So you’ve decided to undergo a transformation. Perhaps you’ve seen someone on social media raving about their progress and thought to yourself,
‘Hey, I could do that!’
Or you are just finally tired of starting a program only to fall off a few weeks later and want something that will really jump start your progress.
Maybe you’re just looking for a new challenge in life.
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Whatever the case may be, it’s important that you get off on the right foot. Sadly, most women don’t. Instead, they go around in circles, spinning their wheels and never really seeing the progress that they are after.
To the core.
Makes you want to give up?
If you’ve been there, done that, it’s time for a change. Rather than rushing out on the first transformation program you find available,
Why not take the time to actually plan out your journey?
To learn from others mistakes and make sure you don’t follow in the same footsteps?
If you want to put the past behind you and turn a new page in your health and fitness journey, keep reading to ensure you don’t fall victim to some of these very common mistakes.
Whether you’re cutting or bulking or doing a bit of both (striving for those ‘newbie gains’!), this is for you.
Mistake #1: Making It ALL About Fat Loss
Let’s kick things off with one of the most common mistakes I see women making time and time again and that is making it all about fat loss.
Walk into any gym and pick a handful of women. Then proceed to ask them what their main goal is.
Nine times out of ten they are going to utter something about losing body fat.
This is fine – expected even.
The world is becoming more and more obese and it’s excellent to see people waking up and taking action. But the problem here is that sometimes, what’s really best for someone is to focus on muscle building first, fat loss second.
How do you know if this is you?
Are you relatively light for your weight?
But yet, do you lack that toned appearance?
If so, chances are, you’d benefit from a good period of muscle building first before you focus on fat loss.
Those who lack muscle mass can just begin dieting, but they’re dieting to a goal of what? Super model skinny?
If that’s the look you’re going for, power to you. Since you’re reading this though, my guess is you want those sexy curves that you see fitness athletes rocking. You aren’t about just being skinny.
To look shapely,
You need to have something to give your body shape. If the only thing creating shape right now is body fat and you lose that,
Newsflash. The skeleton look is not shapely or sexy.
By building muscle first, you will then also rev your metabolic engine (since muscle mass burns more calories to just maintain itself), which will then significantly help your fat loss journey to come.
I get that it’s a change of plans for you but sometimes, this really is for the best.
Mistake #2: Not Fixing Your Metabolism First
You know the saying… ‘one step backward to take two steps forward’?
Yeah. That one.
It applies here.
Look, I know it may not be what you want to hear, but sometimes, you do need to actually see regression before you see progression. But don’t think of it as regression, think of it as prepping your body for GREATER success.
Now it doesn’t sound so bad, right?
So many of you out there have spent years, (YEARS!) dieting and now your metabolism is shot. It’s been destroyed by those days where you said no to any sort of food that contained more than a few grams of fat, too many carbs, or was over 300 calories per serving.
You are essentially a dieting champion, so to speak.
While you may have fallen off from time to time, you have been on some type of diet for as long as you can remember.
Your body adapts to what you give it. If you’ve been giving it 1300 calories for the last five years, guess what? It’s used to running on 1300 calories.
So now you have to ask yourself,
Where do you go from here?
How can you continue to lose weight?
Will you drop down to 1100 calories to hopefully lose around ¼ – ½ pound per week?
It’s no way to get a head turning physique. If you want to see an appreciable amount of weight loss, you need to fix any metabolic issues.
You want your maintenance calorie intake to be around 1800-2000 calories per day. This way you have something to cut from.
This may seem like a stretch. You might think you could never eat that much without gaining weight rapidly, but I assure you, you can with the right approach.
Any woman who is at least 130 pounds or more, should have a maintenance calorie intake of about this unless you are pretty much sedentary all day long. If you workout hard, it may be even more than this.
Reverse dieting is what’s needed.
Slowly add calories back to your diet and let your metabolism adjust and adapt. Try adding about 100-150 calories per week until you are up to a respectable level.
Then hold that level there for at least a month. Then begin dieting.
It’ll take time, but believe me when I tell you it’ll be worth it.
Mistake #3: Pumper Training
Moving right along, another mistake I see many women making in the gym is relying on pumper training to do the job. They feel great with this style of training because they can see the muscle pump, feel toned and defined, and it can be quite exhausting as well.
There is definitely a time and place for pumper training. And for those not in the know pumper training is essentially isolation exercises done with a high rep range to really achieve a strong muscle burn.
