4 Things Your Girlfriend Should Know (Revisted)
A few weeks ago I wrote a post titled Tony Takes a Yoga Class (Part I) that, surprisingly enough, became fairly popular and made its rounds around the blogosphere.
In it, I used part of an old article I wrote years ago titled 4 Things Your Girlfriend Should Know, where, in the first part of that article, I kinda of threw yoga under the bus. Okay, there was no “kinda” about it. Not only did I throw yoga under the bus, but I also somehow managed to challenge it to a wrestling match (it’s my blog, and shit like this happens all the time), where I jumped off the top rope, grabbed it from behind, and suplexed it out of the ring.
It was a one-sided affair, and I think I won pretty convincingly.
My main beef then, and now, is that yoga is often marketed in a way that promises everything to women. It’s somehow the magic pill that will result in long, lean, sexy muscles. In addition, unicorns will fly underneath rainbows with Leprechauns on their backs, and Greys Anatomy will never, ever, ever, never, end.
See what I mean? It promises everything!
Anyways, in the years since I wrote the original article, and as something I went out of my way to touch on in the blog post linked above (as well as elucidate in more depth in Part II)………I’ve changed my mind to an extent.
Yoga ain’t so bad.
I’ve had several people contact me asking me for the rest of that 4 Things Your Girlfriend Should Know article. It was originally published on t-nation.com back in 2007, and subsequently moved to FigureAthlete.com. That site no longer exists, and as a result, the article has vanished into some kind of internet blackhole.
Luckily, I saved the original on my laptop and thought I’d re-post it here for everyone’s viewing enjoyment.
A few notes beforehand:
1. Again, the yoga part is omitted. But you can read it in the Tony Takes a Yoga Class link above.
2. I wrote the article five years ago, so forgive me for the dated pop culture references.
3. To reiterate, I wrote the article FIVE YEARS AGO, so please take that into consideration before you go a head and call me out on anything I said back then that doesn’t jive now.
4. Did I mention I wrote the article five years ago?**
4 Things Your Girlfriend Should Know
*** with the yoga part omitted. So, really, this is 3 Things Your Girlfriend Should Know.
Being a man in today’s society is darn tough. We are constantly inundated with constant struggles and frustrations:
- Deciding which is the best trilogy ever made: the ORIGINAL Star Wars or Lord of the Rings?
- Which Jessica to choose from: Jessica Biel, Jessica Alba or Jessica Simpson?
- Trying our very best to not throw the television out the window every time we see Jared (from Subway) espousing the benefits of eating a low fat diet.
- Trying to convince our girlfriend or wife that lifting weights won’t make her look like a she-man.
Alba: the obvious answer
Being a guy myself, I feel your pain. I know how frustrating it can be to try to convince a woman (let alone your significant other) that doing endless hours of aerobics or spending the majority of her gym time using those hip abductor/adductor machines is a fruitless endeavor from a body composition standpoint. If you’re in the same situation as most guys, the likelihood that your girlfriend will accompany you to the gym on deadlift day is about as slim as Rosie O’Donnell keeping her big yapper shut.
Needless to say, this is for all the guys out there who are losing the battle. This article is going to serve as your ammo to try to convince that special lady in your life that what she has been doing in the gym week in and week out is flat out wrong. You can thank me later.
Low Reps vs. High Reps
I’m not going to sugar coat anything. I’m going to cut right to the chase. I love low rep training. I love low rep training almost as much as I love Justin Timberlake’s “D**k in a Box” parody he did on SNL not too long ago.
Unfortunately, most women (including your girlfriend) are obsessed with “dieting” and love the color pink. As a result, they love to perform endless repetitions with those 8 lb pink dumbbells every chance they get thinking that that will elicit more fat loss. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Memo to your girlfriend:
Ditch the light weights (especially when you’re dieting). You’ll just end up with a fragile, weak, and soft looking body; otherwise known as the “skinny-fat” look. Your muscles will lack what is known as good neurogenic or myogenic tone (basically fancy words used to express muscle hardness).
Simply put, there are two types of muscle tone: myogenic and neurogenic. The former refers to your muscle tone at rest, the latter refers to muscle tone that is expressed when muscular contractions occur.
Low(er) rep training increases the sensitivity of various motor units resulting in increased neurogenic tone. Myogenic tone on the other hand, is correlated with the overall density of your muscles (specifically the contractile proteins myosin and actin) and is vastly improved by lifting heavier weights.
This is going to come as a shock to most women, but utilizing light weights (anything above twelve reps in my book) while dieting will likely result in loss of muscle, which is the exact opposite of what you want to happen.
When dieting, the body will adapt to the caloric deficit by down regulating many of the hormones involved with metabolism (T3, T4, leptin, etc), as well as getting rid of metabolically active tissue – muscle. Obviously one would want to prevent this from happening in the first place, which is why I always recommend that women shit-can the 20 rep sets and start training with heavier weights.
The Inevitable Retort from Your Girlfriend: “Whatever. All the fitness magazines say I should use high reps for fat loss when I’m dieting, and they obviously know what they’re talking about. When are you taking the garbage out?”
When someone goes on a diet, catabolic hormones, which promote muscle breakdown, rise (bad) and anabolic hormones, which promote muscle growth, decline (also bad). Your body is smarter than you, and as I alluded to above, your body will “slow down” to work at your reduced caloric intake.
