop this coming Sunday. And quite a few dissapointed English speaking people as well, since the workshop is going to be in Dutch. So, to do something back for these sweet people, i’m adding this little piece of Englsh content to my blog. With that said: enjoy and who knows, i might even do a workshop in English!
Girls, no matter what Beyoncé might sing: you run the World, but not the gym (she stole the beat of that song by the way). Sorry. While the glory days of bodybuilding have now become the glory days of Zumba, Pilates and Step classes, the gym is still pretty much the kingdom of men. Now ladies, before you track me down and set my house on fire, let me tell you that I support your quest for female fitness domination. But if you want to give the guys a run for their money, you need some new strategies!
On a serious note: I love working with female clients, but a lot of them need some serious re-education when it comes to training. They often make the same classical mistakes, which are actually viewed as the classical rules for female training; too bad they do you more harm than good in terms of a lean physique. So get ready to ‘man up’ and throw out these three common female fitness mistakes out of your training!
1: The lighter weight, higher reps approach
To all the women who think lifting a heavy weight makes them a bodybuilder overnight: if changing your body would go that easily, we wouldn’t have this obesity problem. With that said, women lack the amount of Testosterone necessary for building ‘male’ muscle. The female bodybuilders that you see on television achieved their huge physique mostly because of steroids and even injections of male hormones. Hence the large chin and deep heavy voices these ‘ladies’ carry.
Becoming grotesquely huge is just one of the idiotic arguments behind the light weight & high reps approach. The other one is the idea of ‘cutting’ or ‘toning up’, and getting ‘long slender’ muscles. Anatomically and physiologically impossible! Your muscles attach to bone, so lengthening or shortening your muscles would also mean lengthening or shortening your muscles. If you actually think this is possible, then please tell me how because it would probably make me a millionaire.
And those countless numbers of light weight repetitions as a form of ‘cardio’ or for ‘spot reduction’ are a waste of time as well. It will not burn calories to a large noticeable extend, and spot reduction is, well, impossible. So doing 10 sets of 50 reps on the adductor machine is not going to do anything for slimming down those flabby inner thighs. It might help with your frustration though.
So my recommendation would be a repetition range of 8 to 12, with the intensity being close to failure. Which means as much as doing 8 repetitions with a load you can lift for 10. Sounds intimidating? Just think about the heavy shopping bags you ladies carry around without a complaint; you will manage those 8 heavy reps as well. Training with heavier resistance will help you burn more fat, increase your bone density, decrease blood pressure and insulin resistance. And it will give you the lean, powerful look instead of the light weight / cardio induced skinny-fat one.
2: Group class addiction
I will be the first to say that group training has a lot of benefits. Think about the social aspect, social support, and of course fun (the best training is the one that you actually enjoy). Group classes have always been a women’s thing, and every commercial gym offers their own Yoga, Zumba, Steps or Bodypump program to attract female clients.
The only problem with a group class is, well, being with a group. These standard programs don’t leave much room for individual differences or fitness levels, and it’s easy to get lost in the crowd and do your own thing on the same level for way too long. Now I do have first-hand experience with getting my butt kicked in a group class (Zumba… Believe it or not) but after that initial training your body will very quickly adapt to what you are doing. And from there, the intensity stays pretty much the same for a long period of time.
Well, at least they are moving…
Honestly, if you enjoy group classes then please, keep doing them. But if you rely solely on group classes for reaching your physique and fitness goals I should tell you that this is not the best approach. As a Personal Trainer I am of course somewhat biased, but the best training should be based on you as an individual, not on you as part of a group. Nothing p1sses me off more than some Bodypump instructor telling someone who complains about chronic back pain to join their class, just because they teach a few goofy ‘core stability’ exercises!
3: Doing the wrong exercises for your body type and bone structure
Men and women are created equal, but not the same. Most women are anatomically different from their male counterparts, and these anatomical differences will influence both movements and muscles in a variety of ways.
The best examples of this are found in your lower body. If you take a look at a male pair of hips and legs, you will notice that the knee, upper leg and hipbone go up in a nice straight line, providing proper support. But take a look at the lower body of the average female, and notice how the upper leg and knee will not go up in the same straight, supportive line because of the wider pair of hips.
When the knees are closer to each other compared to the hips, the muscles on the inside of the upper leg are going to be tight, with the muscles on the outside of the upper leg and hips being lengthened and lacking the proper tension necessary for good, strong movement (the so-called length-tension relationship). This will not only put your knees in a position that is more susceptible to injury, but it will also have a negative influence on how well you can actually train these muscles.
Now these anatomical differences and the issues that may come with them, are something you nor your typical instructor will ever be aware of. So you walk into the gym, take a seat on the adductor machine and start banging out repetitions to work those ‘inner thighs’. But those muscles on the inside of your upper legs are already tight, and you are just putting more tension on them with your adductor machine. Well, hello there knee pain…
I could write 10 pages about all these scary aspects of female anatomy, but your best bet is to just train your butt. Your glute muscles are the protective mechanism for your knees and lower back; good glute function counters a lot of the typical weaknesses leading to injuries in the lower body. So, get your butt in gear!
So there you have it. The three biggest female fitness mistakes holding you back from reaching your full potential. So put this new information into practice and show that you when you run the world, that means the gym as well!