“I just want to get ‘toned’, but not ‘bulky’”, she said.
“I just want my arms, chest, and abs to be lean, and chiseled. I don’t want to look like a bodybuilder”, he said.
These are two of the answers I receive most often when speaking to men and women about their fitness goals. I’m not really sure who educated so many people on exercise science, but it is particularly clear that there are obvious misconceptions on what happens when people lift weights. Also, there are some misconceptions on what it takes for someone to reach those goals they stated in their answers.
Because for muscles to become more “toned”, they must grow! Muscle growth in textbooks and literature is called hypertrophy. Hypertrophy of any kind, requires a tremendous amount of work.
Women in general are fearful that if they lift heavier weights, they will turn into this:
In reality, this woman has spent countless hours, and many years in the gym lifting thousands of reps. She has also subjected herself to various anabolic steroids, and estrogen blockers to get passed what the female body produces. Women, unfortunately are at a disadvantage for muscle growth because they naturally produce very small amounts of testosterone and large amounts of estrogen, making a very unfavorable environment for hypertrophy.
Men are infatuated with building a chiseled chest, arms and abs. The challenge they face is that two things need to happen – muscles need to grow (anabolic metabolism needed) and fat needs to be burned (catabolic metabolism needed). Since two different metabolic processes are required, something has to give! Generally speaking, that guy does not eat enough calories per day to keep his metabolism anabolic, and thus builds very little muscle. He does however contribute to the fat loss, but doesn’t see the results he wants!
For any person, man or woman, who wants to improve the look of their butts, arms, chest, [insert body part], several factors need to be in consideration:
1. Need a caloric surplus – It doesn’t need to be much (a few hundred calories/day), but you have to eat more calories than you burn to induce hypertrophy. As you build muscle, that muscle burns extra calories as well.
2. Muscles need to spend significant time under at least moderately “heavy” resistance. “Heavy” is always relative to an individual’s strength.
3. Muscles must be constantly challenged, as they adapt to workouts very quickly. Workout Volume, Intensity(weight) and frequency must be balanced accordingly
Volume can be quantified by Weight x Sets x Reps
An example of increasing volume over time looks like this:
100lbs x 3 sets x 10 reps
110lbs x 4 sets x 8 reps
Workout 1 consisted of 30 total reps x 100lbs each equaling 3000lbs of volume. Workout 2 consisted of 32 total reps x 110lbs equaling 3520lbs of volume.
All of this can be very confusing for someone who doesn’t have an extensive background in fitness and nutrition. Ultimately this means that the investment of a trainer and nutritionist is absolutely critical.
Challenge yourself in the gym! Pick exercises and weights that build muscle. Watch that muscle burn fat!
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