A large portion of people who join a gym have goals of losing weight and toning up, but they go about it the wrong way. Let’s take Chloe as an example, Chloe is a mum to 2 young boys and has put on a couple of extra kilos over the years due to her busy schedule. After her pregnancy, life got hectic, and instead of being able to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night, she’s lucky if she’s managed more than 3-4 hours each night for the last couple of years. Not to mention, instead of having the time to choose healthy meals each day, she’s resorted to snacking on some cheese and carrots as she’s busy preparing meals for her kids and husband. Breakfast was a luxury that she can barely remember, instead she’s cleaning up after the kids in the morning and getting them ready for school. And exercise? … Well chasing after kids is considered exercise right?
With all this going on, it’s no surprise that the weight has slowly crept up on Chloe but finally she’s managed to free up her schedule a little, enough to join the gym because she’s fed up with how she can’t fit into her old jeans anymore. So she goes in for her first session, unsure of what to do and a little embarrassed that she hasn’t had the time to look after her body better. Self conscious about not wanting to look like a dork, she goes with what she knows how to do, climbing onto a stationary bike while looking around to see what everybody else is doing. A fit young lady with a body that Chloe would die for is running on the treadmill and she makes a mental note to try that out later. Over in a corner, another lady is doing some sit-ups, again Chloe makes a mental note to try that out because sit-ups are good for abs right? Suddenly she hears two loud thumps that reverberate throughout the gym and she turns towards the sound, just in time to see a massive mountain of a man high five and chest bump his buddy after completing some kind of exercise. She makes a mental note to never go into that section of the gym because those guys are intimidating and she wants to lose weight, she doesn’t want to get big muscles.
It’s at this point where most people make decisions about their gym routine which will affect their fitness journey for the rest of their lives. They see other people with physiques they find appealing and think that by doing those exercises, they’ll get to where they want to be. In contrast, they see people with physiques they don’t find appealing and shy away from the exercises they see these people doing. With little to no knowledge of how or why they are performing the exercises, they follow in blind faith hoping that they’ll succeed in reaching their goals. To add to this, social media has proliferated an ungodly amount of fitness models who spread rubbish and misinformation while gaining huge followings mainly because of the way they look. One opinion that has been spread in the fitness industry is that lifting heavy weights will make you bulky, while lifting light weights for more reps will help you tone up. This blanket statement is easy to misinterpret but let me try to break it down into something easier to understand:
When our muscles are put under stress that it’s not used to, the body adapts to make our muscles stronger/bigger so that we can handle that stress better in the future. The reason we lift weights is to add additional resistance to stress the muscles. However, there are different training styles that will produce different adaptations. The main ones include power, strength, hypertrophy and endurance. Strength based training programs will have you lifting heavy weight for a small rep range. Power based training programs will have you lifting moderate weight with speed and explosiveness. Hypertrophy based training programs will have you lifting moderate weights for a large rep range to increase muscle size. Finally, Endurance based training programs will have you lifting light to moderate weights for long periods of time without stopping.
Notice that toning is not included in the above mentioned training styles … this is because “toning” is not a training method. Toning is defined as decreasing body fat while maintaining or increasing muscle size so that you will be able to see muscle definition. Decreasing body fat falls under nutrition, you can’t outtrain a bad diet. If your nutrition isn’t on point, no matter what you do in the gym, it won’t help you tone up. Now you might be saying “but what about HIIT? I’ve heard it burns fat faster so I can use it to tone up right?” This is another myth propagated by the fitness industry to sell group fitness classes. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a training style that combines hypertrophy with endurance and is a great method of burning calories, but it still doesn’t do anything if your nutrition isn’t up to scratch. Not to mention, HIIT drains your central nervous system so if you’re doing more than 1 or 2 HIIT sessions per week, you can expect to feel tired and lethargic, leading you to eat more which defeats the purpose of doing HIIT in the first place.
If your goal is to lose weight and tone up, my suggestion would be to get yourself onto a strength and hypertrophy program. The weights you will be lifting won’t be light, they will be around a 7 or 8 out of 10 in terms of heaviness. Then get yourself onto a caloric deficit with your nutrition so that you’re burning more energy each day than you’re getting from eating food. After that, be consistent and patient, the body fat will decrease and you’ll reach your goals of getting nice and toned.
If you’re interested in working with me, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can have a chat about how I can help you on your fitness journey.
Til next time,