Every day my husband comes home from work and says, “Great post today.” The day I did this post about women and weight training, he was noticeably silent. Finally I asked him, “So did you like my post today?” “Yeah, it was fine,” he said. Fine? What the heck does that mean, fine? So I asked him what that was supposed to mean (without the slightest bit of high-pitched strain in my voice, of course). “Well it was about girl stuff so . . .” So. So today, men, I will take you to task for your gender-based exercise habits. You have my husband to thank.
Guys, are you familiar with the lat pulldown? How about a seated row? Or any row for that matter? What about a triceps extension? Or a Bulgarian split squat? No, no, I suppose not. You see those all work muscles on the back of your body, and many of you seem to be mainly concerned with the big guns you can see coming right at ya. I know this is not true of all men–as with the women’s post, these are generalizations. But there is definitely a segment of the male gym-going population that dedicate their time to lots and lots of chest and biceps exercises. Don’t think I’m talking about you? Ask yourself this: what do you focus on more; bench press (flat, incline and/or decline), push-ups and chest flys or those back exercises I mentioned? I’ll bet there are many of you who are doing all of those chest exercises in a single workout, and balancing it out with maybe one back exercise. And don’t get me started on biceps curls. 20 million different ways to do the same exercise, and you are doing all of them, incorrectly I might add, but we’ll get to that later. Of course you can’t wear a shirt like this if you don’t work the biceps.
Sure, those examples don’t work for everyone, but most men are guilty of some kind of imbalance in their training, be it muscle imbalances, or their weight training to cardio and flexibility ratio. You are focusing on the parts that make you feel big, tough and strong, but maybe not so much on the stuff that is going to round out your program, and make you healthier and (let’s be honest here), better looking, in the long run.
Which brings me to my next issue: cardio. While the women are doing too much of it, you guys are not doing enough. Let me share a funny little story with you. One night I was manning the desk at the gym when an older man came up to me with a question. “I don’t suppose you’d know the answer to this, but I’ll ask you anyway,” he said. Great start, buddy. “How do I work the lower part of my chest? I need more definition there.” Well, first I suggested a couple of chest exercises. Then I asked him about his cardio regimen. “I don’t need to know about that,” he said (in a snotty and dismissive tone). “I’m just asking you about chest exercises.” Well, what I wanted to say was, “No one is going to notice your chest with that big gut in the way,” but instead I sweetly told him that if he wasn’t doing enough cardio, all the strength training in the world would not make those muscles pop. If you focus only on weights, you will build nice, strong pectoral muscles, underneath a layer of fat. The same goes for abs. You can do sit-ups until your butt wears a grove in the floor, but if you are not doing enough cardio, your beer belly will cover your six-pack.
I have a feeling he is still pumping away, hoping that one more rep will do the trick, but maybe you guys will take my advice. If you are not currently doing any cardiovascular exercise, start slow. You will be surprised how out of shape you are, despite the fact that you “workout.” Current ACSM guidelines for healthy people under 65 are: 30 minutes of moderate cardiovascular activity, five days a week, or 20 minutes of vigorous cardiovascular activity, three days a week. I tell all newbies to shoot for 30 minutes, three times a week, for 30 days. That will build a nice foundation, get you in the habit and improve your health. If you are already doing some cardio, are in pretty decent shape and just want to look more cut, try the higher intensity option. Get in there and get ‘er done, and you will have time to add in the other piece missing from a well-rounded routine–flexibility.
C’mon, you can tell me; is this why you won’t go to yoga? Are you afraid you will have to this? Let me put you at ease: just like most women will never build big, bulky muscles, most men will never be able to do this, nor be asked to try. True, some yoga classes are a little more, hmmmm, yoga-ish than others, but usually the aim is to help you increase your flexibility, and relax a little. Who wouldn’t benefit from that? Plus, usually the teachers are hot. And if you are really very afraid of yoga, just stretch for 10 minutes a couple of times a week. It’s a start.
There. Now you’ve decided to incorporate a more balanced training routine into your gym sessions, right? Just one more thing I have to tell you–the weight you are lifting is too heavy, and your form is all wrong. Whew. Feels good to get that off my chest. Here is a test to do the next time you are at the gym: stand sideways in front of the mirror, holding the weight you usually curl. If you can maintain an upright position with neutral spine and pelvis, and minimal shoulder movement, you are doing just fine. But if your hips rock forward and back, and you are using your whole body to arc the weight up, it is too heavy for your biceps to lift. Likely you are recruiting your shoulders and lower back to help, which doesn’t strengthen the biceps as much, and may also cause injury to your shoulders and/or lower back. Try lightening the weight until you are able to maintain correct form.
Curls are one of the most common culprits for poor form, but there are definitely others. If you are interested in seeing particular exercises done correctly, you can ask a trainer or, check out exrx.net. This is a great site for basic info and demos of many exercises.
So that should do it. I hope I wasn’t too harsh, I just want you to stay injury-free, and get the most out of your training sessions. And I didn’t even mention weight-dropping, grunting or cut-off tank tops.
Guys, are you out there? Do you see yourself in any part of this article? Does it spur you to take corrective action? Or do you, like my big-bellied friend at the gym, think I have no idea what I am talking about?