There Is No Such Thing As “Toning”
I had this conversation with a woman just yesterday. For probably the thousandth time.
“I need to get my exercise program dialed in. I just want to be more toned.”
“What does ‘toned’ mean to you?”
“You know, nice toned muscles, but not too big.”
“Right. So you’re saying that you want to be able to see your strong muscles?” [trick question]
“Yeah, I guess. I just don’t want to end up looking like a bodybuilder.”
“I promise you that you will not wake up one day and look like an extremely muscular bodybuilder. You are female, and you’re not taking steroids. The likelihood that you are going to accidentally get too muscular is approximately zero.”
“So I need to lift heavier? Like, squats and deadlifts?”
Let’s get one thing clear: there’s no such thing as “toning.” You can make muscles stronger, and you can lose body fat so that they are more visible (this is where good dietary choices come in). But doing light weight, hi-rep exercises to avoid “bulking up” means that you are improving your muscular endurance, but you’re not getting stronger. And if there is one thing that I have learned about physical capacity for healthy, happy, sexy, useful humans that age gracefully, it’s this: strength matters. And you don’t have to look like a competitive powerlifter to be strong and useful. (And don’t underestimate the influence of diet on how well you can see those shapely muscles).