All I can hear you saying is….”but I like cardio”! Believe me when I say this, I know! But its not getting you the gains you’re looking for ladies.
When you see that person walk past and you think to yourself…those legs look so lean & long…let me tell you it aint from cardio! No no my friend, it’s from lifting weights and HIIT training.
A combination of these two will give you the gains you are looking for. They are hard and they are different…but its that old chestnut: No pain, No gain.
Women are easily influenced to believe that cardio is necessary.
Traditional old school wisdom tells us that steady cardio – when you get on a machine and go at a relatively steady pace for 30 minutes or more – is the best way to burn fat and “tone up.”
What if we were to tell you that women should never do steady cardio?
There are lots of reasons to confidently make this statement, but let’s just focus on an aspect of fitness that often gets ignored…Hormones.
- It decreases T3
The thyroid is both an extremely important and a largely misunderstood gland – especially when it comes to metabolism.
Through the production of several hormones, your thyroid directly controls your weight and several other biological functions.
Of particular interest is the primary hormone T3 – more clinically called triiodothyronine. Keeping T3 levels with a healthy range is vital for both controlling and losing weight.
Unfortunately, prolonged, intense bouts of cardio do exactly the opposite. Pushing yourself through challenging and long cardio sessions can decrease your total T3 output and even potentially damage your thyroid in the long-term.
- It decreases testosterone
This might sound like a good thing to women, because testosterone is considered a “male” hormone. But women are supposed to have some testosterone, as adequate levels are vital for burning fat and building muscle. You need as many muscle fibers working as efficiently as possible to burn fat quickly.
- It increases cortisol
Long cardio sessions increase levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
While low concentrations of cortisol let your body know that it’s time to burn up some extra fat, chronically high levels do the opposite.
When cortisol is elevated for too long, your body thinks something is wrong with the outside world, and it starts making changes to help in your survival.
This includes storing more fat for emergency fuel and burning up some of the muscle you worked so hard to build.
- It reduces the amount of muscle mass
Taken together, these hormonal changes mean that long, frequent cardio reduces the amount of muscle mass on your body and can even increase the amount of fat.
The instead bit you’ve been dying to read
So, what should you do in exchange for cardio?
Yes, yes yes – You need to lift heavy weights.
You don’t need to worry about building bulky muscles. Remember how we already mentioned that women naturally have lower levels of testosterone? Lifting weights make women look defined, not bulky. There is no reason why women can’t do the same workouts as men.
The specific exercises you should do during your workouts will depend on your goals and on what type of equipment you have available to you.
You could even get a quality workout using your body weight and that’s it. The trick is just to apply these basic principles. Need a little help? Ask one of our team at the front desk or any of our personal trainers.
Do HIIT training
We have heard it all before: High Intensity Interval Training. HIIT is when low to moderate intensity intervals are teamed up with high intensity intervals.
HIIT is considered to be much more effective than normal cardio because the intensity is higher and you can increase both your aerobic and anaerobic endurance while burning more fat than E V E R before. You can achieve this through one of our GRIT classes.
The weight you use should restrict you to no more than 6 to 10 reps with perfect form, which allows you to train for hypertrophy, or muscle growth.
Focus on Compound Lifts
Most exercises can be divided into one of two categories: isolation or compound.
An isolation lift focuses on just one muscle group and works it all by its lonesome. A prime example of this type of exercise is a biceps curl.
Meanwhile, compound lifts work several muscles at once and generally involve a bigger, more natural movement.
Say Yes to Lifting
Cardio doesn’t work the way we think it does. Long, intense cardio workouts are going to put you into a hormonal state that encourages increased fat and decreased muscle, while possibly even doing long-term damage to your metabolism.
Stay tuned for my next blog post that will follow up a little more on the “instead” bit. In the mean time have a chat with a PT next time you are at NAFC! We can help you on your path to greatness.