Strength Training for Fat Loss? What "Toning Up" Really Means
Updated: Jan 23
For any of you looking for that "toned" look, please understand what that means. It is muscle. It is having a body fat percentage that is suitable for allowing muscle definition to show through. Anyone can lose weight on the scale. But what happens when you lose that weight, and you find yourself looking like a smaller version of your previous self --with still no "tone" to show? Chances are that any muscle you DID have has disappeared with the weight loss. Oops!
Allow me to explain.
Putting on muscle will make fat loss easier and THEN, you will be able to see the definition [tone] you have been aiming for.
If your workouts in the gym ONLY look like circuit training, minimal rest between exercises, going until you can't go anymore, sweating enough to create a place to swim, or just tons of cardio-- you are not training in a manner that allows you to develop enough strength or muscle to match the goal of seeing da muscle. And a LOT of women in particular are training this way while trying to eat like baby birds. Well, not REALLY eating worms I hope, but you get my point.
People have become so focused on monitors for everything. They feel the proof of a good workout is not just how much you sweat but how many calories you burn during the session. I can hear them shouting in my head:
~~"Where's the heart rate now?! We gotta do everything we can to make it stay there! Let's obsess and fear over every-single-calorie we've consumed and burn them at ALL COSTS! Calories are evil! And yo, we gotta record this shiz diz and post it on SM or it didn't happen!"
So you wear yourself out counting everything but still the process is not helping you achieve your desired look or weight loss. Heck, maybe it did work for a few weeks and now you wonder why your appetite is OUT OF CONTROL. You feel like: "Like, I really may eat that kitchen counter".
So what's a better way to exercise to get lean and to LOOK like you work out? You'll need to lift heavy enough where you will HAVE to REST between sets. Seriously, boot camp lovers. Rest is required for building muscle mass and a significant amount of strength that will hang around even when you lose body fat. And that muscle mass is what will improve your metabolism, aid with fat loss and improve body composition. And boot camp is cool, but Girl. Let's do something else for a minute!
You see, anytime you lose fat or diet, you are gonna lose some muscle. It just is. The thought makes me develop tears. But you can lessen the muscle that you lose by heavier lifting. So, what is lifting heavy? Some think they are lifting heavy after it starts to BURN or their breathing is out of control. Because that trainer said so. Or they just lift their 5 lb purse 100 times because they are afraid of getting "too bulky"--because that celebrity trainer said that too.
Lifting heavy for strength is generally considered 1 to 5 reps and NEEDING at least 2-5 minutes in order to recover enough to lift that again for the same amount of reps.
Oh, that's all? That sounds easy, right? 5 measly reps! HA!
No "ha-ha's" about it if you are lifting heavy enough. You'll also want to work in higher rep ranges to reap the benefits of increasing muscle.. generally around what's heavy for 8-12 reps...and occasionally a little higher.
So back to those other types of workouts. Are they BAD?! No!
And they can be great when placed in the right dosage-- which is probably less than you think. And then, probably even less than THAT thought you just had. I'm in your head.
Try doing a few sets of lower rep compound lifts at the start of your workout. These could even be body weight exercises for a beginner. Examples: Squat, deadlift, bench press, push up, pull up variations, or rows. Add in some accessory exercises to enhance muscle growth after those main lifts--something that is heavy for 8-15 reps there. You'll need less rest with that rep range, 1-2 minutes depending on the individual. And smart programming will help you make the most out of those rest times. Other times, you just need to rest and chill the heck out and save your energy for the next set. Because now you are a LIFTER OF HEAVY SHIZ DIZ and getting RESULTS. You are realizing that wow, sleeves are ACTUALLY stupid! Hoo-rah!
You don't have to have beat-you-into-the-ground sessions every workout. I promise that won't make you a Superhero. Take my word for it. Tried that once upon a time. Still Emily. Though, since I changed the way I train from years past, I am now healthier, more energized, and more bulletproof to injuries. It feels GOOD to be strong. Everything is easier. Even cardio! And ya know, on more rare occasions, those Beatcha Up workouts are fun. Not necessary. But fun--for me ;)
Remember, more is not always better. Better is better.
And yep, Nutrition is still #1.