When it comes to getting fit and sexy, there’s some debate as to what is more important: diet or exercise.
Here’s a mind-blower, they’re both important.
With regards to immediate fat loss or fat gain, diet can have a bigger impact.
That being said, for adjusting the body’s fat “set-point,” getting results quickly, “shaping” the body, maintaining a lean sexy physique, and improving overall health and longevity, exercise is vitally important.
That’s because vigorous intense exercise not only burns fat (and glycogen) for energy, but it also increases the body’s metabolism throughout the day.
Plus, a body that is used to moving around a lot doesn’t want to carry extra weight. Sedentary living, sitting at a desk or on a chair all day, and other forms of inactivity are fat’s greatest allies and a sexy body’s greatest threat.
Resistance training promotes favorable changes in hormones to decrease the amount of nutrients that are stored as fat, and increase the amount of nutrients like glycogen stored in muscles.
Muscle is also metabolically active. That means the more muscle someone has, the more calories they burn each day and the more they can eat without storing fat.
The muscles are like a bunch of furnaces constantly working to burn off the calories you eat and acting as an insurance against gaining fat.
Keeping your muscles strong and active also promotes the favorable burning of fat over muscle tissue when restricting food intake. If you drop 10 pounds, would you rather lose 5 pounds of fat and 5 pounds of muscle or lose 10 pounds of pure fat?
Either way you lose the same amount of weight, but the latter will look much better than the former.
When people go on hard-core crash diets and lose lots of muscle along with fat, they also risk a rapid rebound of gaining all the lost weight back and then some. Their metabolism slows down to a crawl as they are dieting, but exercise is one great way to keep the metabolism ‘running hot” even when a person isn’t eating as much.
Girls: Why You Need Intense Resistance Training
Women, do not fear adding muscle or getting “bulky” from working out too hard. It’s not going to happen! You don’t have the hormones to gain significant amounts of muscle or get super ripped. You can train as hard as Arnold Schwarzenegger in the gym and never be mistaken for anything but a super sexy, fit woman. You will never look “bulky” as so many women are afraid of.
Heavy resistance training is a fantastic and highly effective way for women who want to shape their bodies to get lean sexy curves. That means exchanging pink dumbbells and high rep machine work and taking on a few sweat inducing sets of heavy barbell, dumbbell, and/or bodyweight training.
Sure, yoga and pilates are fine forms of exercise for their own purposes, but you’ve been sold a lie if you think that heavy and hard resistance training will make you “bulky” or “manly.” When done properly (it can always be done in a stupid way), it’s quite the opposite!
Intense resistance training, especially for key muscle groups like the glutes, will shape you up and give you a head-turning body so fast you’re biggest concern won’t be adding too much muscle, but rather it will be how to deal with all the creepy stalkers you’re going to have due to being too sexy for your own good.
Or dealing with other jealous girls… as a man I have the good fortune of not knowing which is worse.
If you as a woman do gain muscle more easily than you’d like, the simple answer is to reduce the overall amount of resistance training done, but still include some intense resistance training to maintain the amount of muscle you’d like and add it in the right spots.
Guys: The Real Key To “Getting Ripped”
Guys, it’s harder to gain weight than you think. Even if you don’t want to be “huge,” but a little more “cut” or “athletic” you should still train hard. If you DO want to be “huge,” you’ll need to eat hard.
One Size Fits All?
Even if you only want to giain 5lbs of muscle, you stll want to reach that goal quickly.
When people say: “I don’t want to build a lot of muscle, I just want to get a little more toned,” and so they train using pink dumbbells and text on their phone while using a machine, it’s sort of like a person saying: “I don’t want to dig a 10 foot ditch, just a 1 foot ditch so I’m going to use a spoon instead of a shovel.”
Although different body shaping and performance goals do have different ideal means of training for them, I do recommend always including some heavy resistance training to preserve your muscles and keep them strong.
90% or more of people want the same thing. A little more muscle, a bit (or lot) less fat. Man or woman, the means to get there quickly doesn’t vary that much.
In addition to resistance training, cardiovascular training is important for improving heart health, circulation, and promoting fat loss. From a fat loss point of view, short bouts of intense exercise are more effective than longer cardio sessions.
Resistance training can also be a form of cardiovascular exercise when done with higher amounts of sets and/or reps combined with minimal rest. In fact, circuit style training is excellent for combining muscle building and fat loss efforts into a single training session.
Both resistance training and cardiovascular training utilizing shorter intense bouts of effort and occasional longer bouts of activity are recommended in addition to the daily habit of moving around more.
Resistance exercises should include upper body pushing, upper body pulling, and lower body pushing. More advanced training will hit both the horizontal (pushing and pulling towards and away from your body like a bench press and row) and the vertical plane (pushing and pulling above and below your body like an overhead press and pullup) for total upper body development and have single leg work for lower body.
A basic routine can include any variations of pushups (upper pushing), rows or pullups (upper pulling), and squats that will challenge the body. Additional core work may be done, but remember six pack abs are made in the kitchen. That means core work should support your training and not be the bulk of it.
Although a large number of variations of these sorts of movements exist in free weight, cable, and machine form, I personally love to use bodyweight exercise as much as possible. This is because moving your body through motion tends to strengthen the most number of muscles and develop the greatest carryover to other activities. Of course, this isn’t always the case, but given that bodyweight exercises are easy enough to do at home with minimal equipment, they make an excellent option for those who don’t go to a gym. Even those who DO go to a gym benefit highly from bodyweight type movements.
Here are some excellent videos from Mark Sisson (check out his great blog at http://marksdailyapple.com) covering the basic progressions for these movements.
Upper Body Pushing – Pushups
Upper Body Vertical Pulling – Pullups
Upper Body Horizontal Pulling – Resistance Band Rows
Lower Body – Squats
Abdominals – Planks
Once proper form is established, the exercises can be done to reach near muscular failure in 15 repetitions or less while using a rep speed that is controlled all throughout the movement such as 3 seconds up and 3 seconds down. Rest 2 minutes between sets or cycle through each exercise one after another with little to no rest for increased cardiovascular training. Complete 3 sets. When you can complete 3 sets of 6-10 reps with a particular progression, move to the next one.
(An expanded routine can included pushups and overhead press for upper pushing, pullups and rows for upper pulling, and lunges for lower body)
The entire body is trained three times a week to begin with full body sessions each time. As you improve, decrease the reps to 5-10 with more resistance.
A similar routine may be done in the gym swapping pushups for bench presses and overhead presses, using rows and pullups/pulldowns, and squat/lunge/deadlift/leg press variations for legs.
The key for beginners is to master form of the major movements that challenge the most muscles on a single movement. Focus on compound movements to begin and work with exercises that avoid stressing any joint issues.
Conditioning and Fat Loss:
High intensity interval training or circuit training is ideal for conditioning.
Example: All out effort (sprinting, fast cycling, etc.) 30 seconds followed by light effort for 1:30 repeated for 5-8 cycles 2-3 times a week at most.
High intensity workouts should last between 15-30 minutes.
Walking as fast as possible for 15-20 minutes also works or walking on an incline at a moderate pace for 20-30 minutes are also great options for those wishing to improve conditioning with less joint impact.
Additional lower intensity conditioning work such as walking or swimming for 45 minutes to 1 hour may be done 1-3 times a week.
Since training routines and goals are varied, please check out the exercise routine section for access to a large number of free detailed home and gym exercise training routines that meet your current needs and for variety.