It’s the most common fitness demographic and the industry’s highest source of revenue: women trying to lose weight and “tone” their bodies. They want that magazine cover look with the small waist, tight abs and a bangin’ butt. It’s a very common goal with an even more common term: getting toned. Having a high female client base, I have heard this many times. The majority have a regular exercise routine that consists of Pinterest and Goodlife 3 to 4 days of the week. With so much information just a click away, many women look up workouts or exercises on social media (Pinterest particularly), save it to their phone and complete it at the gym. Many of them chasing that rockin’ beach body that seems to elude so many of us. But why do we not see results?
First off, I must commend many women on their efforts. In all seriousness, they are giving their all and trying their best in order to get what they want. They wake up early, look up a program and consistently work at it. That’s the toughest part in my opinion. Getting started and maintaining a routine is extremely difficult and many of these women already have it figured out. All they require is a little education and the courage to step out of their comfort zone. I am talking about ditching the treadmill and reaching for a barbell (Gasp!). Much research has come out in the past few years highlighting the importance of strength training to fat loss. In summary, it’s one of the most effective ways to not only lose fat but keep it off while eating a normal diet.
To start, I want to talk about the word toned. From my understanding, when women tell me they want to look toned they mean they want to lose fat and show off some muscle definition. You know what that sounds like? Hypertrophy. Ladies, there is no such thing as toned. You build muscle and lose fat. It may sound unfeminine, but it’s what you are after. I’m hoping after reading this that you’ll not only gain an understanding about the benefits of lifting but also shed any fear or misconceptions about what lifting heavy is associated with. I guarantee that with a little knowledge you too will lift like a man to look like a woman. The reality is that in order to show off your muscles, you first have to build some.
There is a common misconception
about steady-state cardio and fat loss. Yes, doing long steady-state cardio will help you lose weight. When I say weight, I am referring to both fat AND muscle. In other words, you simply become a smaller version of what you already are. I know what you’re thinking: “I want fat loss, but I want some definition to show”. I don’t blame you. Nobody brags about having a flat butt. The truth is that in order to look “toned”, you must have muscle to show off! Simply running for long periods of time won’t do it for you. You want a plumb bum? Stop steady-state cardio. You are actually doing yourself a disservice. Don’t believe me? Look at the athletes that participate in steady-state cardio. They typically are marathon runners or triathletes. Take a good look at their bodies and you’ll notice a common theme. They are usually skinnier builds with outstanding gas tanks. They have incredible stamina but let’s face it, you don’t care about that. After all, you can’t flex cardio.
A common concern women have with lifting weights is the fear of looking bulky or “manly”. They’ve seen female bodybuilders or weight fanatics and are a bit concerned. Well you don’t have to be. You are a woman and therefore have very different hormones that prevent you from developing a masculine physique. Heck, many men intently try to achieve a bulky look and struggle. The truth is that many women you see bodybuilding are taking anabolic substances to assist them in gaining muscle. It should also be noted that they need to take a lot of it to sustain that growth. The average woman has nothing to fear when it comes to bulking up.
Here’s what you need to know. The best tool to make other women jealous of you is a barbell. It’s that simple. Use it to lunge, lift, squat, press and pull. Even if a barbell is too much at first, pick up some dumbbells and keep going. In order to sculpt your body, you need to lift heavier weight consistently. This will not only get you the shape you want, but also make you a metabolic machine. Muscle is a calorie consumer and a large one at that. In order to sustain itself, more energy is required. Where does it come from? Typically fat stores.
To put it in perspective, if you gain an extra 5 pounds of muscle you may be burning an additional 500 calories sitting around doing nothing. Doesn’t that sound awesome? You can forget about starving yourself since your new found physique requires much more energy to function. Those people that spend hours jogging do become smaller individuals. I can’t argue that but unfortunately they sacrifice precious muscle. They become a smaller version of their already out of shape selves with a lower caloric requirement. It’s a common problem cardio junkies have. The rebound is common as many cannot alter their diet to restrict calories. But why should you? Build more muscle so you can eat! Trying to maintain a lower caloric intake would make anybody cranky, so stop doing it.
I understand it may be a bit scary but just get started. The formula is simple. Lift heavier longer and eat good food when you are hungry. Forget about jogging for an hour or stepping on the scale. Live by the mirror and tape measure. Forget about becoming smaller and think about improving figure. For those ladies who already have a routine, it’s time to mix things up. You don’t have to give up cardio completely, but refine it to make it more beneficial. Try higher intensity sprints and circuit based training. Grab some heavy dumbbells and take a walk or throw a plate on a sled and push! There are many ways to “feel the burn” without having to jog mindlessly for hours every week. You want defined arms? Good, grab the bar and lift. Want a chiseled tummy? Good, grab the bar and lift. Want a scrumptious ass? Good, grab the bar and lift. Like I said, you can’t flex cardio.
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Matrixx specializes in adolescent athletic development. He coaches some of the top athlete prospects coming out of high school in the Niagara region. He also works with dedicated members of the community who are passionate about improving personal fitness. Matrixx is also the author of The Iron Guide to Building Muscle.