Women have all heard that high repetitions with lighter weights tones muscles, but is there a more effective way to get the results you desire?
A body that is toned, lean and long is the goal of so many women I train and talk to on a daily basis. This desire for a long and lean physique is thought to be achieved by toning of the muscles with high repetitions of exercises using light weights. Many women think they want to tone their muscles, meaning they want to make them look better without making them bigger, when what they really want to do is sculpt their bodies. Let's take a look at what all these fancy words mean.
More muscle equals good, less muscle equals fat.
Having more muscle makes you look better and burns more fat than having less muscle. Now here's the dirty little secret. Toning doesn't build muscle! Tone comes from the Latin word tonus, specifically referring to the normal tension or firmness of a muscle not deliberately being flexed. Tone can be improved by lifting weights, but it is not something that is visible to the human eye. Having your sights set on improving your muscles in a way that doesn't give you visible results doesn't make much sense. That's not to say that lifting light weights with high repetitions doesn't have its place in a well-balanced workout program, but there's a better way to get the body you desire.
The solution to getting the results you want is to lift heavier weights and sculpt your body. Body sculpting, as opposed to toning, is a much more effective way to change your body in the way that you desire. Sculpting refers to the reduction of excess fat with simultaneous growth of muscle that leaves you with a "sculpted" physique. The more muscle you build, the higher your metabolism, the more calories you burn, the better you will look and feel.
"But I don't want to look like the Hulk."
Most women who are looking to decrease body fat and "tone up" eventually ask me if they should be lifting heavier weights and if doing so with make them bulky. The answer is yes and no. Lifting weights heavy enough to induce muscular stress will cause the body to repair the stressed tissue by rebuilding it. Simply put, if the weight isn't challenging, your muscles won't grow. If your muscles won't grow, they won't look any better.
But what about getting bulky? Women think that lifting heavy weights will make them turn into the some grotesque body-builder-looking monster. Not to worry, ladies. The good news and bad news is that it's nearly impossible for a normal women to achieve that bulky look unless you happen to be a genetic outlier, spending several hours a day lifting weights, and taking performance-enhancing drugs. Women do not have enough of the male hormone testosterone to get big and bulky muscles, but that also means that you have to work a lot harder than your male counterparts at achieving the same growth in muscle.
Pick up a pair of challenging weights and leave the light dumbbells on the rack.
I'm going to reiterate a very important point. You have to build muscle in order to achieve your desired results. Results come from hard work, which all women I see in they gym are already capable of. Think about the catchphrases made popular by Jane Fonda, "feel the burn" and "no pain, no gain" that embody the concept of working out past the point of experiencing muscle aches. Now, I'm not saying you should go out and push yourself past the point of exhaustion every workout, but if you're not feeling the burn after 12 to15 repetitions, then your weights are too light. Most women are willing to put in the hard work, so do something that will get you the best results. Sculpt your body and leave the toning on the rack with the light dumbbells.
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Teddy Bass is a nationally certified NASM/ACE personal fitness trainer to some of Hollywood's top celebrities, and the creator of the RockBottomBody training program. Teddy actively continues his studies with a focus on nutrition, kinesiology, strength training, flexibility, and biomechanics. His unique training philosophy encourages the unity of mind, body, and soul for a "complete body" experience.