After watching my clients repeatedly use the 1lb weights for resistance instead of choosing 2, 3, 5 or even 8lbs I had to write a post on this. I was one of those girls at the gym doing hours of cardio and doing the same strength training routine with the same relatively light weights every single time. My body wasn’t exactly where I wanted it to be, but it was good enough and my routine felt comfortable so I didn’t change anything.
After I had Cyrus, my body changed and in an effort to take my body back, I decided to change things up. That’s when I started learning about the body and how to train to sculpt the body. That’s also when I hired my coach, who really opened my eyes to the fact that what I had been doing was not going to lead me to my ideal body.
These are the principles that I wish everyone knew (especially women) about changing your body shape and getting in the shape you would like to be in.
1.Building muscle and toning are the same thing- How many times have you heard or said “I don’t want to get bulky I just want to tone up.” Guess what, building muscle and toning up are the same thing. Building muscle, increases your metabolic rate (so you are burning more calories throughout the day), it also gives your body shape. Building muscle is a good thing and will give you the “toned” definition you are looking for. Additionally, for most of the female population it is difficult to build enough muscle to look bulky or manly. What is probably making you look bulky is fat.
2. You need to lift heavy to build muscle-Now that we have established that building muscle is a good thing, how do you do it? Your purse weighs more than 1lb, so what makes you think doing exercises with 1lb. weights will be effective? Research shows that the best way to build muscle (hypertrophy) is to lift at a weight where the 10th-12th rep is difficult to finish. Be honest with yourself, if you have to do 20 reps before you feel anything, increase the amount of weight or resistence.
3. Cardio will not change the shape of your body other than making it a smaller version of the shape you are in now- Not only will cardio not change your shape, but as you burn fat you lose muscle so definition that you have will disappear (I’m looking at you glutes). This also slows your metabolism because the less muscle you have, the less calories you burn. I’m not saying that cardio doesn’t have a place in your routine, I am just saying that it shouldn’t be your only focus, especially if you are trying to “tone up.”
4. You can not spot reduce but you can spot build- Many of my clients request ab work, because they think it will help them get a six pack, but the reality is you can’t choose where your body burns fat. Some people burn fat evenly all over, some people tend to hold on to fat in a particular area due to genetics, hormones and/or other factors. You can, however, choose where you build muscle by focusing your training on those areas. Want a smaller waist? Work to build up your glutes and shoulders to create the illusion of a smaller waist and lose body fat by watching your diet.
5. Nutrition is 80% of the battle- If you put 100% into training but your diet is off, you will not see results. A well planned nutrition program (which includes keeping track of calories, macronutrients and micronutrients) is absolutely essential to changing your body shape. If you want to lose weight, make sure you are in a caloric deficit, if you would like to gain weight, you need to be at a surplus. And for goodness sakes, make sure that you are meeting your macro and micronutrient needs to keep your body healthy and working properly. Think about it this way, one hour of weight training burns about 300 calories. 2 glasses of wine is approximately 300 calories. Don’t undo your hard work by slipping up with your diet. Conversely, I’ve seen people get over zealous with their diets and end up going far too low in calories. This is counterproductive even if you are trying to lose weight. I would never recommend taking calories below 1200 and for an active person I would recommend at least 1600 calories a day. If you are clueless about where to start find a registered dietitian. Nutrient timing can also play a key role in how your body responds to your workouts.
So that pretty much sums up my basics for changing your body shape. While I feel like most people know these things, I still see people (especially women) falling into the same trap of cardio only and light weights. While my knowledge and ideas about fitness are continuing to evolve, these ideas have been solidly planted in my head for a while and I have read a lot of research backing them up.
So my question to you is, what is your philosophy on getting in shape? Do you agree with mine?