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Fitness and Strength Training for Women

Some women think they need to do the same workouts as men – and sometimes are even taught the following training mistakes by their trainers. Find out about the most common mistakes women do.

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About 5 Min.

Mistake number 1
“Fat burning zone” in cardio workouts

All that happens in the so-called “fat burning zone” (i.e. running as slowly as possible for as long as possible) is that proportionally more energy of the total usage is burned from fat stores than at higher intensities.

New studies show that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) encourages a longer-lasting fat metabolism. A study by the University of Guelp in Canada has proven that in interval training, (the study had intensive phases of four minutes each and a recovery phase of two minutes each) 36% more fat is burned than during steady endurance training with a pulse rate of 65% of the maximum heart frequency. In addition, the maximum oxygen intake improved by 13 percent.

Twenty minutes of high-intensity interval training (e.g. a minute’s sprinting followed by a minute’s walking) can even burn just as many calories and increase endurance just as much as steady endurance training in the “fat burning zone”, i.e. at a maximum heart rate of 60-70%.

Tip: Interval training is often too strenuous for beginners. They should therefore first try to keep going at a set intensity for at least 30 minutes at a time.


Mistake number 2
Insufficient weight in strength training

Women often train with insufficient weight. If you try to do strength training with weights which are too light, or in the worst case no weights at all, you are not promoting muscle growth. Muscles need a stimulus to change and shape and tone the body and tackle the problem areas.

But what if you definitely don’t want to build up your muscles? Don’t worry, it’s practically impossible! Women simply don’t have the genetic predisposition for it and can’t build muscles to the same extent as men. A study by Chilibeck has proven that it’s almost impossible to gain more than three kilograms of muscle mass a year, even with the most intensive training and muscular disposition. In a similar study, 28 women gained on average only 1.2 kilograms of muscle mass in a 20-week intensive full-body strength program.

If you’re able to perform more than 20 reps properly on a machine, choose a higher weight. Your workout needs to be strenuous enough. It’s the only way to train your muscles effectively. Muscles require a higher blood supply than fat and therefore use more energy, which is why your basal metabolic rate is increased by around 100 calories per day for every kilogram of muscle mass. That’s the same amount of energy as a daily 20-minute jog.


Mistake number 3
One-sided muscle training

If you avoid uncomfortable exercises, you only continue to build on your strengths and don’t train your weaknesses. This causes muscular imbalances and you’re at risk of posture problems! So make sure you train opposing muscles: front and back of the thigh, back and stomach.


Mistake number 4
First strength, then endurance

Effects of strength training are weakened again by a subsequent endurance session. It’s therefore best to split endurance and strength training over different training days. If this isn’t possible to organise, then you should definitely do endurance training before strength training. Otherwise the afterburn effect of strength training is reduced. This effect increases metabolism long-term and allows muscles to grow. These two mechanisms help you to lose weight in the long-term.

The frequently held view that to reduce fat you first need to deplete carbohydrate resources through strength training in order to burn maximum fat right from the start of your subsequent endurance training is incorrect. It sounds logical, but it’s not that simple. Because if you burn a lot of fat during your workout, you don’t lose more fat than people who use just as much energy in training but burn less fat. Long-term fat loss takes place due to a negative energy balance over the whole day or the whole week!


Mistake number 5
Targeted fat reduction

Sounds good but isn’t quite so simple. Even lots of abdominal exercises are no guarantee that you’ll get rid of your love handles. Distribution of body fat is very much genetically determined. You can only get rid of your extra padding in certain areas by reducing your overall body fat percentage, i.e. with an overall negative energy balance. Strength training will significantly help you with this, because the more muscles you build, the quicker the pounds melt away. And only trained muscles will give you that beautiful, firm body.

While there are physiological indicators that localised fat burning can happen, you’d need to do a huge number of reps over a very long period. And in practice, unfortunately, it’s not yet been possible to confirm these effects of localised fat burning. The effect is too small. In the relevant study by Katch, researchers at the University of Massachusetts showed that 13 test subjects were unable to reduce their stomach fat in relation to the rest of their body even by doing 70 to 340 sit-ups a day for 27 days.

For strength training, a combination of intensive full-body exercises and an active break activity in the form of isolated strength endurance exercises is definitely the most beneficial way of combating your problem areas!