Most people have very different ideas about what it means to be in shape. But many women tend to have similar desires when getting fit. They want to look toned without bulking up like a bodybuilder.
What many don’t understand is that these are two very different physical characteristics that are achieved by very different means.
As a woman, understanding these differences is the key to you being able to achieve a toned, fit body.
The Difference Between Toned and Bulked
When women say they want to get toned, they usually mean that they want to lose fat and become leaner.
This means achieving a solid, firm and athletic body by decreasing your body’s fat percentage while increasing its lean muscle mass.
The key to getting toned is to increase the strength of muscles, without adding to their girth, while also burning fat.
Bulking up, however, requires a totally different approach. Burning fat isn’t the chief concern, although it will be accomplished in the process anyway.
It involves both strengthening and enlarging your muscles. The goal is to increase muscle mass by expanding their girth, or thickness. It is this enlargement of muscles that evokes the typical image of a bodybuilder that women normally want to avoid.
In general, the main goal of women who work out is to tone, with the desired result being a thin, tight body. Men, on the other hand are usually focused on getting bigger.
They want to bulk up and give themselves a more muscular physique. But there are a lot of common myths out there about how each of these goals can be achieved.
Top 9 Myths About Women and Weight Training
- Myth #1: Chest Exercises Will Decrease Your Cup Size
When a woman is not lactating, cup size is determined by the amount of fat deposit the breast contains, not the size of the muscle that lies beneath it.
Myth #2: Building Muscle is the Same as Bulking Up
Although strengthening muscles does make them get a little bit bigger, you’ll end up being the same size, or even smaller, because you’re losing some fat at the same time.
Bulking up requires more than an increase in the size of your existing muscles. It requires the building of new muscle tissue, which takes weight lifting and a diet high in calories and protein to achieve.
- Myth #3: If You Eat Less You Will Lose Weight
Dieting is about eating smarter not necessarily less. If your body doesn’t get enough fuel, it can go into starvation mode to conserve resources.
One thing that happens under this condition is that the metabolism slows significantly. Another is that the body conserves its fat reserves, which will decrease the amount of fat you’re able to burn through exercise.
- Myth #4: Use Light Weights to Tone and Heavy Weights to Bulk
The long-standing belief is that light weights lifted with more reps will tone while heavy weights with fewer reps will bulk.
The only part of this myth that’s true is that heavier weights do require fewer reps. The key to toning, however, is to continue lifting until muscle fatigue prevents you from continuing, regardless of how heavy that weight is.
- Myth #5: Increasing Muscle Strength Will Make You Look Less Feminine
Although fat does give you curves, it is toned muscle that makes those curves more defined. Bulking up requires more than strengthening your muscles.
An increase in muscle mass, which is what occurs when you add bulk, requires a significant increase in caloric intake. That’s not something that’s going to happen by accident.
- Myth #6: Men and Women Should Use Different Weight Lifting Techniques
Although women and men have different areas of the body with which they’re concerned, there is no reason why they should work out differently.
A good strength-training plan should include all the body’s major muscles with a weight heavy enough for them to reach fatigue by the end of their reps.
- Myth #7: You Can Focus Toning on an Individual Part of the Body
Toning involves both strengthening muscle and losing fat. Although exercise can focus on strengthening a specific muscle or set of muscles, fat loss can’t.
When you lose weight in the form of adipose tissue, or body fat, it happens all over the body not in any one specific area. So if your goal is to lose that beer gut, you’ll see results throughout your whole physique.
Myth #8: The Right Kinds of Exercise Can Build Long, Lean Muscles
Exercise strengthens your muscles by sometimes, though not always, increasing their girth. It never makes them longer.
A muscle’s length is determined by its location, not by how much strength training you’ve done. You can use things like yoga to make your muscles more flexible and able to stretch farther, but that doesn’t make the muscles themselves longer.
Myth #9: You Can’t Get Stronger by Lifting Light Weights
The key to strengthening muscles is working them until they’re fatigued.
If you continue lifting a weight until you just can’t lift it any more, regardless of how light or heavy that weight is, you will strengthen your muscles with regular workouts.
The only difference is the amount of time it takes to reach fatigue, which will be shorter with heavy weights than with lighter ones.
The Key is Balancing Diet and Strength Training
A low-calorie diet might help you lose weight, but some of that weight is likely to be muscle mass unless you eat a balanced diet that contains all the nutrition your body needs.
Losing weight without toning your body at the same time can lead to a condition that is referred to as “skinny fat.” Although you might decrease your body’s fat percentage, what’s left is saggy, and you end up looking worse than you did before you started.
What You Should Take Away from This
First, it takes a lot of deliberate work to get a bodybuilder’s bulk. It’s not going to happen by accident if you lift weights that are too heavy or perform too many reps.
The only way to build new muscle tissue is to combine excessive weight training with excessive food intake. Neither of which will occur unless you’re pushing yourself in both areas.
Finally, remember that the key to toning is both losing fat and strengthening muscle.
Building muscle without decreasing your body’s fat percentage will leave you with a saggy figure when what you want is supple, defined curves.
These can only be achieved by decreasing fat deposits while increasing muscle tone.