As a result, it will reduce whatever is metabolically active- muscle. With regards to training, a great way I like to explain things is from a conversation I had via e-mail with Erik Ledin, a well known figure coach I know.
If you train light, you’ll keep enough muscle to be able to continue to train “light.” But given this doesn’t take a lot, from a relative and individual standpoint (ie. it takes more muscle to lift a weight that limits you to 8 reps, than it does to lift a weight that limits you to 20) you’ll keep what you need to accomplish these generally ‘easier’ tasks. The key to a lean, hard body is a nice balance between nutrition, cardio and low rep, heavy weight training. What builds muscle is what keeps muscle.
Chances are she didn’t use Power Pump Classes to Look Like This.
Train More Like a Man
Question (from you): “Babe, how bout I teach you how to squat today?”
Answer (from your girlfriend): “But I don’t want to get big and bulky.”
Newsflash ladies: you WILL NOT get “big and bulky” just because you’re doing squats and deadlifts. That statement is akin to me saying, “eh, I don’t want to do any sprints today because I don’t want to win the 100m gold medal next week.”
Getting big and bulky isn’t easy, just like winning the 100m gold medal isn’t easy. If anything, it’s quite an insult to all those people who have spent years in the gym to look the way they do. It didn’t happen overnight, which is what you’re assuming by saying something so absurd.
And lets be honest, most people (men AND women) won’t work hard enough to get “big and bulky” in the first place. It’s hard enough for a man to put on any significant amount of muscle, let alone a woman. Women are physiologically at a disadvantage for putting on muscle due to the fact that they have ten times LESS free testosterone in their bodies compared to men.
That being said you still need to get the most out of your training buck, and that includes ditching the glute buster machine and focusing more on the compound movements.
Joe Dowdell, owner of Peak Performance in NYC trains many of the top female models in the city and their programming includes squats, deadlifts, chin-ups, bench variations, sled dragging, and tons of energy system work. Yes, Victoria Secret models are doing squats and deadlifts. And yes, that is completely hot.
If Giselle can do Romanian Deadlifts, so can you.
Guess what they’re not doing…watching Oprah every day while walking on the treadmill for 60 minutes.
Just because you’re a woman doesn’t mean you can’t train like a man and lift some serious weight. I never bought into this whole mindset that women are these delicate creatures that can’t hang with the boys.
Steady State Cardio/Aerobics (Not the Fat Loss King You Thought It Was)
Not to beat a dead Barbaro (er, I mean horse), but steady state cardio/aerobics is not the most efficient way to burn body fat. I like lists, so I am going to use a list to prove my point.
1. Steady state cardio doesn’t elevate EPOC all that much, which again is one of the main factors in fat loss. Sure, one hour of steady state cardio will probably burn more calories than one hour of resistance training, but it’s the calories you burn in the other 23 hours OUTSIDE of the gym that really matter.
Essentially, once you’re done doing steady state cardio, you’re done burning calories. However, with resistance training and/or with high intensity interval training (HIIT), your body’s metabolism will be elevated for upwards of 24-48 hours. Thus, you will burn a TON more calories.
2. Speaking of metabolism. Your metabolism is in direct correlation with how much LBM you have. The more LBM you have, the higher your metabolism. Given that long duration, steady state cardio actually eats away muscle; you’re shooting yourself in the foot in that regard.
3. The fat burning zone doesn’t exist. It’s true that your body will burn a greater percentage of fat at lower intensities, however the TOTAL calories being burned is so small, that it doesn’t even really matter. Again, it all comes down to EPOC.
4. As Alwyn Cosgrove has pointed out on numerous occasions; your body adapts very well to cardiovascular exercise (in this case, steady state cardio). This is a bad thing. As you get more efficient at running a certain distance, the work required to complete that distance will become less and less as you get fitter.
To improve you have to go further in order to burn the same amount of calories. What once took you 30 minutes to burn “x” amount of calories, now takes you 45 minutes. Doesn’t sound too efficient in my book.
5. The majority of your fat loss should come via diet, not copious amounts of steady state cardio/aerobics. From a time efficiency standpoint, which makes more sense? Not eating that bowl of cereal at night (300-500 calories) or spending 60 minutes on a treadmill to burn that same 300-500 calories every single day?
6. Steady state cardio/aerobics does little to change how your body looks. Sure, you may lose 20-30 lbs, but you will still be the same “shape.” You won’t look leaner, only smaller (not to mention weaker).
7. Lets be honest…do you really enjoy spending 45-60 minutes on one piece of equipment?
Some Other Random Thoughts
*Women need to eat more protein. Cassandra Forsythe says it best, “when in doubt, eat meat.”
*You can’t be on a diet forever. Learn to incorporate dietary breaks.
*Ladies, you’re four times more likely to have an ACL tear compared to men. Get off the leg extension and leg curl machines and train your posterior chain more! Various deadlifts, box squats, Anderson squats, pull-thru’s, glute-ham raises, one-legged back extensions, and lots of single leg work.
*Train with your man. He secretly loves it.
*Get off your cell phone, for the love of god
Okay fellas, there you go. All you have to do now is click the “print” button and strategically place this article in a place where you know your girlfriend will see it. Your best bet would either be in between the pages of this week’s People Magazine or inside the dvd case of any of the following movies; Steel Magnolias, Dirty Dancing, or The Notebook.