Dear Tara Marie,
Should I use free weights and cables or machines at the gym? I always end up using the machines because I don’t know what to do with free weights. I get really intimidated and don’t even try!
From a professional standpoint, I prefer free weights and cables. Machines lock you into a movement pattern that is not necessarily right for your body. When you use a machine, you just grab the handles and press or pull or whatever the movement may be, but it does not allow you to adjust the movement pattern to your specific needs. For example, perhaps one of your shoulders needs a slightly different angle to function safely and effectively. A machine does not allow for this variation in your movement pattern.
The other thing that makes me err away from machines is that they require less on the part of the participant. When you use a machine, your body does not have to stabilize itself as you would if you were using cables and free weights. This stabilization comes from using muscles in your torso, arms, legs, etc., that keep your body properly positioned while you are working other muscles as primary movers. All these muscles working concomitantly require more effort and you get more bang for your buck, so to speak. Machines require only that you sit on a gadget, grab the handles, and go!
Dear Tara Marie,
I hate exercise. Can’t I just diet and get the same effect?
Oh honey, absolutely not! Dieting slows the metabolism, and this is the last thing that you want to do when you are trying to transform your body. The only way to maintain lasting weight loss is to cut your caloric intake in addition to adding movement to your life. You ask if dieting alone will give you the same effect…just what effect are you going for? I am assuming that you want to be toned, healthy and vibrant. Excessive dieting will not yield these results. Rather, you will end up flabby, unhealthy, and have low energy.
Dieting alone will not only slow your metabolic rate, but you will lose the beautiful muscle that you currently have, resulting in an even lower metabolic rate. You will also systematically degrade your shape, considering all the muscle you will be losing.
Conversely, exercise revs the metabolic rate, and high intensity exercise keeps the metabolic rate higher for a longer period of time than lower intensity exercise. You see, there is a period following a bout of exercise during which the metabolic rate remains elevated, and the degree to which it remains elevated and the length of time that it remains elevated are both determined by exercise intensity.
People always say they have an “active” lifestyle—but do they? I use my 168 Hours Rule® to help gauge just how active they really are!
Here’s how it goes: there are 168 hours in one week. Let’s say you average 8 hours of sleep per night. If you’re “really active,” maybe you hit the gym four times per week for one hour.
Do the math: 168 hours minus 56 to sleep and another 4 to exercise leaves you with 108 hours to be either “really active” or sit at a desk, sit on the couch; sit in your car, etc.
You MUST move as much as possible during these remaining 108 hours in the week. This is critical time during which you can either burn calories doing what I call, “incidental exercise,” or store calories by being sedentary.
So, STAND when you could sit; WALK when you could ride; take the STAIRS when you have the option of the escalator or elevator. At the grocery store, don’t use a push cart—CARRY two baskets and fill ‘em up for a great workout. Use a cordless phone and PACE around the room during conference calls at work; GET UP to talk to your office mate rather than emailing a colleague that is 20 feet away! It’s math, not magic!
Use my168 Hours Rule® and GET MOVING!
Live with Simplicity,
For the majority of my life, I struggled with my body image and had a very dysfunctional relationship with both food and exercise. I was born in 1965 and grew up when Twiggy was the world’s most famous model—the “look” that was valued at that time was long, lanky, and thin, thin, thin! My very well-meaning mom, who swore by the credo, “You can’t be too rich or too thin,” was diligent about keeping her own weight as low as possible and made sure that I understood that being thin was equated with being attractive and successful.
The only real glitch in the situation was that I was built more like a lineman than a model. All my life I was a sturdy little gal—never frail and tiny like so many of my classmates growing up. Wanting the best for me, my mom warned that I had a “problem” figure and needed to carefully monitor my food intake so as not to get fat. I was taught that it would almost be better to be dead than fat. I personally did not see the problem, but as a kid you believe what you are told. I internalized the message that my body was a “problem” and dedicated myself to finding a solution.
If you can’t get to the gym as often as you’d like, you need to prioritize within your workout to maximize your results.
For example, if your priority is building muscular strength, focus on weight training rather than cardiovascular training when you manage to squeeze in a workout.
By doing this, even if you only exercise two or three times during the week, at least you worked on your primary goal of building muscle. If you are able to fit in another workout or two, that is icing on the (sugar-free/fat-free/gluten-free) cake!
I personally live by this code, as I never seem to have as many opportunities to work out as I would like. Given that I live a hectic life and have to do the best I can, when I finally do get to the gym, I follow these guidelines:
I was struck by a quote that I read recently by George Jung: “Life passes most people by while they’re making grand plans for it.” It really hit me, as I spend many hours talking to clients that have big plans and grandiose visions of what they are going to do. I have been in this position myself: talking a great game but failing to take action and more importantly, failing follow through until the goal is reached. My Mom used to say, “Don’t tell me what you’re going to do; tell me what you’ve done.” When she would say this to me, I would get annoyed because I wanted someone else to buy into my story. Now that I have moved past the days that I tell myself “stories” I see the validity of her point.
