There’s a big problem out there when it comes to “getting toned” that I see quite often and this is my attempt to curb the issue. Getting more toned has just as much if not more to do with your diet than how exactly you’re working out.￼
Besides, you don’t want to end up looking like this guy in the gym, do you? (ok, maybe you do, but here’s some reasons why you should at least choose a heavier pink weight)
It bothers me when I’m at the gym and I see people doing what seems like endless curls with a 1 pound weight in an effort to get toned muscles. The reasoning goes something like this. “I don’t want to get big bulky muscles and I don’t care about being able to lift a truck but I want to get in shape. Conventional weight lifting wisdom says that to accomplish this I should do more reps and less weight”
The problem is, most people stop there and decide that if more reps and less weight equals getting in shape without being a body builder, then even more reps and even lower weight is better. Thinking like that, you might as well just do cardio. At a certain point you’re better served to increase the weight instead of the amount of reps.
First and foremost, getting your diet in check and cutting down on body fat has much more to do with getting more toned than your method of lifting weights.
Outside of your diet though, there are different methods for training for specific things in the gym. The method that gets blown out of proportion in this instance is the last one in the list, training for muscular endurance:
- To increase maximal strength, each set should be lower in amount of repetitions but higher in the amount of weight you use. Ideally you should be using 80-90% of what your one repetition max is and doing between 4-8 reps per set. This puts more of the focus on using heavier weights and not on doing more repetitions.
- To cause muscles to get bigger (hypertrophy), you should be using a weight that is still fairly heavy but allows you to do 8-12 repetitions per set. This results in a longer lasting set, time wise. The extra time spent on each set gives blood more time to pool up in the muscle being used. The result of the blood pooling up in the muscle is what causes the muscle to get bigger.
- To increase the endurance that muscle has, you must focus on sets that last longer so you can build up the stamina your muscle has. The focus is in doing sets that take approximately 75-100 seconds to complete. While making sure to control each rep, each rep should take about 6 seconds. This works out to a set that is between 12-16 repetitions.
According to the American Council on Exercise one of the “objectives of muscular-endurance training is to work the targeted muscles to fatigue in the end range of the anaerobic energy system. For most individuals, this requires an exercise set that continues for about 75-100 seconds. Given a training speed of 6 seconds per repetition, this is a range of 12 to 16 repetitions.”
In a nutshell, this says if you can do more than 16 reps with any given weight, then the weight you’re using is too light and needs to be increased. You‘re better off increasing the weight you‘re using and doing between 12 and 16 reps.
The key here is to make sure that each rep is slow and controlled. Too often, people are using explosive movements by jerking and swinging the weights around. Using explosive movements like that isn’t bad by any means if you‘re doing it purposefully, but it isn’t the most effective when you’re trying to build endurance. Using explosive exercises is another post for another day.
There’s a few major keys here to help make your training work. This is in no way an exhaustive list but certainly will help improve some aspects of your workout.
- Know exactly what it is you’re training for. Training for pure strength, bigger muscles, or endurance all need to be approached differently. You’re not going to get good endurance out of your muscles by doing a few heavy reps per set.
- Get your diet in check. Diet makes a bigger difference than people like to admit, probably because it’s such a hard thing to change.
- If you’re training for endurance, make sure you’re controlling each movement. The rule of thumb for endurance is 6 seconds per rep, so your set takes between 75-100 seconds.
- If you’re training for endurance, make sure the weight you’re using is light enough to be able to get at least 12 reps, but not so light that you can do more than 16 reps. If you get to 16 reps and it’s possible that you can do any more, go up to the next weight.
- You should never buy these weights for lifting. ￼
What do you think is the most effective way to train for endurance and a more fit physique?