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Month: December 2016

Five Fitness Mistakes Women Make (And How to Fix Them)

Five Fitness Mistakes Women Make (And How to Fix Them)

I get lots of questions from friends and family about working out. These are the five most common fitness mistakes women make, from my observations:

1) Not lifting weights.

We’ve been over this before. One of the most common fitness mistakes women make is not lifting weights. Too many women believe that lifting weights will make them bulky, and that’s just silly. Lifting weights is the best way to build muscle, which is much more visually appealing (and healthier!) than fat. Lifting weights also builds healthier bones, helping prevent osteoporosis – which women suffer from at higher rates compared to men.

The fix: lift weights.

2) Not lifting heavy weights.

Are you catching on to the theme here?

Women shouldn’t be afraid of getting strong. Want a better butt? Get strong glutes. Brett Contreras – known as “The Glute Guy” for his research into developing great posteriors – has a ton of great information on this subject.

The fix: Stop with the 3-pound tricep extensions. Get in the squat rack, do weighted push-ups – get strong!

3) Doing too much cardio.

Walk into any gym, and you’ll notice a consistent theme – most of the treadmills and other cardio equipment are occupied by women.

There’s nothing wrong with doing cardio work – it’s essential for a healthy heart. A common fitness mistake women make is doing too much cardio. Doing too much cardio can have negative consequences. Going overboard on cardio can lead to shin splints, knee injuries, and other physical ailments. It also often means other training methods – strength and flexibility – get neglected.

The fix: Do your cardio, but keep it in check. Balance out the trifecta: strength, conditioning, flexibility. Don’t overemphasize one area at the expense of the other two.

4) Half-assing it while reading a magazine or looking at PowerPoint slides.

This is fine if you’re 50+ or have some sort of physical injury.

If you’re 21 and 100% healthy, DON’T DO THIS. Stop wasting your time. Even if you’re doing lighter work – such as walking on an incline treadmill – you should be breaking a sweat.

It’s silly to spend 60 minutes barely moving and burning 50 calories when you can bust out a HIIT routine that burns 200+ calories in 20 minutes. 1/3 the time, 4x the results.

Maybe I’m just jealous because I could never study while working out.

The fix: drop the other stuff and focus on working out. You’ll get more accomplished and spend less time doing it.

5) Workout ADHD

We’ve seen interest in fitness classes explode over the past few years. There are more options available now than ever before.

On one hand, this is great! It makes finding a fitness program that works for you, and that you enjoy, much easier. We’re more likely to stick to a program we enjoy doing.

On the other hand, this can go wrong when we get “workout ADHD”. This happens when we switch from program to program without ever sticking to one for more than a few weeks.

I encourage you to try as many different types of training as possible – Crossfit, Barre, yoga, weightlifting, running, cycling, interval training, bodyweight exercising, Orange Theory, the list goes on.

At some point, though, you’ve got to pick something and stick to it. You’ll get better results this way. Find what you love and focus on that.

For me – I like lifting weights. I once stuck to the same weightlifting routine for over 60 weeks, from Fall 2014 to Spring 2016. You get great results from digging into a program and focusing on progressing within it, instead of hopping around different programming week after week.

The fix: find what you like, and stick to it.

The takeaway:

These are five common fitness mistakes I’ve witnessed female friends and family make. We’ve addressed why they happen, and ways to correct them. My goal is to help you find what works best for you, while avoiding the common mistakes that prevent others from making progress.

Eat well, get strong, stay healthy. Go make me proud.

Next week, we’ll look at the five biggest training mistakes men make.

My Lipid Panel While Eating 5 Eggs Every Day (And What It Means)

My Lipid Panel While Eating 5 Eggs Every Day (And What It Means)

Today, I want to share an experience that shows the power of ignoring nutritional facts that “everyone” knows – the basic assumptions most people just assume are true, because they are repeated so often, we fail to question their validity.

This is a story about conducting your own “N=1” studies, to find the strategies that work best for you.

