Question: Should I do cardio before or after I lift weights?
Answer: The answer to this question depends on your goals. If you are trying to loose weight, then you should do your cardio before any weight lifting session, and before any type of fitness class, including a cardio-based class which case a pre-class cardio warm up is recommended.
Why: The short version of the rationale for this answer is that maximum caloric expenditure is the first goal when trying to lose weight. Your goal is to take the time you have allotted for exercise and safely maximize your caloric expenditure during that given time. This is done by managing the two most important factors of weight loss: caloric expenditure and maximum heart rate percentages. This means that you must burn the most energy (calories) that you can safely burn at different temperatures (percentages) of your maximum heart rate, across the duration period of your workout.
When you do cardio first, you create a higher heat that allows the body to be most effective as an energy burning furnace, which is exactly what it is.
The second benefit, and the reason that I recommend that you try to get in some light cardio before you do any class, is the body’s capacity to “burn what is available before it burns what you want”. Simply put, the body will burn whatever you have in your stomach as fuel before it will use any energy stored in your liver and your muscles. Managing this concept is tricky when it comes to weight loss and exercise because most people will misread this and think that the problem can be solved by working out on an empty stomach. Let me be very clear that I am not suggesting at all. What I am saying is that in order to avoid any number of digestive problems that come with working out on a full stomach, you must give yourself ample time to digest your food before you exercise. Most exercise experts suggest one hour to 90 minutes.
Question: Should I stretch before I work out?
Why: Stretching while the body is cold (has not been moving) is a very bad idea. Warming the body up with some light cardio prior to exercise is much more effective. Stretching cold muscles and connective tissues can lead to injury. Remember, your body is very much like a car when it comes to movement. The more your warm it up, the better it works. Your body has lubricating fluids (Synovial Fluid) that sit in the joints (just like a car has oil that sits at the ready to ensure that all of its components operate effectively), and, when gently heated up prior to rigorous movement, will help prevent injury and ensure better performance.
Question: As a woman, will lifting weights cause me to bulk up like a man?
Answer: Since I train women, this is a question I get asked all the time – and it’s one of my favorites because I have heard so many ridiculous answers. I cannot stress enough that lifting weights is just as beneficial for women as it is for men.
Why: The benefits of weight lifting, as it pertains to strengthening skeletal muscle and connective tissues, losing weight, offsetting the deterioration of the aging process, and preventing injury, cannot be praised enough in my opinion. However, the amount of weight you lift, the amount of time you rest between sets, the number of repetitions you do, and the weightlifting ideology that you follow (bodybuilding, powerlifting, cross-fit, etc.), all have to be balanced against your physical goals. The proper implementation of a weight-lifting program will allow you to systematically strengthen and tone your body safely and effectively without adding bulk.
For the record, muscle reacts the same way for women as it does for men when they both lift weights. Men just happen to have a lot more muscle as well as more male hormones that ensure their body grows when stimulated with weight lifting. So why do a small percentage of women seem more muscular than others? Genetics – the same genetics that determine whether some women are heavier, taller, shorter, etc than others. However, these women aside, I believe that the average woman can and should use weightlifting because when implemented correctly, it can be an extremely beneficial in helping them tone and lose weight. In addition, building muscles is important in keeping our metabolic rate high. The higher a person’s metabolic rate, and the more lean muscle they have, the thinner they are.
Question: Is 20 minutes of cardio enough to help me loose weight?
Answer: While 20 minutes is better than nothing at all, more is better. The average body takes about 20 to 30 minutes to burn through the food that is stored in the stomach and move through the three energy systems it needs to in order to start burning excess energy (stored body weight).
Why: Any cardio will elicit some type of physiological effect on the body. That effect can be minimal at best or it can be dramatically effective. After almost 20 years of studying the human body. I believe that the more you want from cardio, the more you have to do it – within reason. This means an hour to 90 minutes five to six days a week, safely challenging the percentages of your individual maximum heart rate. This is true if your goal is just pure weight loss.
Note: I think that most individuals who want to lose a significant amount of weight should hire a licensed nutritionist or a registered dietician before they hire a personal trainer. Most trainers do not have the understanding, nor is it in the scope of their practice, to help you with what I believe is the most important component of weight loss-your nutritional lifestyle.
Question: Are machines better than free weights?
Answer: Both are great tools for strengthening the body. Machines allow you to do some movements that would be impossible otherwise, while free weights are far superior strength-training tools for many reasons.
Why: Using free weights force our bodies to stabilize themselves against the gravitational pull of the weight and movement in question, which is one of the ways to strengthen the body’s core and systematically challenge the body to strengthen itself from top to bottom as a chain of interconnected joints, muscle, tendons and ligaments. Machines act as the stabilizer for different parts of our bodies as we brace ourselves in different positions for different movements. The benefits of free weights over machines cannot be praised enough, however I think that machines are a great tool for certain goals.