It gets horribly frustrating when you work really hard at something and the results don’t meet or get even close to your expectations. This applies to many things in life but in particular weight loss and fitness regimens. I’ve been in situation many times before where I go weeks without seeing any inches or weight coming off, no matter how hard I work. I struggle with those weeks as much as any other woman.
But, step in Mike Reinz, a personal trainer, fitness blogger and author of the best selling Fit To Fitter, he says that there are several mistakes that many women make when trying to get out of a plateau – there is no one fixed method but a combination of different methods. Here are 9 ways he suggest we mix it up in and out of the gym to help us get past that plateau.
1. Lift heavier weights
The theory that lifting light and furiously fast burns more fat than heavy weights is harder to kill than a cockroach. Here’s why it’s hogwash: fewer reps with heavier weights equals a metabolic boost that outlives the increase from high rep, light weight workouts according to the Norwegian University of Sport and Physical Education. To maximise the calories burned long after you and your gym bag have left the change room, shoot for three to seven reps.
2. Mix it up
Don’t put your light weights out for hard rubbish. While lifting low and heavy burns more energy later, lighter weights may burn more calories during your session, according to researchers from the College of New Jersey. Hedge your bets by splicing heavy and light routines – three to seven reps with heavy weights one day, 10 to 20 with light weights the next. If you want to get tricky, do both in one session: two sets light, two sets heavy.
3. Cut rest time
Sleep is critical; research consistently shows that skipping your kip can undermine intensity. But your workout isn’t the time to be loafing. You’ll torch 50 per cent more calories if you cut rests between sets from three minutes to 30 seconds, a College of New Jersey study found.
4. Control speed
Yes, you need slow, controlled reps. But don’t ditch the fast moves. Instead, make your reps rapid and explosive and reap the calorie burn rewards. The fast twitch muscle fibres engaged during fast lifts are less energy efficient than their slower cousins, meaning they chew through more fuel, according to Ball State University researchers. You’ll need a weight about 30 per cent of your one-rep max (1RM), which means being able to lift it for 15 to 35 reps per exercise. Aim for four to five sets comprising two fast sets of three to eight reps, and two to three at normal pace.
5. Listen to your favorite tunes
Cranking the tunes before you hit the treadmill is a free hit in the fat-loss stakes, with listening to your favorite playlist linked to greater intensity and fat loss according to a study presented to the National Strength and Conditioning Association. The headphone set registered significantly more reps than those listening to the purr of the treadmill engine.
6. Put resistance training before cardio
Burning more fat is as simple as switching the order of your workout components according to Japanese researchers. By putting your resistance training before your cardio workout, you can seriously boost your fat burn. The better news is that the fat burn was highest in the first 15 minutes of cardio, so say goodbye to hours on the elliptical and set your stopwatch for quarter of an hour.
To burn fat with cardio, you can’t go past intervals. Commonly shortened to HIIT, high intensity interval training demands intervals at 90 per cent of your maximum heart rate (MHR) interspersed with bouts at walking pace. For the record, most steady-state cardio hangs around the 60 to 70 MHR mark. A good rule of thumb for HIIT is 20 seconds/10 seconds (sprint for 20, walk or jog for 10).
8. Try intermittent cardio
In the vein of HIIT, intermittent cardio burns more fat than continuous movement. A study pitting subjects doing steady cardio for 30 minutes against those doing three 10-minute bursts broken by 20-minute rests, found the staggered group burned more fat, with the bonus of greater calorie burn after the fact.
9. Exercise after work
Good news for night owls – exercising after work raises your metabolic rate more than morning sessions. Subjects who cycled for 30 minutes between 5 and 7pm got a greater spike in post-workout calorie burn than their early-rising counterparts, said University of Wisconsin researchers. The after-work window also trumped lunchtime workouts for efficiency.