Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Good Girls Tone, Bad Girls Lift

Posted by PicasaI love this shirt, it says it all. There is really nothing that is more offensive to me than a trainer who talks about "toning". There is no such thing as lifting weights for toning, you either lift big weights and get stronger and bigger or you lift itty bitty tiny ones and get squat.

I see people doing it everyday at the gym and it really is a shame. They have made the effort to actually go to the gym, but when they get there, they waste their time.

A very good explanation of "toning" can be found in my book Practical Programming for Strength Training by Rippetoe & Kilgore.

The modern fitness industry's concept of "toning" muscles is specious- it might sound cool, but it lacks any tangible and definable meaning. The term "muscle tone" or tonus describes an electrophysiological phenomenon, a measure of ionic flow across muscle cell membranes. It can be thought of as the muscle's readiness to do anaerobic work. The more "fit" the muscle, the more electrophysiological activity it exhibits at rest.

Lack of exercise leads to poor tone, aerobic exercise improves tone a little bit, low-intensity weight training improves tone more, and high-intensity training improves tone the fastest.

As a test, go poke the traps or quads of an elite weightlifter at rest, if she'll let you. They'll be hard as rock. The same muscles of an elite road cyclist at rest will be firm, but not hard.

Then compare both athlete's muscle tone to that of a sedentary person. The results will be quite enlightening.

Most exercise programs that claim to improve muscle tone are actually lower-intensity hypertrophy programs and are only moderately effective for improving muscle tone. If "tone" is the goal, strength is the method.

So go out and lift some heavy weights!
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