“Limit dietary cholesterol”

The USDA recently released the 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, in which they dropped the recommendation to limit daily dietary cholesterol consumption to 300 mg or less, and replaced it with a recommendation to “eat as little dietary cholesterol as possible while consuming a healthy eating pattern.” This decision led to a lawsuit by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine – a group with an incredibly misleading name that loves to push vegetarian and vegan diets as solutions for everyone.

Anyway, as you’ve probably noticed, eggs have been painted as a nutritional bad guy over the past 50 years. During the War on Fat, numerous government agencies and “respected” authorities have repeated the dogma that eggs – high in cholesterol and fat, especially the saturated sort – are killers, causing high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease.

What does a lipid panel look like on 5 eggs per day?

Recently, my employer offered a free health screening, which included a finger-stick blood lipid panel test. I jumped at the chance, because 1) they offered a $100 incentive on my next pay check, and 2) everyone should get a full cholesterol panel every five years, beginning at age 20. I was a year behind, and with a family history of hyperlipidemia, I wanted to be sure my serum cholesterol levels were within healthy limits.

Since 2009, I’ve eaten five eggs a day for breakfast. Fat consistently makes up at least 40% of my calories, and is usually closer to 50%. Both habits fly in the face of conventional nutrition wisdom. Assuming that “fats are bad for you” and “eggs raise cholesterol”, combined with my family history of cardiovascular disease, my cholesterol should be well into dangerous territory.

The results:

Here is the exact readout from my lipid panel (note: date was not set correctly on the machine):

CHOL is total cholesterol. We want this number under 200 mg/dL.

HDL CHOL” cholesterol is the “good” cholesterol. We want this number above 40 mg/dL for men and above 60 mg/dL in women.

TRIG refers to triglycerides. We want this number less than 150 mg/dL.

CALC LDL refers to a calculated LDL. LDL is the “bad” cholesterol, and we want this number under 100 mg/dL. “Calculated” means that LDL was not directly measured, but was determined using the Friedewald equation, which calculates LDL using direct measurements of triglycerides, HDL, and total cholesterol.

TC/HDL is a ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol. A ratio of 5:1 signifies average risk of heart disease.

LDL/HDL ratio shows your ratio of LDL cholesterol to HDL cholesterol. Ideally, this ratio should be 3.5:1 or less.

NON-HDL refers to non-HDL cholesterol. This number is beginning to be used by more and more healthcare professionals as a way of assessing risk for cardiovascular disease. Ideally, this number is 130 mg/dL or less.

As you can see, all of my levels are within the “normal” range. In fact, nearly all of them fall in the “optimal” range.

“You must have great genetics!”

Shortly after, I had a follow-up with my primary care physician. I shared the test results with him.

“Your LDL is 75? Wow. You must have great genetics!”

I wish. Actually, my genetics are stacked against me. My father suffered a heart attack in 2011, and has been on cholesterol-lowering drugs for much of his adult life. My maternal grandfather’s death was partly caused by heart disease. Heart disease appears in males on both sides of my family. My genetics do not protect me from cardiovascular disease – they are a direct risk for it.

Through a diet low in sugar and white grains, high in vegetables and meat, and exercising 6-7 days per week, I’m fighting with everything I’ve got against my genetics. And it’s working.

The takeaway:

I hope this post encourages you to challenge common assumptions. Do your own research, and conduct your own “N=1” studies. This includes the information from the story I shared above. Just because eating five eggs a day has zero effect on my lipids does not guarantee you will have the same results. Try new things, figure out what works best for you, and mercilessly eliminate the things that don’t. This is how you find your prescription for better living.

Short, Great Strength Routines That Won’t Consume Your Life

Short, Great Strength Routines That Won’t Consume Your Life

Weightlifting doesn’t have to consume your life.

Ignore the gospel spread by magazines, internet articles, and broscience. You don’t need to lift weights every day to look good naked.

