Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cardio And Zumba Are Not Enough To Beat Your Plateau

Q: Rita said...
"Hi Alvin,
Thank you so much for offering your advice. I do need a little help. I recently joined a gym and the only thing I’m consistent with is cardio; I do Zumba classes a couple of times a week in addition to 30-40 minutes on the elliptical machine to break it up. I’m at a plateau with my current cardio only workouts. So, I want to add something else; maybe working out with weights or machines to build a little muscle and tone certain areas. I’m a little overwhelmed by the amount of machines at the gym and need a plan. Do you have any advice or know of any resources I can utilize to set up a plan?
Thank you,
Rita "

A: AP FIT says...
Hi Rita,
Thank you for being part of Shedding Pounds & Doubts. You actually present a very common issue. When people start getting into fitness and joining gyms males go straight to the weight section and try to lift as heavily as possible while doing it all wrong, yet females on the other hand gravitate to the cardio machines and zumba classes thinking that will make them look like the next fitness model. Truth is both are wrong.

In order to maximize fat loss and increase total fitness you need total body workouts. Cardio workouts primarily target the cardiovascular system, hence the name "Cardio". Resistance training (also known as weight lifting/training) targets muscles, fat cells and your bones. It is only in the combination of both of these that total fitness can be accomplished threfore beating plateaus every time.

While I think that it is great that you do Zumba and cardio I think for now, you should stick to one of those. The simple answer would be pick the one you enjoy the most and instead of following it by a cardio session use that activity as the end of your workouts. "WORKOUTS" you say? Yup, because instead of sticking to cardio alone you need to incorporate resistance training into your weekly activities. If you do Zumba three times a week then you can use those same days to do your weight training. Only start with three times a week until you feel you are ready to do more.

Here is an example of the format a workout day should follow:
  • WARM-UP: 10-15 mins. on the elliptical (low-medium intensity)
  • WORKOUT: 40 mins. of resistance training (medium-high intensity)
  • CARDIO: 20-30 mins. of zumba/running (medium-high intensity)
Now keep in mind that this format is designed to accelerate fat loss and this will help you lean out/lose weight. If you do not want to lose weight but build lean muscle instead then separate your cardio days from your resistance training days. Instead of doing cardio after weight training, you would do it on the following day.

When it comes to weight training everyone should begin using machines. Machines will help you understand the motion you need to do to perform the exercise and most of them have a small summary pasted somewhere on them describing what the machine does and/or the muscles affected.

You want to make sure you work all of your muscle groups so follow these examples but remember to mix and match every now and then so you and your body do not get bored:

  1. Monday: Upper Body Day (Chest, Back, Arms, Shoulders)
  2. Tuesday: Cardio
  3. Wednesday: Lower Body Day (Legs and Abs/Core)
  4. Thursday: Cardio
  5. Friday: Upper and Lower Body Day (Legs, Core, Chest, Back)
  6. Saturday: Cardio
  7. Sunday: Free Day
  • Chest: Use machines that target upper, lower and mid chest, and pushups
  • Back: Pulldown Machines, Row Machines, Cable Row Machines, etc.
  • Arms: Bicep and Tricep machines such as curls or extensions.
  • Legs: Leg press machine, Squats, Jump Squats, Lunges, Leg Curl machine, Leg extension machine, etc.
  • Abs/Core: Slow and controlled crunches, leg raises and plank positions
Take a notebook to the gym next time and study the machines that fit the criteria above. From there it is easy to find videos of them online so you can get a better understanding of the exercise and the equipment itself. Please keep in mind that the plans and tips above are more beginner than competitive athlete. There will come a point where these tips will no longer help you. You will then need to graduate to free weights, unconventional methods and so on.

I hope this helps you Rita and remember before executing any of the above you must make sure you are doing them in a safe manner to avoid injuries and that your nutrition is 100% on the money. If your nutrition is off, your hard work will be in vain.

I have several posts explaining nutrition on the site. Visit the "All Questions and Answers" page to browse through them.

Stay Focused. Stay Strong.

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