This is a rant. Be ready.
Today’s rant is brought to you by the letter “T” for toning. My frustration for this arises from the process of “toning”. It’s incorrect and will not lead to your desired body composition goals. Typically, toning consists of lots and lots of cardio and if there is any lifting, it’s with weights that are waaaaaaaaayyyy too light to elicit any effect.
Let’s be clear:
When people say “tone”, it usually means something like reducing body fat and seeing muscle definition like abs. I understand that’s not everyone’s goal, but that’s been my experience with “toners”.
The process of hours and hours of cardio is wrong if you want to achieve the goal listed above. I see plenty of people on treadmills and ellipticals that don’t need to be on this equipment. A lot of people are already at or around the weight and body fat percent necessary to see the body composition effects if they had more muscle mass. That’s where we err. Pick things up and put them down more often than you do now and, over time, you’ll see amazing changes. You’ll see those abs, or that separation between your bicep and tricep, or whatever else it is you’re searching for.
Here’s a personal example. A few years ago, I was upset that my quads weren’t showing that separation between the muscles (I know, first world problems). My body fat was around 10-12%. At that range, you would see this separation that I’m mentioning if you had the muscle mass. Alas, it wasn’t there :(. However, I kept training, changed up my routine, and lo and behold, the separation began to show after about a year or so! Now, my body fat is slightly higher than before, yet the separation is still there simply because I have more muscle mass now! Woohoo!
The issue is the muscle is literally too small in size to be seen through the skin. As you lower your body fat and/or increase the size of your muscles through lifting weights, you’ll be able to see the muscle more. Of course, I recommend the lifting over the body fat reduction-if you’re already at a healthy body fat %-because you’ll be stronger, more resilient, and able to eat more food. Muscles require a lot of energy to function and work during exercise and daily activity. That’s why bodybuilders are downing thousands and thousands of calories a day and why I can eat 4000+ calories a day and stay decently lean :). In no way, shape, or form, am I looking like a bodybuilder though. Let’s make that distinction clear lolz.
So what should I do since cardio won’t help me reach my goals?
SLOW DOWN. First of all, let me say that cardio ABSOLUTELY has its place in fitness. It has been shown to be beneficial for heart health and improving numerous health markers¹. So please don’t think I’m demonizing cardio. But, I think a lot of people are misunderstanding the goals they have and how to attain them.
So, to answer the question, lovely reader, go lift! Lift (smart) and heavy! Learn how to design an exercise program centered around building strength and muscle! Do not be afraid of muscle and gaining it! It takes a very very very very very long time and hours of intense, focused training to look like a bodybuilder, powerlifter, etc. You’re not going to look at a barbell and put on 50lbs of muscle. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that.
Stray away from “toning” and the cardio machines for a bit. They won’t go anywhere. They’re bolted to the floor and heavy as hell. Good luck getting them to go somewhere. Venture over to the free weights area or squat rack. I promise and speak from personal experience when I say that the huge guy or girl are usually very nice and will give advice and suggestions if you ask for it. Because we all started somewhere and are just trying to get better however we can. One way of getting better is trying new things like lifting!
Leave a comment if you need help getting started and we’ll chat about it!