The problem with pumper training is two-fold.
You are doing it using isolation exercises, which typically means not many muscle fibers are being worked. You are working just that single muscle, getting your pump on. The rest of your body is practically asleep.
For you, this means a low calorie burn and little cardiovascular payoff.
Go do a set of 20 walking lunges verses a set of 20 bicep curls.
Which feels like more work?
The answer should be obvious. When you do pumper exercises you aren’t actually doing a lot of work in the gym and it’s work that burns calories. So from a fat loss perspective, these types of sessions don’t help you out that much.
from a muscle building perspective, while pumper exercises may temporarily cause your muscles to look bigger, they don’t stay looking bigger permanently. Eventually they will deflate and then you’ll be left looking pretty much the same as always.
In order to really see impressive strength progress, you want to be doing one primary thing: adding more weight to the bar.
These types of workouts really just don’t allow for that much, so you aren’t going to see much strength or muscle building progress for that mater.
You can build some muscle size, especially if eating in a calorie surplus, but you won’t see the results you would see had you have added some higher weight, lower rep compound lifts as well.
So when are pumper exercises useful?
Towards the end of your workout session. Use them to really burn out those muscles at the end and exhaust your body.
Mistake #4: Lack Of Protein (Or Too Much)
What’s your average protein intake for the day?
Don’t know? That could be a problem…
In order to see results – either muscle building or fat loss, your body does need a specific amount of protein. If you are used to just winging it and eating whatever you want, this could be setting yourself up for issues down the road.
Contrary to what you may believe, you actually need more protein when dieting, not less, so if you start cutting back the minute you begin fat loss, you’re making a grave mistake.
When you diet, you take in fewer grams of carbs and/or fats.
This means less energy overall.
Translation: your body may turn to incoming protein as a fuel source.
If it does, that’s less leftover protein to be used to help sustain and repair your lean muscle mass tissue.
So you want to supply your body with an over abundance of protein. Think 1.2-1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
If you aren’t dieting and looking to build muscle, you can be lower around the 0.8-1 gram per pound mark instead.
Start tracking your protein intake to ensure it’s where it needs to be. Many women think they are eating more than they actually or.
There is also the opposite end of the spectrum. The extreme dieters who are afraid to so much as let a carb or fat slip through their lips.
If all you are eating is protein and veggies, you should go back and read mistake #2 as you’re knee-deep in that problem.
You do need some carbs and fats in your menu to function optimally.
Mistake #5: Failure To Plan Time Off
For some women, time off is seen as a weakness. You feel like taking time away from the gym or your diet plan for that matter is going to cause you to seriously regress in progress. As such, you are sure you are never taking time off – under any circumstances.
This is also a problem.
Not only does your brain need a break from time to time, your body needs a break as well. This applies to both dieting and exercise.
With exercise, if you never take a break, it’ll only be a matter of time before you begin to notice that those nagging aches and pains turn into real injuries. A few days away from the gym is when you let your body make a full recovery.
Tendons and ligaments take much longer to heal than muscles do, so while your muscles may feel okay to hit the gym the day after next (since you are waiting 48 hours to work any muscle group again, right?!), these tissues are not.
Push them too much and you can welcome tendonitis or other overuse injuries into your world.
I recommend 5-7 days off every 8-12 weeks of consistent hard training. It may seem torturous to do this, but you will come back more motivated than ever and will probably notice strength progression as well.
Likewise, if you are using a fat loss diet plan, if you never take a diet break, it’ll only be so long before your body adapts to the calories it’s being given and slows down. This is when fat loss stalls and soon, you aren’t making any progress at all.
A diet break should be implemented every 8-12 weeks as well. The leaner you are or the more aggressively you’re dieting, the more often you need those breaks in there.
If you are on a muscle building diet, then you probably don’t need to worry too much, the body doesn’t really adapt to a hypercalorie state. If anything, you may just need to increase your calories further over time if you have a metabolism that tends to adapt to higher and higher calorie intakes.
Mistake #6: Glutes, Glutes, Glutes
I get it. Great glutes are the envy of every woman.
Look at any fitness social media stream and you’re bound to have a few butts staring back at you. But there’s more to your body than glutes, so make sure there’s also more to your workouts than hip thrusts, pull-thru’s, and lunges.
Not that those aren’t good.
They’re great in fact.
There’s just more to life than those alone.