Many of us talk a good game, but it never goes beyond talk. We need to ask ourselves WHY? Is it that we simply don’t want something badly enough? Is it that we are lazy and don’t want to do the work involved? Is it that we are somehow afraid of success and the responsibility that it will bring? I personally can vouch that I have fallen into all of these mental traps.
Here is Part 2 of my leg/butt workout. If you missed Part 1, please read it first. Adapt each exercise to your skill level and use an appropriate weight load. I have modified this workout for personal training clients of all different levels.
As I said when I introduced Part 1, the workout consists of twelve exercises that I do on two nonconsecutive days. Since some of the exercises are harder compound moves (using two or more joints at the same time), I put a few easy moves and a few compound moves into each workout so I can evenly divide the workload.
I do 5 to 8 sets of each exercise, and I do more sets for my weaker areas in an attempt to balance out my legs, both in terms of strength and aesthetic appeal. Look in a mirror (from all angles) and determine what parts of your lower body need extra work. Normally, we enjoy doing what comes easily to us and we avoid what is difficult. Assess your weak areas and focus on them. You are only as strong as your weakest link. Here are the final six exercises:
7. HIP ADDUCTION: This exercise works the adductors of the hips, which are all the inner thigh muscles. Using the hip adductor machine, start in a position with your legs as wide as you can and extend your legs so they are straight with your feet in the air (even if the machine is designed to be used with bent knees.) When you extend your legs, much of the work begins before you do the actual hip adduction, as you must hold your legs up against the pads. Squeeze your legs together and hold them tightly contracted for a few seconds. Then, slowly let your legs separate to work the eccentric (negative) phase of the contraction. As you work, use your abdominal muscles to your advantage by tightly contracting them as you press your legs together. Exhale as you contract. TIP: When I am trying to graduate to a higher weight, I assist myself by pressing on my upper thighs with my own hands as my hips adduct (my legs move toward the center). In this sense, I am acting as my own spotter. It is no different than using a spotter for assistance with a chest press or a chin up.
Do you want to develop great legs and a delightful derriere sure to please you and your significant other? Over the years, I have developed the perfect combination of moves to develop my legs and butt, and the best part is that ANYONE can do it. All you have to do is adapt each exercise to your skill level and use an appropriate weight load. This workout is one that I have modified to work with personal training clients of all different levels.
My lower body workout consists of twelve exercises that I do on two nonconsecutive days. Since some of the exercises are harder compound moves (using two or more joints at the same time), I like to put a few easy moves and a few compound moves into each workout so I can evenly divide the workload!
Generally, I do 5 to 8 sets of each exercise, and I do more sets for my weaker areas in an attempt to balance out my legs, both in terms of strength and aesthetic appeal. Take a good look in the mirror from all angles and determine what parts of your lower body need extra work. This was a humbling experience for me, but acknowledging our weaknesses as wells as our strengths is part of the game. Always play to win. Always train your weakest link.
This week I will give you half of my leg routine, and stay tuned next time for Part 2!
1. BARBELL SQUATS: Depending on your fitness level, choose a barbell with which you can successfully complete 6 to 10 repetitions max. I generally like to select a weight with which I can do no more than eight reps. When I can do more than eight I increase the load. I never squat lower than a 90-degree angle at the knee because I can blow out my knees when I do so. At my age, I tend to be careful and not get too crazy. TIP: Squat slowly, and when you are in your full squat, pause for about 5 seconds, and push through the heels of your feet as you press up to a standing position. Always keep your weight in your hind foot for a squat.
In all my years working in the fitness industry, I have noted patterns of behavior that many of us share. Unfortunately, most of the behavioral patterns that I see are destructive and hold us back from getting what we really want. This is a shame, as I do believe that people begin a new fitness and eating plan with good intentions. Here is but one of the many negative thought patterns that I have observed over the years and have fallen prey to, myself: Thinking of yourself as GOOD or BAD!
If you believe that you are good when you stick to your plan and bad when you take a detour or have a minor setback, you are going to turn a LAPSE into a RELAPSE and finally, suffer a total COLLAPSE!
Let’s say you fall off the wagon. First, you tell yourself you are bad; yes, you are a bad person because you ate the left over pizza in the fridge. Labeling yourself as “bad” will make you feel like a failure. You are not good at anything, and Mother was right: you will never marry, have seven cats and die alone. You think, “What’s the use of even trying?”
Now you feel like you have “blown it,” and since you are a bad person AND a failure and have blown it, why not just totally blow it?
Finally, you spiral into state of worthlessness because you are bad, you are a failure, you have “blown it,” and you have wasted one more day of your life that you’ll never get back.
Sound familiar? I have been stuck here, circling the drain, myself.