Everyone has a different idea towards fitness. But most of us agree with one thing – for a well rounded fitness regimen, you need to strike a balance between cardio workouts and weight training exercises. Some of us are working out because we want to fit once again in to a 5 year old pair of jeans, and others are working out because they want to keep Cardiac diseases and Diabetes at bay. The goals of different people might differ, but in the end most of us who work out 5 times a week at the gym want to simply look fitter and have a more toned body.
However, here is a question that often haunts many gym goers: Is toning different from bulking up?
When a person wants to ‘Tone Up’ they are referring to losing weight and adding more definition to their muscles. They don’t really want to add extra muscle mass or have bulging, rippling muscles; they simply want to lose their extra flab and gain lean muscle mass. In the world of body building, ‘Toning’ is not an accepted term. It is seen as a result of both fat burning and basic weight training, and happens naturally for most bodybuilders or weight lifters. On the other hand, ‘Bulking Up’ is a term most people associate with professional body builders. Bulking up is usually associated with men who want to build bigger muscles, and in the process they lose body fat percentage.
When you say the words ‘Bulking Up’ most people form a mental image in their heads of Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone. Similarly, when you say you want a ‘Toned’ body, the mental image most people conjure is that of a svelte movie star like Kate Beckinsale or Jennifer Aniston, where the body has lower visible fat as well as sexy muscle definition.
Weight Training can result in both toning and bulking up, based on what your main aim is. We won’t go in to the details of how you can tone your muscles or build bigger, rippling muscles; I’ll leave that for your gym instructor to handle! But what we are going to do today is understand if there is any truth attached to the most common weight training misconceptions, which could be associated with both toning and bulking up.
Myth 1: Bulking Up and Building Muscle is the same thing
If you have been avoiding weights and stick to a grueling cardio routine and body weight exercises at the gym, you can hinder your toning efforts. Lifting weights doesn’t mean you will bulk up. It simply challenges your body, improves muscle strength and endurance and increases metabolism. Yes, in the process you will build bigger lean muscles, but these muscles are less dense as compared to deposited fat.
So in the long run, your overall frame will become leaner by lifting weights because you will burn more fat reserves. Bulking up takes a lot more effort than just simple weight training; body builders lift very heavy weights for several hours to get those huge muscles and also eat a diet especially created to gain emphasized muscle mass. For an average person who does regular weight training and eats a calorie controlled diet, the results of lifting weights will simply be toning up.
Myth 2: Lifting lighter weights will tone your body; while lifting heavier weights will help you bulk up
This is a huge misconception that results in many men and women not lifting heavier weights, even if they can and should! For most people, the ideal way to tone is to lift lighter weights and to do more number of repetitions. While this method might build more muscle endurance, it is not the ideal way to tone your body.
Don’t be scared to lift heavier weights and do lesser number of reps. By lifting heavier weights when your muscles are ready, you will build muscle strength while also burning more fat and increasing metabolism.
Myth 3: If you lift light weights, you cannot get stronger
When it comes to doing weight training, the question is not just how much weight you lift. In fact, what really matters is whether you are training your muscles hard until fatigue or not. You can very much get results from lifting lighter weights, especially if you are a beginner. Lifting more weight right from day one will adversely affect your form, which is critical for most exercises, and also results in increased chances for injury.
However, you will have to train for longer hours to reach fatigue when you train with lighter weights, though your muscles will definitely get stronger in the process. So if you have a time crunch, you might want to start with lesser weights and quickly progress to heavier weights.
Myth 4: Some exercises can lengthen your muscles and help you gain lean muscle mass
The truth is that no exercise will ever make your muscles grow longer and hence leaner. Every exercise will help you reduce weight by cutting down body fat percentage, and the result will be a leaner body. But adding length to your muscles is simply not possible. This is because your muscles are attached to your bone and have a certain fixed length; they cannot grow beyond that no matter what exercise you do. However, when some people say their exercise routine has helped them achieve longer, leaner muscles; what they really mean is that form of exercise improves their posture and their stance, which can create an illusion of longer and leaner muscles.
Exercises like Pilates, yoga and dance will improve your range of motion and flexibility, giving you a better posture so that you feel taller. Since these are mainly cardiovascular exercises but also use bodyweight training that helps tone muscles, the result is always a leaner and fitter body.
Myth 5: Men and Women need different weight training regimens
You will notice that this myth has resulted in most women doing bicep curls with 1 or 2 kg dumbbells and sticking mostly to weight machines and leg exercises. That is because most women are working on their belly, thighs and abs. On the other hand, men will lift 5kg or more for bicep curls and be seen around doing bench presses and body weight exercises. This is because most men are at the gym to build bigger biceps and chest muscles.
While these gender differences exist because men and women are usually trying to target different muscle groups, it helps to understand that men are not very much stronger than women. Yes, they are slightly stronger genetically, but the difference is not as exaggerated as you believe. If you really want to tone your entire body by having well defined muscles, you need to lift as much weight as you can and have a solid strength training plan in place, irrespective of whether you are a male or a female. This plan will look essentially the same for men and women both, because the end result has to do with losing more body fat percentage and defining the lean muscle mass gains.
Simply going to the gym and lifting free weights will not result in serious bulking up. While you will gain lean muscle mass, this will in no way be exaggerated.
If your goal is to bulk up, you need to go on a special high calorie diet and lift much heavier weights for longer hours. In a crude sense, it can be said that toning is for people who want to lose weight and appear leaner, while bulking up is for people who want to increase weight and develop a more impressive physique.
Whether you want to believe it or not, in the end losing weight by doing regular cardio and weight training exercises is a lot easier than gaining mass or bulking up! So don’t be scared to add weight training to your exercise routine, your physical form and weight loss endeavours will only benefit from it.
Now that you have decoded the myths surrounding Weight Training, it is time to find out Is Your Cardio Workout Best Designed for Weight Loss or not?