10 Rookie Training Mistakes: Female Edition

Squats for girls

10 Common Rookie Training Mistakes Females Make (in no particular order):

1. Choosing cardio as the foundation for your exercise

Choosing cardio as the foundation denotes that you would be engaging in long duration cardio (that is most likely low to medium intensity) instead of having a foundation of resistance training. We have outlined previously why this is counter-productive in a post entitled: Why long duration cardio as your only form of exercise is a waste of your time. But don’t take our word for it, you can also go read this article by John Meadows entitled:  Regular Cardio Will Make You Fat. Further, the Poliquin Group point out the negative side of aerobic training in this article entitled: The (Many) Negatives of Aerobic Training

As a real life, local example look at our own trainers, Sasha Diaz and Nathan Sturgess, did to get in competition shape.

Guess how much cardio was done?


How much resistance training?

Sometimes twice daily.

Take home message: Resistance training has a more pronounced effect on long-term body composition than long duration cardio (and without some of the negatives), and that is why it should be the foundation of your training.

2. Thinking weights will make women too “muscly”

Extremely few women have the ability to really pack on muscle; seriously it just isn’t going to happen.

This is best answered with a story: Nate was once doing a fitness assessment and program for a female. During the consultation the female stated that she “wanted to do weights but not get too big and muscly“. Nate peered out the door of the programming room onto the gym floor and said “See all those guys out there training“, the woman replied “yes“. Nate continued “Those guys want to be massive, but they are not and they have balls and you don’t“. This was not supposed to be an offensive statement, but a statement of fact. Women lack the physiology to produce the same levels of the vital muscle building hormone testosterone, as men do.  Furthermore even being male, many have less than optimal testosterone levels which explains why the majority of the guys in the gym just aren’t that big.

Again look at the picture of our trainer Sasha. Even after hitting all the compound movements for years, having excellent nutrition and having training based solely on resistance training, she still wishes she has more muscle.

Take home message: Muscle is hard to acquire (even for males whom have a set of testosterone-producing testes), so don’t be fooled. Blowing up with muscles just isn’t going to happen ladies.

3. Being food phobic

There is a lot of talk about metabolic damage and if it exists, which we will not get into here. But regardless of your view, it is commonly understood in the health industry that consistently large calorie deficits will result in your body responding to down regulate your metabolism through things like decreases in thyroid hormones and so on. This is a common issue with female clients, being that they are scared to eat the required volume of food and steer clear of suitable quantities of healthy foods. To make matters worse they then binge on junk food, thus providing their already poor metabolism with excess sugar/fats that promote fat storage. Go look at any competitive fitness model and you will see that the girls always carry around their prepared meals with them. In the industry we know that good physiques are built on appropriate calories that come from low-GI meals with a protein base.

Take home message:  Starving yourself has diminishing returns and will only result in you losing muscle mass, which will ultimately leave you more prone to fat storage when you return to normal eating.

4. Having a “as long as it fits my macros” mindset

100g of carbs from boiled sweet potato and 100g of carbs from sugar might both be 100 grams of carbs from a macro-nutrient point of view, but the sugar is going to have a pronounced effect on blood sugar levels and thus insulin levels.

What does this mean? Well it means physiologically it will produce two different effects on your body, in terms of fat storage, effects on intestinal flora, effects on aromatase and so on. Eating crap is eating crap, no matter if it it “fits your macros“. Sure one cheat a week is OK, provided it doesn’t negatively affect your composition. But the immutable fact is that: Crap in = crap out and healthy food remains healthy food.  The latter is where we should be deriving our macronutrients from, simple.

Take home message: Don’t fool yourself that all macro-nutrient sources are created equal, as they are not. There are no shortcuts to a healthy lifestyle. Crap is crap, even if it fits your macros.

5. Looking for ways to justify making poor dietary choices

This partly ties in to the point above, but is meant to address looking for justification of poor food choices. The only thing that should dictate if you are able to justify an extra cheat is: how close you are to your idea body composition. If you are far from your goal, then cheating will only prolong the time it takes you to achieve your goal. But regularly saying something along the lines of “It is just this once”, “Everyone else is eating it”, “I will work it off tomorrow” should be an internal cause for alarm that you are slipping.

Take home message: Again crap is crap, and justifying eating crap is just going to maintain or extend your distance from your goals. Is a couple of minutes of mouth-pleasure really worth keeping you from your goals? Focus on what you are trying to achieve; the temptation will pass and your ability to resist temptation will grow.

6. Being too trusting of the information in women’s magazines 

These tend to be poorly correlated with current nutritional best-practice and instead based on the current Hollywood fad. They are a poor place to derive dietary advice and we strongly advise all clients to disregard these magazines. Remember, writers and editors have no accountability to you: their only objective is to sell magazines.

Take home message: Women’s magazines normally have very poor correlation with the fitness industry and you should be extremely sceptical of their dietary advice.

7. Relying too much on protein/meal replacement supplements

“Drop the shake and have a steak” is a favourite saying of a GP friend of ours. At Eastside Fitness we find that many new trainees want to have protein and meal replacement shakes over solid foods. Whilst shakes can help, they should not be the foundation of your diet. This goes for all the other supplements that beginners always ask about. The keys are really simple: good nutrition, and training based on compound movements with adequate recovery. Supplements come second to these primary elements.

Take home message: Shakes are great for intra and post-training, but otherwise your diet should always be based on solid meals where possible. Get the primary ingredients right first, if you want to realise the best results and then worry about your supplements after.

8. Thinking crunches will give you a lean midsection

To see the abs you’ve got to lose the fat. That is best done through doing challenging compound movements that burn lots of calories, of which crunches are not one. For more information see our article entitled: Understanding Abs: How do you get them? . Training Abs offer a poor return-on-exercise-investment for overall body composition changes. FYI: You will get excellent abdominal and core activation from movements like squats and deadlifts and these movements will have profound effect on your body composition. It is all about bang for your buck, so save endless Ab sessions till you are lean enough to start seeing your Abs.  

Take home message: If you are carrying even moderate amount of fat on your midsection, then crunches are a waste of valuable exercise time. Focus on result-yielding compound movements.

9. Steering clear of the big compound lifts 

Bang for your buck, the big compound lifts demand the most from your body and thus result in a larger amount of calories burnt (relative to a less demanding exercise like an isolation movement). Yet all too often new trainees are frequently found doing leg extensions, cable cross-overs and other suboptimal exercises. If the exercise demands a lot from you and recruits a large amount of your body then this will produce the best results.

Take home message: If you aren’t squatting, dead-lifting, pressing and doing pull-ups, then your are not maximising your gym sessions. Base your training on compound movements for optimal results.

10. Thinking that “health food” means a licence to eat as much as you want

Just because the food might be in the “health food” section or a healthy food doesn’t mean it can be eaten with gay abandon. Gluten-free coconut cookies are an example of a food item that can be found in the health food section, yet they are far from healthy. Whilst they are gluten free, they still contain a high amount of sugar. Calorie-wise they are no different from eating normally cookies (except for the gluten). It you want a quick education on how misleading food packaging and marketing are, watch of few episodes of ABC’s The Checkout.

Take home message: All food should be eaten appropriate amounts for your body composition, no matter what section of the supermarket that it comes from.

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