*TOPIC: “TONING” IS “BUILDING MUSCLE” – LEARN OF THE 5 MYTHS OR STAY BLISSFULLY IGNORANT! – ME @ WEEK 12/52 of Women’s Health and Fitness Magazine Cover Model Comp!


This week I am week 12/52 of my next body transformation and what a highlight this week has been. Strength and Conditioning Sprints Sessions on the track are now being fused into my Weights Training, Core, HIIT and Myofascial Release sessions. Every heart rate, calorie burned and macronutrient is strategically tracked so it may help both Coach George and myself design the training and menu plan for each level and style of training I undertake to reach my body composition goal i.e. to grow lean muscle and reduce body fat.

Well let me just put it out there – MY INTENTION for this post is to draw your attention to the SCAM of the modern fitness world that was created by women and is fueling many of the health issues women embody today! Please do read on…

Now lets get right to the point of the scam we all have entertained at some point in our lives. “Toning” is a word created by the mainstream fitness industry to attract women to lifting weights. If I had a $1 for every time a teenage girl or woman said “I just want to get toned…” and “I don’t want to get big and bulky, just more toned” I would be well on my way to South America for my next siesta.

I hear you ask “How do you get toned?”… By lifting weights; I mean seriously lifting weights! Not doing a few easy sets of 10-20 reps with pink plastic dumbbells.

Now have you noticed that you have been lifting 1-4kg weights for years now and don’t look much more “toned”? Mmm this method is virtually the same for everyone, whether you want to get big, strong and muscular or sleek and toned. You need to lift to your true potential, progressively and consistently as well as eat real foods that meet your macronutrient needs and only then will you add muscle and reduce body fat. The result will be you looking more muscular and “toned” in reference to your fitness goal/s.

Pretty much all “toning” is, is gaining lean muscle mass. But, for some reason most women are afraid of that and think they are going to look like the wrestler Hulk Hogan. I like many of my peers believe the word “toned” was made up just for women who have these fears. From a commercial gym perspective – if throwing in the word “toned” here and there gets women into the gym to lift some weights, that’s great, I am not complaining about that. Like I always say there is place for beach boot camps, franchise gyms, women’s exercise studios etc… They all play a part in getting you off the couch and moving at one end of the spectrum and achieving your fitness/athlete training goals at the other end. But, wise up! It’s a marketing scheme and a brilliant one at that!!!

Each one of you has an idea in your head when it comes to looking your fittest and healthiest. For some, it’s fitting perfectly into a certain pair of jeans, or walking on the beach in a bikini with absolute confidence. For others, it may mean seeing a defined midsection reflected in the mirror, or having strong, toned shoulders/back or legs/glutes. We all have our own goals for how we want to look, feel and BE an image of. Even though your specific goals may be different from those of others, almost everyone wants to look and feel toned and fit.

What is Toning? 

When most people say that they want to “tone up,” what they usually mean is that they want to become leaner and longer. Basically, they want to lose body fat, and add a little muscle definition – but not so much muscle mass that they look like a bodybuilder or wrestler.

In the fitness world, there is no real definition for toning that is greatly recognized by the professionals. Rather, the term “toning”  is used to describe the end goal, which usually results from a combination of basic weight lifting and fat burning.

What is Bulking?

What is considered “typical”, is men want to “bulk up” and women usually wish to avoid building big and bulky muscles. There is no strict definition, “bulking up” means adding a lot of muscle mass to the body and possibly reducing one’s body fat, too. Please note that it also refers to adding a lot of muscle mass and not loosing body fat. Bulking up does bring to mind images of bodybuilders, big football players, olympic weight lifters – usually male and usually beefy!

Toning, on the other hand, “typically” refers to pilates/dance instructors and Hollywood starlets who have lower amounts of body fat and some visible muscle, but not huge muscles.

So DEFINITIONS now explained, let’s move on to the facts and the fallacies about “toning up” and “bulking up”. 

Myth 1. Lifting light weights will tone your body lean and lifting heavy weights will bulk you up 

Truth: For years this idea has stuck – that heavy weights will bulk you up – and erroneously makes many people, both men and women, afraid of lifting heavy weights. While there is some truth to the notion that lifting lighter weights for more reps does a better job of increasing the muscular endurance, lighter weights will not help you “tone” better than heavy weights. The fact is, because heavier weights build the strength of your muscles as well as size to a small degree (not the size of the Incredible Hulk), thereby helping to increase your metabolism and burn fat, lifting heavier weights with fewer reps (8-12 on average) and working until you’re fatigued is more effective at helping you reach your toning goals than lifting lighter weights. Also as this is more time efficient, you will more likely stick to your training regime.

Myth 2: Building muscle and bulking up are exactly the same

Truth: For those of you who have been avoiding weights because you think that building muscle means that you’ll bulk up, think again… When you lift weights that are challenging, you do actually create micro-tears in the muscle fibers. These tears are then repaired by the body and this is where soreness comes from i.e. DOMS. It’s in that process of tear and repair that the muscle becomes stronger and a little bit bigger. However, because muscle tissue is more dense than fat, adding a little bit more muscle to your body and decreasing your fat actually makes you look leaner and defined not bigger and bulky. Keeping fat under your skin rather than muscle makes you look bigger!!!

To really bulk up, you have to really work with that goal in mind in both your physical training and food preparation. Bodybuilders spend hours and hours in the gym lifting extremely heavy weights, along with eating a very strict diet that delivers their required macronutrients and promotes muscle gain. Let me break this to you gently – the average person’s workout and diet, especially a calorie-controlled diet, doesn’t result in the same effects of bodybuilding. 

