Maximum weightloss: How to get the most out of your workout
Friday 13 July 2012
Recent studies have suggested that the wrong kind of workout can make your body hang onto weight rather than shed pounds.
It’s a problem that we all know too well – ever find that after a couple of months of steady weight loss after slaving away in the gym, things just grind to a halt? The reason for this could be that you’re doing the wrong type of exercise.
Cardiovascular exercise (that’s the time you spend running, cycling and cross-training) might burn off superficial calories, but too much can cause the body to break down lean muscle tissue, as it has nothing left to burn. As a result, your body hangs onto fat – making weight loss more difficult.
In addition, cardio causes the body to produce the stress hormone cortisol, which won’t do your waistline any favours!
Cortisol stimulates the body to produce more insulin, a hormone that can encourage the body to store fat, particularly around the middle.
The exercise that doctors are hailing as a way to slim down is resistance training – any exercise that stimulates your body’s muscles rather than your heart. Lean muscle tissue is your metabolism’s best friend – it allows the body to burn calories even while you’re resting.
Resistance training is easy to incorporate into workouts – and into your daily routine. You know when you’re walking uphill and have to slow down, because you can feel the strain in your muscles? That’s resistance training, so keep going!
A lot of women still hold the belief that lifting weights will give you giant, Arnold Schwarzenegger-style muscles, but that’s nothing more than a myth. Sculpting your muscles with the right exercises will give you tone, definition and inch loss.
If those benefits aren’t enough, a little weightlifting can also do wonders for back pain. This is because resistance helps strengthen the entire body, including the abdominal muscles – and weak abs can throw your posture out of balance, putting strain on the back (not to mention that we’d all like a toned stomach!).
Before you go running for the bench-press machine, though, you might be better off incorporating dumbbells into your workouts. That way, you can start by lifting light weights and build up repetitions as you go along – safeguarding your muscles against overexertion and injury as well as helping you build up lean tissue.
If you’re a cardio fan though, you don’t have to give up that endorphin rush altogether – experts recommend that you undertake some cardio three times a week (anything from brisk walking to cycling), and couple it with two weekly resistance training sessions. That way, your weight loss is likely to be consistent – and successful!
Happy with your workout routine as it is? Here are some nifty ways to incorporate a little resistance into your everyday life:
At the gym
- Don’t forget to warm up – a few stretches will help get the blood flowing through your muscles and prevent injury.
- Start with 2lb (1 kilogram) weights and increase every few sessions – aim to lift an extra pound each week.
- Use the mirrors – they’re not just for bodybuilding posers! You’ll be able to see if your posture needs adjusting – you could strain your back if you exercise while slouching.
- Try swimming – it’s cardiovascular exercise, but you still have to bear your weight to stay afloat, meaning an all-round workout.
- If you can’t get enough of running or walking on the treadmill, increase the incline. You’ll work more muscles in your legs when compared to a flat surface.
Day to day
- Take the stairs wherever you can, one at a time. The reps will help sculpt your calves.
- Don’t skirt around hills when you’re walking – it will work almost all your leg muscles!
- Don’t flinch at having to carry the shopping home – sustaining the weight of a few tins for 10-15 minutes is great for your upper body strength.
- If you’re a jogger, you can get your workout from a park bench! Use them as the base for pushups or step-ups mid-workout.
- Consider buying your own pair of hand weights – they usually cost £2-6 each, depending on how heavy they are.
Still not sure what resistance training is? Try these starter exercises with dumbbells (either in the gym or at home) and trust us – you’ll feel the burn!
You should aim to do around 8-10 reps at first, and increase when they become easy.
Dumbbell incline bench presses (shoulders)
Start with the dumbbells directly above your shoulders. Push upwards until your arms are fully extended and then bring them down again. Make sure your back isn’t too arched when you do these, and that your neck is straight.
Bicep curls (upper arms)
Hold the dumbbells down by your sides, with your palms facing outwards. Bend your arms upwards until the weights are in line with your shoulders. Slowly bring them down and repeat.
Squats (thighs and bum)
Stand with your feet wide apart. Keeping your back straight, slowly bend your knees until you’re in a squatting position, and then slowly come back up. To get a bit more out of your upper body, hold your dumbbells at the same time.
Lunges (thighs and calves)
Stand with your legs together and then lunge forward with your left leg (about the distance of one long stop). As you are lunging, bend your knee and flex your hip so your rear leg is almost in contact with the floor. Return to the starting position and repeat with your right leg.
Lie on your back with your knees bent, making sure your feet are flat on the floor. Start off with your hands resting on your thighs and, as you do the exercise, slowly slide them up your leg, towards your knees (this might look strange, but it’s a great way to ensure you don’t do your back in!). Once your palms reach your knees, slowly come back down again.
Remember, the slower you do these exercises, the more effective they will be at toning your muscles – grin and bear it for a better body!
By Amy Bangs
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