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The Ten Fat Loss Mistakes You Are Making at the Gym - Part 1

May 27, 2008
People who go to the gym in an effort to lose body fat often don't know where to start, are given bad advice, or do the things they see every body else doing. If you are serious about being productive at the gym and losing body fat, you must read this list before your next workout. By implementing these changes you will stoke your fat burning fire.

1. Stop Using Weight Machines! Weight machines are sexy, sleek, shiny, and smooth. Perhaps that is why gym owners and lazy personal trainers have fallen head over heels in love with them.

Gym owners pack their gyms with these eye catching devices so that they could get more people into their gyms without having a large amount of trainers on staff. Those gym goers who do utilize personal training services often get a highly paid escort who walks them from machine to machine and adjusts the setting for them. Do you know how to spot a good trainer? One who never takes their clients to the weight machines!

Without getting too biological on you, your muscles do not work in isolation - they work in a chain of movement. The most evil of machines, the leg extension machine, is a prime example - it is just not a natural movement. It has absolutely nothing to do with how our legs are used in everyday life - for walking, climbing, and descending.

Don't get me wrong - machines do have their place in the fitness world. However, they are most beneficial to two populations - bodybuilders who are looking to correct a deficiency or weak point, and physical therapy patients who are trying to rebuild strength and regain range of motion. They are not meant for people looking to lose fat!

People looking to lose fat need to utilize free weights, body weight exercises, and various other equipment like medicine balls, resistance bands, and balance trainers - essentially training movements not specific muscles.

2. Stop Using the Handles on Cardio Machines! It cracks me up every time I see someone who is using a treadmill and is holding on to the bar in front of them for dear life with a white-knuckled grip. Maybe you've seen the people who are draped all over the stairmaster or stepmill with their arms, and their heads facing down while their back is unnaturally curved. There are even those who hold on to the siderails on the stepmills or elliptical machines and push up with their arms (or my all time favorites are the people who contort their arms so that their wrists are facing forward!)

What do these people all have in common? They are wasting their time! Bars are meant for balance only - not as a crutch to use when the going gets tough during exercise. When you walk or run outside, do you have anything to hold on to? Unless you run while pushing a shopping cart (very odd!) or stroller (if you must), let go of the handles. You'll expend more energy and use more muscle, thus getting a more efficient and effective workout.

I know what you're thinking - "What about the elliptical machines with the handles that pump back and forth? Don't I get more of a calorie burn from them?" In short, no. Pumping your arms back and forth without touching the handles will of be far more benefit to burning fat.

And don't use the handgrips on any cardio machine to get your heart rate - they will not be accurate. Instead, read on and follow my advice below.

3. Stop Doing Hours and Hours of Cardio! Read this next statement carefully, then re-read it:

You should never spend more than 20 minutes doing cardio

Want proof? Simply put a picture of a marathon runner next to a picture of an Olympic sprinter (preferably one who is not using steroids!). Now, which person's build would you rather have?

If you're doing long bouts of cardio (more than 30 minutes at a slow and steady pace) you are burning muscle - muscle that is extremely vital to your fat burning efforts. Your "cardio", rather than slow and steady, should be short bursts of hard effort followed by recovery. I will go into this much more in depth in future newsletter articles, and may even have an expert or two explain in detail why training this way is much more efficient for fat loss. For now, take my word for it that SLOW AND STEADY DOES NOT WIN THE FAT LOSS RACE!

4. Stop Reading / Watching TV / Using Your Mobile Phone While In the Gym! The gym is the one place where multi-tasking is an absolute no-no! Shut your mobile phone off (or better yet, leave it in the car - many facilities are starting to ban mobile phones because people tie up equipment while using them, or worse, take pictures). Leave the magazines and newspapers at home. You only have a limited time at the gym - you should be focused on achieving your daily goals. To keep myself honest, I'll use a stopwatch to time my between-sets breaks. Eliminate all distractions and your fat loss efforts will improve dramatically!

5. Never Workout Without Recording Your Results as You Go! Whether you use a good old fashioned paper and pencil, or a tricked-out PDA, keep track of your workouts EVERY TIME you go to the gym.

A well-respected fitness expert (who we will hopefully be able to speak to during one of the upcoming teleseminars) speaks of setting personal records (or PRs as he calls them). Every time in the gym, you should be focused on doing a little bit more than you did the last time - a Kaizen approach to fitness. Let's say you did 3 sets of 5 chin-ups in your last workout - you should strive for 3 sets of 6 chin-ups next time out. If you fail, that's ok - the quality of your workouts will be affected by many variables like nutrition, amount of sleep, outside stress, etc. Even if you did one set of 6 chin-ups followed by two more sets of 5, you've bested your personal record. And how would you know that? Because you were keeping track!

I have detailed workout journals that span years. Not only do I note the sets, reps, time, etc. but also any other notes that would have come into play (e.g., "gym crowded - forced me to substitute Exercise X for Exercise Y; poor sleep the night before; feeling nauseous). This helps you to put some context around your performance. Your solution does not need to be fancy - a notebook is fine, though there are software packages you can use. No matter what you choose, make sure you utilize it every time you work out!
About the Author
Matt Lisk is a fat loss expert who has lost over 80 pounds of body fat and achieved a sub-10% body fat percentage by applying his knowledge in exercise, nutrition and supplementation. Matt is the author of Lean State University's Fat Loss 101 Newsletter.
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