If your workouts consist of
doing light weights and steady-state cardio, you might be in for some bad news:
These things alone won’t likely get you the results you’re after, say experts.
To increase your fitness level, burn
fat, and improve muscle tone, you’ve got to step up your game.
Here are four things women tend
to skip that can deliver serious results.
All that time coasting on the
elliptical at a comfortable pace probably hasn’t done much for your body, says Panama-based
trainer Belinda Benn, creator of the Breakthrough Physique home fitness system.
In fact, the biggest mistake women make in their training is not exercising with enough
intensity, she says.
High-intensity interval training,
or HIIT, is typically a 10- to 20-minute workout that alternates short, intense
bursts of activity with moderate-exertion recovery periods. “High-intensity
interval training is the best way to improve your overall fitness, burn
fat, and stimulate your hormones for a stronger body,” says Benn.
How to tell if you’re training
hard enough? Look to your body for clues, Benn says. Good indicators are
sweating, increased heart rate, and lactic acid production (i.e., feeling the
“burn”) during exercise. Moderate muscle soreness for up to a few days
post-workout is also a good sign. “If you feel nothing,” Benn says, “you
probably didn’t work out hard enough.”
For most women, a typical
weight-training session equals light dumbbell exercises, says Toronto-based
strength and conditioning specialist Craig Ballantyne, creator of the
Turbulence Training Program. But doing fewer reps with more weight—say, 8 reps
per set with a 15-pound dumbbell, instead of 15 reps with an 8-pound one—will
burn more fat, he says. Lifting heavier will also increase your strength and
Start by swapping out your normal
weights for slightly heavier ones, and gradually work your way up.
Women tend to store body fat
around the waist, hips, and thighs, so that’s where they typically focus their
exercise efforts—neglecting their upper bodies, Benn says.
But you can’t spot-reduce fat,
and sticking with what’s easy can stunt your progress, says Benn. Because you
may feel weak while attempting pull-ups for the first time, Benn suggests doing
the hard stuff at the start of your workout, “when you’re freshest and feeling
“Focusing on underdeveloped
muscles will improve the contours of your body,” Benn says.
with a barbell.
Think barbells are synonymous
with back-breaking chest presses? Not so. “You can do a tremendous workout just
with a barbell,” Benn says. “If you’re holding a bar rather than using two
separate weights, it forces you to get your body in sync.”
Barbells are great for both
upper- and lower-body exercises. Balancing one across your shoulders while
doing squats, lunges, or walking lunges helps develop posture and balance, Benn
If you’re flirting with a barbell
for the first time, go as light as you need to. Even 10 pounds is a good start.
If you’re worried you’ll bulk up
with any of these exercises, consider your body type. Benn says women generally
fall into two categories: those who build muscle easily, and those who don’t.
If you build muscle easily, she suggests emphasizing high-intensity exercises.
If you develop muscle slowly, you’ll benefit from spending more time on heavy
Chelsea Bush writes for AskFitnessCoach, a site that promotes a down-to-earth approach to fitness and weight loss.