Myth 3: Lifting light weights won’t help you get stronger 

Truth: When it comes to lifting weights, the secret to really getting stronger isn’t about how much weight you’re lifting in each set. Instead, it’s the process of working your muscle to fatigue where you literally cannot lift the weight for another repetition. The August 2010 study from McMaster University that proved this found that even when subjects lifted lighter weights, they added as much muscle as those lifting heavy weights. However, the time it takes to reach fatigue with light weights is much longer than the time it takes to reach fatigue with heavier weights. So, like I mentioned before if you’re like most people and on a time budget, it makes more sense to go heavy and then go home!

Myth 4: Women and men should lift weights differently

Truth: I see this one time and time again at the gym. It’s pretty common to see women lift 2-4kg dumbbells to do biceps curls while men pick up the 10kg to do the same exercise. For my bicep curls I currently lift 6-7kg dumbbells for 5 sets and so far I am living proof that you will not turn into a bulky looking freak-woman. Firstly, yes men are genetically stronger than women, although they aren’t that much stronger. Secondly, most women tend to stick to the weight machines or basic leg-work that target the glutes and abs, women’s “vanity” muscles, while the guys at the gym are more likely to be seen working out with free weights or using barbells and mainly focusing on their vanity muscles being the biceps and chest.

Obviously gender differences exist and everyone has different fitness goals! But if you really want to lose weight and get lean – no matter if you call that toning or bulking – people of both genders should have a Strength Training  Plan in place that works every major muscle in the body at least 8 to 12 times, using a weight that is heavy enough that the last 2 repetitions are darn hard  if not impossible to lift. Only then is the body challenged enough to create change, grow and adapt, making you stronger and leaner no matter if you’re male or female. Bonus is that lifting this way is also a great way to lose weight as you are actually burning more fat and calories in your workout. 

Myth 5: Certain forms of exercise build longer, leaner muscles

Truth: Many forms of exercise such as pilates and yoga etc claim to lengthen the muscles or develop “lean” muscles, not bulky ones. Light bulb moment and this will shock some: no form of exercise makes muscles “longer” because your muscles do not – and will not – respond to exercise by getting longer. It’s just not how muscles work.

Muscles are actually a certain length because they attach to your bones. Also a wide variety of movements and exercises can help you strengthen your muscles without necessarily making them bigger. This is a fact: you can develop a lot of muscular strength without your muscles ever-increasing in size (girth).

That said, exercises such as yoga, pilates, dance and barre classes can help to increase your flexibility by improving your range of motion at certain joints and improve your posture, which can give you the illusion of feeling and looking longer or taller. But lengthening? NO not possible!!! I am honest enough to say that claims like these are just trying to appeal to people who fear bulking up. 

*By performing your basic exercises every week, progressively adding resistance and increasingly challenging your body, over time you will add muscle mass, decrease body fat and VOILA you will look more “toned”. Therefore you will be more muscular and leaner.

YOU NEED TO FUEL YOUR BODY. Lastly, if you truly want to be “toned” – now I hope I may use the correct term “more muscular” – it’s important to take a good look at your diet. You need to get 4-6 quality meals a day. Eliminate the processed crap you put into your mouth on a regular basis, but treat yourself once a week. Pick a day on the weekend to indulge in your favourite snack or meal and get back to business the rest of the week. You deserve the occasional treat.

DON’T STARVE YOURSELF! Eat! In order to get “toned” LOL “increase your muscle mass”, you need to feed your body with the nutrients it needs to make that muscle. Starving yourself will only result in a temporarily skinnier version of you as your body eats its own tissue for fuel!!! Reality is, if you are pear-shaped, by restricting calories to an unhealthy level you will just be a smaller pear. Bottom line is that you will not change the shape of your body. And sadly, it will not last and here we go again… another round for the “yo-yo dieters and gym junkies”!

Your body is built to be a survivor and will eventually do whatever it has to, in order to make up for those missed calories. Hence why we feel an uncontrollable urge to binge when we deprive ourselves for too long. And, talk about lack of energy and fatigue… It’s hard to exercise when you feel like a slug and just want to crawl under your rock. Food has essential nutrients that help keep your immune system strong and fight off viruses and infections to avoid illness that starvation attracts.

So, regarding this “toning” thing. You’ve been sooo had ladies…the wool pulled over your eyes…sucked in, scammed, fooled, tricked, downright deceived by clever marketing tactics within the mainstream fitness industry. But, not to worry, if the desire to be “toned” has peaked your curiosity about fitness, great! But, let’s enter reality now. “Toned” simply means you will be “adding muscle” or “increasing your lean muscle mass” and at the same time decreasing body fat.

Don’t be afraid of the word MUSCLE, rather learn to desire muscle tone. You will not get big and bulky by lifting weights properly, progressively and consistently and eating a real foods diet.

Trust me,  as a woman the odds are WAAYYY against you! It is best to seek the advise of a Personal Trainer/Nutrition Coach to design a progressive Strength Training Program for you as well as teach you the correct technique and tempo (this is a topic for another post) combined with a balanced Menu Plan.

So, the next time you hear another female say “I don’t want to get big and bulky, just more “toned”!”, DO educate them about the ongoing “toning” scam.

 As a peer once said to me: “NO TONE, NO CHROME, JUST HARD WORK!” xx


5 thoughts on “*TOPIC: “TONING” IS “BUILDING MUSCLE” – LEARN OF THE 5 MYTHS OR STAY BLISSFULLY IGNORANT! – ME @ WEEK 12/52 of Women’s Health and Fitness Magazine Cover Model Comp!

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