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Fitness & Health

11th Jul 2019

Personal trainer explains why ‘toning’ is a total myth

Alex Roberts

When you say you want to get toned, you’re not saying much at all

For most people, toning refers to the pursuit of both muscle gain and fat loss. Unless you’re a complete newbie, these are fitness goals at opposing ends of the spectrum that require a different approach.

In the context of training at the gym, many think you get ‘toned’ from lifting very light weights for a high number of reps.

Personal trainer Brandon Hepburn says the concept of toning is a myth.

“Muscles do not go from soft to hard, or hard to soft. They either shrink or grow in size. Muscles themselves do not ‘firm-up’ or ‘tone’.”

So, how do you actually train to get ‘toned’?

In order to actually build muscle and burn fat, you need to prioritise strength training. But it needn’t be the age-old system of lifting light weights for super-high reps.

Hepburn says, “Just because you are not looking to get ‘bulky’ or add muscle mass doesn’t mean that you should shy away from stressing your muscles with relatively heavy weight (women and men).”

Firstly, lifting heavy weight alone will not make you bulk up. Your hormonal system is largely responsible for that. Men have a vast amount of testosterone and growth hormone that far outweighs women. Lifting won’t make you bulky.

Lifting to get lean

In fact, research even shows that lifting heavier weights may even be preferential for burning fat while retaining muscle definition.

Greek scientists discovered that people lifting weights at 80-85% of their maximum have a better metabolic rate than those working with 40-45% of their personal best.

Hepburn offers clear advice for programming strength training into a weight loss plan.

“Generally, training with a resistance that produces fatigue between 8-12 repetitions works well for most individuals. That doesn’t mean that you can give up after the eighth or 12th repetition, it just means there is no way you can get to 13.

“If you can get 13, then the resistance is not enough. Don’t forget to include cardio conditioning into your fitness programme, in addition to your strength training.”

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