In the first two parts of the series I have discussed the issues linked to diet and training, it’s time to face the next set of problems you might encounter at the gym. Not all of them will necessarily be dietary or technical – some stem from the self-imposed limitations of your psyche.
You should definitely read:A girl at the gym - the true story. Part I
Trap nr 6: „I’m weak, I can’t do it.”
If that’s your mindset – don’t even bother to begin. Your resolve will not take you even through the warm-up. The only exercises you can actually have a problem with are various chest presses, especially with weights. This is due to the differences in physiology between men and women. But you’ve nothing to worry about – I know many men for whom a laying bench-press is the worst of exercise; many have not reached the threshold of decency for a person two years into training. In the dead lift and squats many women outdo men, for example the Russian sportswoman Inna Filomonowa has lifted 2x220 kg in her deadlift, weighting 56 kg. She did use a special deadlifting outfit, increasing her abilities, but nevertheless, it’s a score unattainable for most men. A man weighting 100 kg would have to lift 2x393 kg. The current world record for deadlift, without any additional equipment, for a 90 kg man is 395 kg (Belyaev). The previous record was unbeaten for 30 years.
CLIP: Kara Bohigian (148 lbs/ 67 kg) presses 402 lbs (182 kg).
CLIP: Kara Bohigian (148 lbs/ 67 kg) squats 551 lbs (250 kg).
The triatlonist Kara Bohigian puts 95% of gym-going men to shame because:
• Her best result in squats is 250 kg
• Her laying bench-press is 182 kg (with 67 kg bodyweight)
• She also pressed 204,5 kg while weighting 75 kg,
• She deadlifted 227 kg.
The best score for bench-press is also held by a female, Beccy Swanson for 240 kg (530 lbs). These are the results in full triathlon gear. Another good example are trained female swimmers, who can swim 50m craul stroke faster than most men.
During one of the first trainings one of the swimmers deadlifted 50 kg, squatted 40-50 kg and was able to row 21 kg single-handedly. Of course, before she had claimed not to be able to do so. This occurs because the „heavy weights” are only something that exists in your head. If you consider 30 kg for a one-handed row to be a gigantic weight – you’ll probably never even get close to that limit. It has once happened to me that a young man I was coaching rowed 30 kg on one hand – this is a weight you can train your biceps with, not the strongest part of your body – your back that is. I suggested increasing the weight to 50 kg…and he told me he couldn’t do it. He did try it and managed to get 8 reps. A too low weight is a sure way to limit your progress in strength, mass, fitness and body composition.
Pull-ups are the exact same – after a couple of years any woman will be able to perform 5 reps by strength only. The lighter and better trained ones can pull off even 10-14 reps – again, putting many men to shame. And I mentioned strength pull-ups on purpose, no leg movement or bodywork. After a couple of years of resistance training even a „frail woman” will be able to lift double their bodyweight in a classical deadlift, more ambitious contestants will be able to do 3-5 reps, and the most determined – at least a dozen.
Conclusion? The only way to improve your results is to constantly increase the difficulty of your training. You can trod on the treadmill for 10 years straight and not improve a notch. Similarly, if you don’t increase the weight, the composition of your body will not change.
Trap nr 7: „The trainer’s vision”
Commonly, you’ll receive a training plan 90% consisting of machine-assisted training and isolated exercises. That’s not the way to go. It’s better to do squats with the barbell only, than a leg press on the machine (additionally, the latter can harm your knee joint – according to research the pressure on the knee is greater than during a full squat with a weight). It’s better to deadlift with your legs straight than raise your legs lying down. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use machines at all, but 90% of your work should be done with free weights. Usually for chest, back and shoulder exercises you’ll be using hand weights, rarely favored by men.
Conclusion? If the trainer hands you a ‘training plan’ consisting of 90% machine exercises – e.g. pulldowns, machine-assisted push-up, machine-only leg and ab exercises - say „thank you”, and go find someone who knows what they’re doing.
Trap nr 8: „Fitness magazine articles”
The most commonly perpetuated myths are: „you can train your abs every day” – you can train your whole body every day, but according to research it has absolutely no sense! The improvement of your strength, mass, power and speed happens on your rest days, after a break (supercompensation). What matters is not the amount but the quality of your workout – and rest is a part of it. This is the first and foremost reason as to why ABS, A6W, 6 minute ABS, etc. are pointless. The second reason is – a bazillion of crunches or sit-ups will not „burn off” the fat in any way – nor the visceral nor the subdermal. Fat is burned from all around the body – you can’t do that locally, on your tummy or thighs – as it has been proven by research more than once.
What affects the amount of body fat and your overall fittness:
• a reduction diet, e.g. balanced to fit your needs,
• aerobic training (e.g. running in the open),
• interval training (e.g. sprints and jogging, uphill, weight pulling),
• change of the hormonal setup due to diet, training or medicine (the increase in carbohydrate tolerance, more growth hormones, and drop in insulin resistance, increase in the amount of beta2andregenic receptors, decrease in cortisol levels, decrease in the amount of post-inflammatory cytokines, greater muscle mass, increase of basal metabolic rate and increase of the energy spent during work)
Reason nr 3: your abdomen muscles are your main protection during exercise. If they’re tired and full of micro-tears your results will be worse and running will be a pain.
Another myth is: „you need to eat 5 meals a day”
According to research the amount of meals you eat is irrelevant – what matters is the total amount of calories per day (caloric balance). Conclusion? If a given statement is not supported by scientific research, the statement is not necessarily true. Look into the sources, don’t base on poorly written articles.
Another myth is: „you need to exercise in the low heartrate zone to burn fat”.
In one of the many experiments  15 weeks of interval training on a bike yielded better results than riding with a set pace („in the fat burning zone”). 45 young women participated in the study. The intervals were 8 seconds of sprint, 12 seconds rest, repeated 60 times – the whole workout lasted 20 minutes at most. The weight was increased as the results improved. The steady pace group started the program with 10-20 minutes of ride, finished at 40 minutes, also with increased weight. After 15 weeks the women from the interval group had lost on average 2.5±0.83 kg of fat, those who worked in a steady pace gained 0.44±0.88 kg of fat. The improvement of the amount of insulin secretion was observed only in the interval group, the same goes for the amount of leptin after the training and the amount of visceral fat.