Just about everyone I've encountered begins an exercise program to improve their health and lose a little, or a lot, of body fat. That's also the reason the majority of people begin a "healthy" eating regimen and try to cut down on shoveling a bunch of crap in their mouth. I know both those sentences provided "SHOCKING" information.....
So, where am I going with this? Well, if you exercise to improve your level of fitness and you eat better to improve your health - then why do you strength train? DUH? To get STRONGER, right?
But after spending many years working in a gym, I've come to the conclusion that is not the case for a large part of our gym going population. Some people are actually training to become weak(er).......
Our bodies are made up of different hormones, energy systems, cells, and molecules that provide us with the energy we need to get through the day and our extremely important training sessions. Nutrients also play an essential factor in providing us with the fuel we need to perform to our best. Without getting into a bunch of physiological and biological information, I'll just state my point...
DOING LONG DURATION STEADY STATE CARDIO BEFORE STRENGTH TRAINING IS STUPID!
I witness it time and time again, people doing 45-60 minutes of spinning, the elliptical, the stepmill, or even jogging before they begin to lift weights. I've offered advice numerous times and even printed out research based literature proving that long term steady state cardio if done at all, is more beneficial post-resistance training.
I'm not sure what can be done to stop this problem of WEAK training and get people to perform STRENGTH training. I think this problem has gotten out of control, gyms really should not be equipped with massive amounts of pink dumbbells, and performing endless sets step-ups to a bicep curl after a 60 minute spinning class is really is not helping the cause.
What's the solution? Besides slapping these "Cardio Queens" upside the head with a kettelbell......
Proper Programming. Your time in the gym should be well organized and planned out. For example, if you have 45 minutes to get a training session in you could arrange it like this:
10min - Movement Prep (Foam Roll, Dynamic Warm-up, Corrective Stuff) Try Defranco's Agile 8 or THIS warm-up from Jim Smith.
25min - Strength Training (perform as a "mini circuit")
a1-Squat/Deadlift variation 4-6 reps
a2-Pull-up / Row variation 8-12 reps
a3-Push (Vertical/Horizontal) 8-12 reps
Perform 3 sets with 30 seconds rest between each exercise and 1 min rest after each circuit
b1-Single leg exercise (lunge, split squat, single leg deadlift etc.) 6-10reps on each leg
b2-Core work (plank, side plank, ab wheel rollouts) 45-90 sec.
b3-Vanity upper body (bicep curls, triceps extensions, dumbbell lateral raises) 10-15 reps
Perform 2 sets with the same rest time as above.
10min - Intervals (sprint 20 seconds / walk 40 seconds or jump rope 30 seconds / rest 60 seconds). You could also perform some kettelbell / TRX (body weight) work.
I know that plan is very generalized, but it will produce far more strength/physique benefits than endless hours on the elliptical or even worse - jogging....
If you have more time to spend in the gym than focus on strengthening you weak areas, such as posterior chain exercises (your butt and hamstrings) and mobility exercises ( work on performing a proper squat, or push up). The days that you don't perform strength training you can
People can and will ignore my advice, and that's okay. If you're fine with coming to the gym and seeing people that train like my clients get leaner and stronger while you try to make excuses for needing to buy bigger pants, that's your business.
Nothing beats watching the 45 year old mother of 3 that I train, lift more weight on every exercise than some of the guys in the gym (and she is leaner than all of them). I also get a kick out of seeing all of the 'skinny fat" girls line up for spinning class, while my lean and strong wife is loading up some heavy ass weight for a set of deadlifts.
So if being weak and awful is your goal, keep truckin' away on those cardio machines before you grab your little pink dumbbells. But, if you want to get strong(er), leaner, and develop a feeling of all around awesomeness- step into the squat rack and move some weight!