Too many women get hyper-focused on one particular muscle group and then fail to work the rest. Usually it’s a muscle group that is highly idealized in the media such as glutes, abs, or shoulders.
Balance is really key when designing your physique. Even if not for aesthetics, for functionality and injury prevention.
If you aren’t training all muscle groups in the body relatively equal, this can lead to injury too.
One muscle group may be stronger than another and cause improper posture and movement patterns as a result, and sooner than later, you’ll be left with pain.
Nothing looks sillier than seeing a woman who’s very well developed in one area of her body but completely lagging in another.
As much as you may want to train glutes every time you hit the gym because you find it fun and it feels good afterward, give your upper body a chance to take the spotlight every so often as well.
Mistake #7: Not Planning Long Term
As you get started planning your transformation, make sure that you do some long-term planning in there. If you aren’t thinking about the long-term future, you’re going to run into the issue of reaching your short-term goal and then losing steam.
To really see optimal results, you want to be thinking ahead.
Every time you reach a goal, you should immediately have your sights set on something else. There should be no down-time; time where you are just complacent and not striving for anything.
While taking a week off of pushing so hard towards a goal after achieving one is definitely acceptable, you should already have in mind what it is that you are striving towards next.
Thinking long term is also essential in order to help ensure that you aren’t just looking at your transformation as a quick fix.
You may reach your end goal and become ‘transformed’ so to speak but if you fall back to the habits you used previously before the transformation, you’ll revert back to looking like you did back then as well.
You need to have a ‘forever’ mindset in that the changes that you are making right now as you work towards the transformation are changes that will stick with you well into the future.
If you plan on ditching them as soon as you’re done, you’ve been defeated before you’ve even begun.
To help go along with this,
Make sure that you are choosing some intrinsically focused goals.
This means that you aren’t just striving to build five pounds of muscle or hoping to decrease your body fat but you are looking to get more energy, build more confidence, or keep your heart healthy.
These are deeper rooted goals that you can’t just visually see from the outside and goals that never go away.
You’re always going to want to have more energy, so this isn’t a goal that is just going to be achieved over night and then you can stop working towards it.
Having these goals will be critical in ensuring that you don’t ditch the plan the minute you achieve some type of success.
Mistake #8: Fear Of Getting Too Big
Do you worry that if you start lifting heavy weights, you’re going to turn into a she-hulk overnight?
For some women,
This is a real concern. They are worried that doing too much weight lifting activity will start giving them masculine features.
You really can put this worry to rest.
Know that as a woman,
You have to work incredibly hard to build even small amounts of muscle mass tissue.
If you’ve ever seen a woman who is very muscular and looks more manly in nature,
There’s a good chance she’s either been trying to build muscle for many years now or else she is taking some sort of additional hormones to help get the job done. It’s just not natural for a woman to build muscle of this nature because you don’t possess the hormonal levels to do so.
Mistake #9: All Show, No Go
Are you the type to always be following the latest workout fashion trends and are proud to say you look the cutest when you hit the gym?
Are you snapping a million selfies while working out to keep up with your Instagram feed? Are you exercising with your hair down because it looks better?
You may want to adjust how you approach your training sessions. While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to look your best while in the gym and having a passion for finding new fitness outfits that make you feel confident while you sweat, it becomes a big problem when you are more focused on this than getting the hard work in.
And if you are too scared to break a sweat because you may ruin your hair or make-up, now we have a real problem.
Realize that many of those IG’ers that you see snapping all those selfies are not doing this when they are deep into their training.
That is, if they are truly fit. They are doing it at the beginning, or possibly the end, or at a totally different time. And they may not be taking pictures daily. There’s a very good chance that they have a stored databank of images of themselves that they post over time.
So on days they aren’t posting, you can rest assured they aren’t looking as glamorous as they always seem to look.
Progress in the gym is sweaty. If you truly want to reach your physique goals, you have to show up and put in that effort. Not just show up to look good.
Mistake #10: Carb Phobia
Here’s another mistake that many women make: carb phobia.
No single nutrient is going to make you fat.
It doesn’t matter if it’s carbs, dietary fat, or even protein for that matter (although most people don’t believe protein makes them fat).
You don’t get fat from eating a certain food; you gain body fat from taking in too many calories. So it all comes down to how much you’re eating all day long. Think that if you just ate a burger and that’s it for the day you’d gain weight?
Because you wouldn’t. That would only be a thousand calories at most and most people would lose weight eating this. They sure wouldn’t be healthy and they most definitely would be hungry, but they would be losing weight.
Carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap over the years as it seems that people everywhere are coming to believe that they’re just going to cause serious weight gain the minute they consume them. This isn’t so however.
There are properties of carbohydrates that can lead to weight gain if you aren’t careful. If you go off eating a load of sugar, your insulin levels will spike and when insulin levels are high, hormone sensitive lipase, which is an enzyme that controls the speed in which fat oxidation occurs are low and this will hinder fat loss.
But if at the end of the day, your total calorie intake is lower than your total calorie expenditure, guess what? You’ll be losing body fat. It’s that simple. You may not burn quite as much fat as you would have if you had kept your insulin levels more stable during the day and didn’t experience high’s and low’s, but you aren’t going to be a significant disadvantage just because you had those carbohydrates.
What does happen though is that most people who are consuming processed carbohydrates will find that they get this burst of energy, but then it fizzles out and they are left feeling hungrier than they were before.
This then drives them to eat more food and that is what causes them to then go on to experience the weight gain that is potentially going to cause them an issue.
The thing that you need to realize is that carbohydrates do have an essential role in your diet plan.
if you are trying to build muscle, they are what fuels the entire process. Carbohydrates are incredibly anabolic (tissue building), so without them, you are doing yourself a serious disservice.
You’ll never be able to put in the intense effort required to build muscle optimally without them.
For fat loss purposes, you need them as well. People may think that very low carb diets are the best way to approach fat burning, but this does come with its own set of drawbacks.
Sure, hunger may be lower on very low carb diets and your body may begin to burn fat rather than glucose, but your carbohydrate intake is going to significantly influence your levels of leptin it the body.
This is a hormone that basically tells your body if a potential famine (read: threat) is lurking and if it is, helps ensure that you don’t starve to death.
So you know that nagging hunger you feel while dieting?
Or that low energy level that makes it nearly impossible to just get out of bed?
Or the fact that you’d rather look at a pint of ice cream than your naked husband or your boyfriend?
That’s all leptin at work. It’s trying to get you to eat more calories and come off your diet. Your body doesn’t want to be very lean. It was designed to have some extra padding as bodyfat is storage for times of caloric deprivation. Therefore, when something threatens this, it has mechanisms in place to bring it out of it.
By adding more carbs in your diet, you keep leptin levels regulated better, therefore you can side step all these problems that occur. When leptin drops too much, your metabolic rate will also sharply decline and this will really put the breaks on fat loss progress.
You know the dreaded fat loss plateau? 9/10 it comes from leptin levels that are dropping. If you can bring leptin levels up again, you can get out of this sticking point. Carbohydrates are the way to do that.
Just know that when it comes to carbohydrates and fat loss, choices make the biggest difference. Rather than eating some candy, eat a banana. Rather than having a slice of bread, eat some oatmeal.
By fueling your body with carbohydrates lower on the GI index, you prevent the blood glucose spike that’s so problematic with your carbohydrate intake.
And let’s not forget that some of the healthiest foods on earth: aka fruits and vegetables are also primarily carbohydrate rich foods.
While they don’t contain as many carbs as say a bagel or a muffin would have, they do still contain carbohydrates. To cut these out would be a real shame because the body does need them to maintain optimal health status.
Mistake #11: Body Part Splits
Does your workout look a little something like this:
Monday : Back
Friday: Legs and Glutes
If it even resembles something close to the above, this could be your next problem. Body part splits are not for most people.
Who are they for?
Pros. Seriously though. If you have enough muscle mass and hardly any extra body fat and you don’t even need to be reading this article, then you can go ahead with your body part split.
Everyone else (and yes, that means you) should be doing a split that focuses on large compound muscle groups trained together.
Back and arms.
Chest, shoulders and triceps.
Legs (total, not just glutes!).
Or, you might even separate it up into upper and lower body. Or whole body workouts.
These are the ways that you’re going to see greater success. When you can work multiple muscle fibers at once in a workout session, you’re almost always going to get better results because of it.
You’ll stimulate more of a hormonal release for both muscle building and fat loss, you’ll burn more calories, you’ll get your heart rate up higher, and you’ll be able to lift more weight, which means superior strength gains.
What’s not to love?
The big problem with body part splits is that they aren’t going to be stimulating the muscles often enough to get you the results that you’re looking for. You’ll hit them once per week, at best, and this is simply going to cause your body to lag behind.
