Every week, someone at the gym asks me the same question. They train several times a week, do some weight lifting, cardio and even some fitness classes. They don’t understand why when they are sweating that much, the scale always stays the same!
Remember one thing. Sweating is one of the ways we maintain a regular body temperature. Sweating is not the only indication of a good workout. Some of us sweat a lot, some don’t. I personally don’t sweat a lot and my workout is effective for sure. It’s not because you sweat that you lose weight. By sweating you lose water, but once the workout is finished you’ll drink and replenish that fluid. That doesn’t mean anything for weight loss.
Watching these people working out, I can see them making the same mistakes. To tell you the truth, they don’t exercise properly.
There’s a few simple adjustments you can make at the gym that can get you some really good gains. And when I say gains, I mean weight loss. Make sure you watch out for the 6 most frequent mistakes people make at the gym when they are trying to lose some weight.
1. A gym is not a social club!
This is a big mistake people make. They stay 60 to 90 minutes at the gym, but they really spend half of that time talking to friends. Save your social activity for after your workout. Do what you need to do and when it’s done, go grab a nice protein shake at the juice bar and have a nice chat once it’s over.
2. Not the right technique.
This is very important. Always maintain good technique when you lift weights. It doesn’t matter if you use free weights or machines, if you cannot control the weight you try to lift, then it’s too heavy. By lowering the weight and keeping a better technique you will get the most from your lifting. Never sacrifice good form to be able to lift heavier. First you risk injuring yourself, and second you will not be working the right muscles.
Let me give you a quick example with the famous biceps curl. Usually people go too heavy for their biceps curl and what happens? Their elbows go way to far forward, instead of staying by your side of your body. By moving your elbows forward, you start to do a “shoulder flexion”. You probably work your shoulders more than your biceps. This is why you should lower your weight a bit and keep your elbows at your side, and really isolate your biceps.
3. Increase your intensity.
Lack of intensity is also an important factor in poor results. Why wait for a machine if the one you want is use by another member? Go do something else. Do not waste your time. Your time is precious, so use it well. If you can train for more than 60 minutes, it’s probably a sign that your intensity is too low, so next time try to finish your workout in 45 to 60 minutes.
The key is to keep your heart rate high. Move fast between exercises and if someone is using the machine you need, go to the next exercise and come back later.
It’s the same thing with people who read during their cardio session – read my article Can You Read During Your Cardio? If you can read during your cardio, your intensity is probably not at the maximum. And your form will suffer too. If you are reading, can you focus on your breathing; can you remember to keep your abs tight and so on? I don’t think so!
4. Always doing the same workout.
If you always keep to the same program your muscles will adapt, and not be challenged anymore. The result is you reach a plateau. Your body is very smart and will try to adapt to your program. This will happen if you don’t mix up your program every 4 to 6 weeks.
If you don’t want to change your whole program, then try this. Change your number of sets and the number or reps. If you do usually 3 set of 12-15 reps it will be good to change and start to do, for example, 4 sets of 8 repetitions.
Another thing you can do is to play around with Time Under Tension (TUT). TUT is the time you challenge your muscle per rep. If you take 1 second to lift the weight and 1 second to lower your weight, you can try to take 2 seconds to lift and take 3 to 4 seconds to lower the weight. By using this technique you can keep the same exercise, but you will challenge your muscles and your body will not be able to use its adaptations to your workout. Just remember, mix it up every 4 to 6 weeks.
5. Cardio in a ‘steady state’.
When it’s time for your cardio, forget the long and slow boring cardio. If you really want to challenge your body and make the most of your cardio session, practice interval training. Forget the ‘fat burning zone’.
What is interval training? Here’s an example. If you are on the treadmill or outside and you usually run at a steady pace, try to change it up by sprinting for 30 to 45 seconds and follow with 30 to 60 seconds of jogging. Use the time you jog to catch your breath, recover and then repeat the cycle. You can start with 5 cycles and increase your number of cycles up to 15. You can try the same pattern on a bike – on the bike instead of sprinting you can increase the resistance (gearing) for the numbers of seconds you want and decrease the resistance to catch your breath. Or, of course, if you’re outside you can find a nice short, steep hill to ride up and recover on the way down!
6. Working on muscles in isolation.
When it’s time to lose weight, too many people focus on the wrong group of muscles. They like to work on biceps and triceps, and forget to train the big muscle groups like legs, chest and back. By training those muscle groups, you will burn more calories than training your biceps or triceps.
You will need to work your shoulders, biceps and triceps also, but don’t use the same number of set for those groups. Remember when you work your chest muscles with a bench press, you work also your shoulders and triceps. Same thing when you train your back – your biceps are involved.
I like to train two muscle groups at once – a big muscle with a small muscle. Try to perform a squat with a shoulder press with dumbbells. Keep your dumbbells at shoulder height when you squat, and when you come up you perform your shoulder press. You work two different muscle groups, so you burn more calories and your time is more efficient. See #3, ‘Increase your intensity’, this is a great example of how to keep up that intensity and make every minute in the gym really count!
So, the next time you go for your workout, make sure to remember these 6 golden rules and I’m sure you will feel great, burn calories, and see the weight start to come off very soon. Keep up your good work and have fun at your next workout!
* Martin Bolduc is the winner of the Lean Body Challenge 2008, a certified Personal Trainer (ACE and BCRPA) a natural bodybuilder and the author of the Ultimate Guide to Express Fat Loss. www.ExpressFatLoss.com . Martin helps hundreds of clients to reach their goals. Click Here to know the truth about Nutrition.