Many people, particularly ladies, have the goal of “toning up” when they hit the gym. Basically, to not have large but rather defined muscles. It’s a common goal and a good one. Thing is, most people also go about this the wrong way as to avoid looking like this:
If your goal is to look like this, more power to you, but this post isn’t really about you.
There is a common misconception out there that this huge, muscular look is achieved by lifting heavy weights over and over again. It’s partially true, but that’s only half of the equation.
As with anything relating to getting fit, there is a basic formula that we follow:
Results = Activity + Nutrition x Consistency
While lifting heavy weights consistently will produce strength and muscle gains, we usually leave nutrition out as a factor, which is a huge oversight. In order to build muscle to this capacity, one must EAT SUBSTANTIALLY to facilitate that level of growth. That generally means eating well beyond basic calorie suggestions, and creating a surplus of calories (basically eat more than you burn throughout the day.) What does this mean for you? YOU WILL NOT GET TREMENDOUSLY HUGE JUST BY LIFTING WEIGHTS. Your nutrition plays a huge role in making these gains, and arguably other supplements at different levels.
“Ok, yeah, I know this, but if I want to tone up, I just need to lift light weights for more reps right?” NO.
What lifting lighter weights for high reps does is help increase your muscular endurance- how long your muscles can work before getting tired. This type of training has its place in a well balanced program, but it alone will not get you “toned”. The bottom line is that the more muscle you have, the more fat you will burn. Period. Muscular endurance training, or “light weight for a lot of reps” doesn’t necessarily lead to much increased muscle size. Strength training does.
Many studies have shown that strength training can lead to more fat loss than traditional cardio alone. This is a great benefit because, aesthetically speaking, when we say “tone up” we really mean lose the layer of fat covering our muscles so that we can see definition. I know, I know, you’re thinking “but I don’t want those huge muscles.” That’s where nutrition comes in. You simply don’t eat for a surplus like a body builder looking to bulk up. Incorporate strategic cardio into your program (more on this next week.) Voila. Not so much huge body builder look, but rather a defined, svelte sexy look.
So there you have it. Basically, more muscle = more fat burn. Nutrition is vital in determining how much muscle you gain, so you won’t look like Arnold Schwarzenegger just because you lift heavy. Workout to be strong by lifting heavier, because strong is the new beautiful.
Stay tuned for follow up posts later in the week and next week!
To your health and wellness,
Martin Arroyo, CPT