Too often, people go to the gym without a plan. They pick up the most ineffective routines, do the worst exercises and hope to get results overnight. Though it's true that going to the gym and taking all the wrong steps is a lot better than doing nothing at all, making your time at the gym count will yield much faster, healthier and longer lasting results.
Not Enough Strength Training
Cardio is thought of as the best exercise to burn calories. While cardio does burn a lot of calories, ignoring strength training in favor of the elliptical machine isn't the best idea. Strength training builds more muscle than cardio. It creates muscle tone which means you'll look good once you get rid of the fat.
Building muscle can also help speed up your metabolism. Since muscle is very metabolically active, it needs energy throughout the day to survive. Think of it as high maintenance tissue. When you build muscle, your daily energy needs increase which results in a bigger calorie deficit leading to even more weight loss. Cardio is good but focusing 100% of your time on it will not lead to the best results.
Wrong Type of Cardio
It's human nature to take the easiest path. Unfortunately, the easiest path is rarely the best one. Not all cardio is the same. The best cardio is an activity that uses large muscle groups at the same time. Running, swimming and stair climbing are good examples. Biking and ellipticals are not as good. Another option that can save you time and give you a great workout is using circuit training. Circuit training is a form of exercise that combines strength training with cardio. Instead of taking breaks between sets, you do multiple sets with no rest. The result is cardio infused with strength training. This type of exercise burns lots of calories, builds muscle and is time efficient. Circuit training workouts include crossfit, P90x/Insanity or simply moving from one exercise to the next without any rest.
Focusing on Isolation Exercises
Strength training exercises can generally be broken up into two categories: compound and isolation. Compound exercises target large areas of the body while isolation exercises target a one or two muscles. Examples of compound exercises include: squats, deadlifts, bench press, shoulder press, push ups, pull ups and rows. Examples of isolation exercises include: bicep curls, tricep extensions and calf raises.
Too often, those who are trying to lose a lot of weight, use isolation rather than compound movements. Isolation exercises don't burn very many calories and if your problem is excessive fat buildup, you need to focus on the exercises that will burn a lot of calories. Compound exercises (squats, deadlifts, bench press...) will do a lot more to create a calorie deficit than bicep curls and tricep extensions
Doing Sit Ups
Everyone has a problem area that they would love to fix. For most, that area is the midsection/stomach/abs. The body loves to store fat right over your abs. The solution isn't doing hundreds of sit ups or even to target your abs with any exercise. Fat is a result of too many calories in and not enough calories burned. When you eat more than you burn, your body stores the surplus of energy as fat in areas all over the body.
To fix your problem area(s), you need to combine a calorie restricted diet with extra exercise. This will force your body to start burning the fat from all over your body creating a more toned look. It doesn't matter whether the fat is around your abs, arms or thighs, the solution is the same: eat less, move more. Spot reducing is impossible. You can't pick where your body burns fat from using targeted exercises. Exercises such as squats, rows and deadlifts will burn a lot more calories than sit ups.
Wearing a Sweater and Sweatpants to Sweat
Cause and effect can sometimes be a tricky. Burning calories causes you to sweat, not the other way around (sweating alone does not cause you to burn calories). Sweating is the effect of exercising. Simply sweating does not mean you're burning calories. That's why a sauna is a waste of time. When you wear winter clothes to workout, you sweat more not because you're burning more calories but because your body temperature is higher. A higher body temperature means your body isn't working at its peak performance which will hinder your workout and can cause you to burn fewer calories.
Yes, sweating does lead to more water weight loss, but losing water weight doesn't mean anything for health or looks. If you just want to weigh less then go ahead and sweat as much as you can. Just understand that water weight loss is very temporary. Since your body is good at regulating water weight, as soon as you drink or eat anything, you will gain all of that temporary weight loss back. If you want to burn as many calories as you can in order to burn the most fat, ditch the winter clothes and exercise as hard as you can instead. Don't mix cause and effect up. Sweating does not cause calorie burning, calorie burning causes sweating.
Taking Your Bad Habits Home With You
Exercising is only part of the solution to losing weight. Even proper exercise can be ruined by an improper diet. Losing weight requires you to burn more than you eat. There are two opportunities to make the weight loss equation work: you can exercise more and/or eat less. Since healthy foods are typically more filling and lower in calories than junk, replacing junk with healthier options can help you naturally lower your calorie intake without going crazy measuring all of your portions. Some general 'healthy food' guidelines include:
- eat 100% whole grains - bread, pasta, brown rice
- eat foods high in fiber - read above, fruits, vegetables, old fashioned oatmeal, beans, nuts
- eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables
- eat lean meats - chicken, seafood, turkey
- cook yourself - decrease your intake of processed foods