Dieting is essential to losing weight, as described in my last post. But if you’re really determined to drop that extra fat, exercise is crucial.
Burning fat via exercise is tricky. In the same way that your body is predetermined to make a certain number of fat cells, your body also has a predetermined order for burning fat.
When exercising and building muscle, your body wants to burn as much fat as possible so that it can be more efficient when developing musculature. So when building muscle, your body mass will shrink first before it starts to tone out.
Of course, the musculature of men and women don’t necessarily develop muscle in the same ways. Men tend to hold onto their fat in their abdomen and back while women tend to hold onto their fat in their hips and thighs.
But your goal when it comes to losing weight depends on how much you exercise and what kinds of exercises to do? Do you want to just shed a few extra pounds, or do you really want to get in shape and replace muscle with fat? Here are both sides for both sexes.
Shed Fat: For women who just want to lose that extra baby fat or fit into that old pair of jeans again, it’s all about cardio. Any kind of exercise that gets your heart pumping and keeps it pumping for 30-60 consecutive minutes is the most efficient way to drop that extra baggage. Women have a musculature that favors the growth and development of their lower body. Running, kickboxing, jumping rope, and spin classes are all great cardio exercises. Another benefit of cardio is less soreness in your muscles afterwards. Soreness is caused by lactic acid build up in your muscles. Fortunately, your heart loves eating lactic acid. So more cardio = less lactic build up = happier muscles.
Build Muscle: Three words, ladies: legs, buns, and thighs. As I said in the previous paragraph, women are built to have a stronger lower body than an upper body. It’s also last on the order of predetermined fat to be burned so it’s hardest to get rid of. But because doing lower body exercises comes more naturally to women, it’s easier for us to develop muscle. At the gym, start out doing a 10 minute cardio routine, just to get your heart pumping. Then move to the weight machines. Start at your calves and work your way up. Calf raises, leg extensions, hamstring curls, and lunges work the main muscles in your lower body: gastrocnemius, biceps femoris, the three vastus muscles + rectus femoris (aka the quads), and the gluteus maximus. Every couple of days, do some upper body work outs to give your lower body a needed break. After you’re done with 30-45 minutes of weights, finish off with another 10 minute cardio session. It’ll help circulate the lactic acid in your body.
Shed Fat: Unfortunately for you guys, your muscles are not built for running. Men have a musculature that favors their upper body. Mind you, running is great to help improve your heart. But for men, it is not the most efficient way to burn fat. Try a round table style weight lifting session. Start out your routine with a quick cardio workout. Then try 30 minutes of lower body weights and 30 minutes of upper body weights. For lower body, your calves and your hamstrings are the most important to work. For upper body, it’s shoulders and biceps. Finish your workout with a quick cardio session.
Build Muscle: How exactly does your muscle get bigger? In order to build muscle, muscle must be damaged. When doing resistance weight lifting, muscle fibers tend to tear apart. That damage in tissue prompts your body not only to replace the damaged, but to build more to prevent further damage. That’s why as your muscles grow bigger, it takes more weight to stress them. In order to gain muscle, you have to focus on only a couple areas of your body to generate enough tissue damage. Also, make sure you focus on different muscles around the body so you don’t put too much stress on one area. Work triceps, wrist extensors, and hamstrings one day. Then try shoulders, glutes and calves, and ect. There are tons of workout routines available online. But be careful not to overstress your muscles and always have another person spotting you while lifting. Being irresponsible can result in serious injury. Finish weights with quick cardio.
Last but not least. When it comes to building muscle, stay away from muscle enhancers (aka steroids). Human Growth Hormone has way more negative effects than it does benefits. It can cause hormonal imbalance, mood swings, and (most importantly) erectile dysfunction. Stay away from oral creatine too. The side effects of it are not well known and there doesn’t seem to be any positive benefit, so better to be safe than sorry. If you’re looking for that extra boost, protein bars and shakes are alright.
Why did I introduce diet before exercise in this little series about weight loss? Exercise is crucial, but diet is essential. You can’t work out for 90 minutes then celebrate your hard work by eating a cheeseburger and fries. Learn to eat healthier, and then focus on getting your body in shape.
Photos courtesy of Declare Magazine and isporttech.com