There you are, at the gym. Flailing away on your elliptical. Sprinting along on your treadmill. Maybe you’ve even done a spin class, today.
You come in, do your cardio routine for about 30-60 minutes, maybe some 15 minute abs, then grab your things and leave.
Ah, feels good, doesn't it? You've been to the gym today! Go, you!
And for the first few weeks or so, this routine probably feels great. You’ve gotten results. You’ve lost weight, toned up, and jump-started your metabolism (as well as your confidence) reinforcing the belief that you’re well on your way to meeting your fitness goals.
Yet, after several weeks of this you notice, curiously, that some flab remains. And not only does it linger, but it seems somehow more pronounced than ever before—dangling from your body’s most unforgiving of spots--the upper arm, the mid-back and of course, the dreaded gut.
"But I've been working out!” you exclaim.
It’s in such situations that I typically ask my clients, “well, how much resistance (weight) training have you been doing?” One of the answers that I so often hear in response (and from women, particularly) is, "I avoid weight training because I don't want to get too big." A lot of people are concerned about the appearance of muscle mass, but, at the same time, if you really want to tighten up those trouble spots, incorporating weight and/or resistance training is going to be a great (and essential) way to do it.
You don't ever have to lift a heavy amount of weight, but you're going to need to engage your body in a way that does more to build and reconstruct muscle than to just burn it off. This is what cardiovascular exercise does, after all—improve the function of the heart, lungs and other respiratory muscles at the expense of the size of the dozens peripheral muscle groups throughout the body.
This is why body builders, athletes and others who are looking to get “cut up” will devote a significant amount of a workout regimen to increasing the amount and intensity of cardio performed in their workouts as they get closer to the time in which such an appearance is desired.
For normal folks, however, who have been out of the habit of lifting weights for some time and are only doing cardio, what folks may not realize is that most times they're shaving off a great deal of the muscle that they do have and instead leaving their bodies with a great deal of residual fat. Hence, the reason for those troublesome fat deposits maintained by people that claim to do cardio "all the time."
So, what is one to do? Well, in addition to that cardio, simply add some weight training!
- Take classes that incorporate weights, calisthenics or body-weight exercises.
- Take yoga
- Vary your cardio routine to involve different kinds of activities that involves applying resistance to other parts of the body – for example, swimming, dance, etc.
- Take another 30-60 minutes of a day that you’re working out and add in some resistance training on your own.
For those who have been out of the habit and are looking to lose weight/gain muscle tone, exercises that work multiple joints (compound exercises) are a great place to start. These exercises involve working multiple muscles simultaneously and thusly require more calorie expenditure than most others which only work one muscle at a time (isolation exercises). Isolation exercises, (cobras, leg extensions, bicep curls, etc) can be useful to improve the strength as well as prominence of certain muscles but aren’t always necessary for a given lifting routine.
By combining cardiovascular as well as weight training, you'll do more to kick-start your metabolism, improve neuromuscular efficiency and burn a huge amount of calories, enabling you to more effectively reach those goals of muscle definition.
Consider adding these compound exercises for added strength-training and body sculpting :
- Push-Ups and Push-Presses (Triceps and Pectorals)
- Pull-Ups and Lat Pull-Downs (Lats, Mid/Lower Trapezius, Deltoids, Biceps)
- Lunges and Squats (Adductors, Glutes, Hips, Quadriceps, Hamstrings)