People think that lifting weights takes up a lot of time. This is a dangerous misconception that keeps people from ever lifting weights in the first place. The health benefits of weightlifting are too numerous to let this misconception stand.

The reality is there are plenty of weightlifting routines that can be completed in under 40 minutes, and that only consist of lifting weights two or three days per week.

These “shortened” routines have big benefits. They keep you from overtraining, so you feel fresh for each workout, and your body is able to recover. Using a two or three-day routine allows busy professionals to lift weights, even with a hectic work and personal schedule.

To help get you started, I’ve put together three weightlifting routines that require minimal time commitment. These are great routines for anyone:

Male or female. Doesn’t matter.

Lifting newbie, or former high school athlete getting back into shape. Doesn’t matter.

Lawyer, physician, pharmacist, engineer, programmer, CEO. Doesn’t matter.

These routines are short, simple, and, most importantly, they work.

Notes

1. The first exercise is your main lift.

The first exercise listed in the routine is your main lift.

This gets your full focus. This lift is what you come to the gym for. No matter what else happens, you do this lift, and you bust ass doing it. Your 1st, 2nd, and 3rd goal is to get stronger at this lift. You do NOT skip this exercise.

If you only do one thing at the gym, it’s this lift.

Rest 2 minutes between sets on your main lift.

2. The other exercises are accessory lifts.

Accessory lifts are important. They’re just not your main lift. They aren’t your primary focus. If you get paged to come in to work, or your partner needs you home NOW, these are the lifts you skip.

Your goal is still to increase the weight used on accessory lift. But, your energy and focus should be directed at the main lift. If you’re increasing the weight used on accessory lifts every week, you either aren’t using enough weight, or you’re not pushing yourself hard enough at your main lift.

Rest 30 – 45 seconds between sets on your accessory lifts.

Routine #1 – Two days per week

Full body Day 1

  • Squats 2×5
  • Leg curls 3×12
  • BB Bench Press 2×6
  • DB shoulder press 2×12
  • Chin-ups 2x failure
  • Weighted decline sit-ups 2×15

Full body Day 2

  • Deadlifts 2×4
  • Leg Press 1×20
  • Weighted dips 2×8
  • Pull-ups 2x failure
  • BB Curls 2×15
  • Ab machine 3×20

Don’t have a gym? Here’s a routine that only uses bodyweight exercises.

Routine #2 – Two days per week, bodyweight exercises only

Full body Day 1

Full body Day 2

  • Split-leg squats 2×15
  • Squat jumps 3×20
  • Dips 3xfailure
  • Handstand push-ups 3×15
  • Plank 2xfailure

Routine #3 – Three days per week

Day 1 – Legs

  • Squats 2×5
  • Leg press 1×20
  • Leg curls 3×15
  • Hip abductor/adductor (alternate each week) 3×20
  • Calf raises 3×20
  • Weighted decline crunches 3×10

Day 2 – Chest/Shoulders

  • BB Bench 2×6
  • BB Bench 1xfailure (increase weight once you get to 20 reps; start low!)
  • Close grip BB bench 3×10
  • Tricep pushdowns 3×20
  • DB seated shoulder press 2×15
  • Ab pulley crunches 3×15

Day 3 – Back/Arms

  • Deadlifts 2×4
  • Lat pulldowns 3×10
  • Machine rows 2×20
  • BB Curls 2×15
  • DB Hammer Curls 3×10
  • Hanging leg raises 3xfailure

Wrapping Up

Contrary to popular belief, weightlifting doesn’t have to consume your life. In fact, less can be more. Utilize lifts that work multiple major muscle groups – squats, deadlifts, bench press, dips, rows, pull-ups, chin-ups – and add in accessory work. You can knock these routines out in 30-40 minutes, and only go to the gym two or three times per week.

You’ll get stronger, leaner, and sexier in the process.

Do you have good two or three-day weightlifting routines? Share them in the comments below!