Top 5 gym time wasters

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The new year is almost here and if you're anything like an estimated 50% of all Americans, you've decided to lose a few pounds in 2012.

With gyms more packed than ever and all of life's other demands on your schedule still in place, how can you make the most of your gym time to get in, get fit and get out fast?

We turned to personal trainer and the National Strength & Conditioning Association's Hawai'i State Director, Jt Netterville for his advice. "When you walk into the gym, there are a million different machines, weights and toys to play with, so picking the ones that are most important to you before getting there is going to be key. It's the same thing as if you go to the grocery store hungry and you don't have a shopping list. You're going to walk out with all sorts of things you don't need. But if you go in with a plan, know what you're looking for and stay on target, you're going to hit the check out line a much happier person.," says Jt.

To get us started with that plan, Jt offers up his top 5 list of what he calls "gym time vampires" that can suck away your time and motivation.

1. Spot Training:

According to Jt, "There is no such thing as spot training." Spot training refers to the idea of just tightening up one specific area at a time. It might be that soft part on the back of your arm, or the spare tire. Jt suggests, "It is a complete trap. Doing three, for or even a hundred sets of 10 tricep extensions will not tone your arms. If you're carrying excess body fat that's covering the muscle up, you've got to lose that first before anything else. When you're looking to make a certain part of your body less flabby and more toned, what you're actually talking about is fat loss. Every single one of us looks like the people on the front of Men's & Women's Health. We just have to burn the fat off to show it."

The better alternative:

Whether it's your legs, belly, arms or any other part of your body, Jt suggests targeting excess body fat through a combination of cardiovascular training, total body strength & conditioning and proper nutrition. He suggests that, "...your best tools for getting those washboard abs you're looking for is a treadmill and total body strength training. "

2. Seated Inner/Outer Thigh Machines

For many of us, our thighs tend to be a particular trouble area. Jt says to beware of the inner and outer thigh machines. To begin with, these machines provide a form of spot training without offering anything in the way of increased fat burn. "These machines will not, in any way tone and firm your thighs." Jt suggests taking a ground up approach. "First things first, go back to the idea of working your entire body to pump up your metabolic rate and start burning off the excess fat that's hiding the tone and definition you already have. The second thing is that the major muscles of the inner and outer thigh work the best when you're standing up." By sitting down on these machines, we actually make it so harder for the muscles of the inner and outer thigh to do their job.

The better alternative:

Jt suggests Lateral lunges. "Lateral lunges are a fantastic way to work not just your inner and outer thighs, but your glutes and back too." Stand with your feet together. Then step out to the side with your right leg. Bend the right knee as you sink down over the right foot (keeping the left leg straight and left foot flat on the ground). From the bottom of the movement, push up off your right foot and back up into a standing position.

3. Abs:

"That 10 minutes you take at the end of your workout to 'do abs' is one of the biggest losses of valuable time that ever occurred in the gym," offers Jt. The issue here is something that few people actually realize. Jt: "The abs aren't primarily designed for crunching and situps. The abs are designed to keep you from falling over backwards by maintaining upright posture in your spine. That's not to say that situps are necessarily bad, but if you're going to do them, mix them into your workout and leave it at that. There really isn't any benefit to doing 5 different kinds of crunches."

The better alternative:

As an alternative, Jt suggests working planks into your workout. "A plank works the abs the way they were designed to function, by keeping your spine in a neutral posture. The added benefit is that for anyone with a history of back pain, there is a version of the plank you will be able to do pain free." To do a plank, lay in a face down position on the floor. Curl your toes under and lift your body up, supporting yourself on your elbows and toes. Hold your body parallel to the ground for a few seconds to begin with. Then as you get stronger, increase that time to 30 seconds, a minute, or even two.

4. Side Bends

"From late night infomercials to celebrity tv trainers, one of the biggest misconceptions is that side bends are going to trim down your waist and tone up your obliques and those "side abdominals." That just isn't going to happen," Jt says. The first issue he points out is that side bends are a perfect examples of spot training. According to Jt, and as we heard earlier, " training is about as effective a technique as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum." The second issue is that your obliques are not actually responsible for the side to side flexion of your spine. Jt offers that, "side bends are actually working a muscle called the psoas major. This is a muscle so deep in the body, so close to the spine, that it has no impact on how tight or toned your core is."

The better alternative:

If you're looking to work your obliques and burn a little fat at the same time, Jt suggests mixing medicine ball choppers into a strength training circuit. Start by holding a medicine ball up by your ear, then twist your body and arc the ball down towards the outside of your opposite knee. Pull the ball right back up to your ear and do it all over again. Now you're not just working obliques. You're strengthening your abs, lower back and shoulders all at the same time. Additionally you're going to be keeping your heart rate up and burning more calories over time.

5. Seated Calf Raise

The last one on the list is another case of mistaken anatomy. "People think, mainly because they've been told this for years by professional trainers, that sitting down to do calf raises is going to tone and lift their calves. When you look down at your calf, that big muscle you see on the back of your leg is called the gastrocneimus. The problem here is that the gastroc doesn't actually work very much when you're sitting down. It's only fully active when you're standing up." Once you're sitting down, the soleus, a much smaller, deeper muscle takes over. The catch here is that whenever the gastroc is working, the soleus is too, so there's no need to isolate it and work it by its self.

The better alternative:

The gastroc works best in the standing position. Jt suggests squats. "With everything else going on, we want to be as time efficient in the gym as possible. Not only are squats going to work both the gastroc and soleus, but squats are one of the most effective, basic foundational strength movements of them all. If you're going to do one thing good for yourself at the gym, squat!" Squats are a basic movement for toning glutes and legs while at the same time strengthening around your back and abs.

This week when you hit the gym get your resolutions rolling, remember to always have a plan going in. Jt reminds us that, "walking around the gym aimlessly never lost anybody a single pound." While you are working, be sure to stay focused and look out for those gym vampires waiting to rob your time and motivation.

Jt offers additional tips for weight loss and strength training at his website

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