At bare minimum, you should be working a muscle group once every 5 days. If you’re hitting it less frequently than this, you aren’t growing muscle very effectively. You may be successful in burning fat since fat loss is more about calories in versus calories out, but you won’t be seeing much in the way of muscle gain.
So have a good look at your program. Could it use some tweaking?
Mistake #12: Cardio Bunny Syndrome
This ties in nicely with the next mistake that’s so often made by those who are trying to create their transformation but going horribly wrong.
Cardio bunny syndrome.
You may laugh at thinking about this but if you’re doing more than 3-4 hours of cardio training a week, you are that cardio bunny.
Women especially are bred to believe that cardio is for them.
Gyms typically cater to this. Walk into any commercial gym and it’s highly likely that you’ll still see a larger percentage of women doing cardio training than strength training and vice versa for men.
The notion here is that cardio is for fat loss and weight lifting is for muscle building and this is what the two genders want for themselves.
Fortunately as more women are reading information about transforming their body they are realizing that weight lifting can be for them too and are getting started with a program plan.
This is great news and will definitely help move them in the right direction. However you may still be caught up in cardio bunny syndrome. Only now you may think that you need to do both strength training and cardio.
While some cardio is fine – recommended even to keep your heart health in check, too much cardio is never a good thing.
- Lead to the loss of lean muscle mass tissue (something you definitely don’t want!)
- Lead to overuse injuries
- Lead to workout boredom, which may then cause you to fall off your workout program entirely
- Lead to lack of recovery
There’s just no need for that much cardio. If you feel you need to do an hour of cardio a day to avoid weight gain, you’re either misled or you need to make some changes to your diet.
In fact, most women find that when they stop doing so much cardio, they may actually begin looking leaner. This is because with that much exercise, it’s normal for the lower body especially to become chronically inflammed and this can cause you to look a bit ‘puffy’ looking.
So dropping cardio means the inflammation can finally subside and what’s left is a more shapely you.
So I urge you, decrease your cardio. Focus on heavy and hard weight training instead. If you put the energy you would have spent doing cardio training into that, you will see better results.
Mistake #13: Neglecting Lifestyle Factors
Finally, last but certainly not least we have lifestyle factors. I’m talking about all those things you do when you’re not in the gym or eating a meal.
All of these can influence your results for better or worse so it’s important to take them into account. By being more mindful, you may just increase your chances of success.
Here’s how they should play out.
If you’re not getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night, your resting metabolic rate can go down and cortisol can go up. Together, this means a higher chance of weight gain.
Too much stress also raises cortisol, a catabolic hormone that can increase your risk of lean muscle mass and encourage fat gain in the midsection.
Too much work and no play makes Jane overweight and unfit. Have some fun! It’ll also help lower cortisol and may provide mood boosting benefits, which can have positive carry over effects on your motivation.
Been a while since you’ve seen your bestie? Call her up. Socialization helps out for the same reasons as relaxation does. Ironic how these two go hand in hand.
Drinking, if you really want to make your best transformation, is a no-no. While you may not have to cut out your girls-night-out wine night once a month, you should abstain from drinking most of the time.
Drinking also raises cortisol, halts the fat burning process, and adds loads of calories. All things that work against you. The only thing it may help you with is the relaxation and socialization elements above.
But it’s perfectly possible to achieve those over a cup of coffee.
Ah, last but not least, have some fun between the sheets. Seriously though, sex can help lower cortisol significantly and even boost testosterone. As a woman, you don’t have much testosterone but what you do have helps burn fat and build muscle.
So get busy.
Think of it as your workout away from the gym.
So there you have it. 13 of the biggest mistakes that women make as they go about their transformation.
How many of these are you making?
What do you need to eliminate?
Even if you can just make a few simple changes, the results can be profound so don’t hesitate to get on it. It’ll make a world of difference.
1. Chan, Jean L., et al. “The role of falling leptin levels in the neuroendocrine and metabolic adaptation to short-term starvation in healthy men.” The Journal of clinical investigation111.9 (2003): 1409-1421.
2. Piatti, P. M., et al. “Hypocaloric high-protein diet improves glucose oxidation and spares lean body mass: comparison to hypocaloric high-carbohydrate diet.” Metabolism 43.12 (1994): 1481-1487.
3. Wadden, Thomas A., et al. “Short-and long-term changes in serum leptin in dieting obese women: effects of caloric restriction and weight loss.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 83.1 (1998): 214-218.