The word on the street or streets (I don’t know any more, found out this week I am not all that hip with it any more) is that people don’t have enough time to get in shape. I have been told that the biggest reason that people don’t get a workout in each week is because of time. Now I have not looked that statistic up, but it sounds about right.
One thing I took from an economics class back in my college days was that time is the most valuable commodity out there. Time is something that you don’t get back. There are 24 hours in a day and 8 of those hours go to sleep and 8 more for work and for the fun of it lets say you have to travel and you stay a little late at work because, well you like it so much, so lets say that’s another 2 hours. If my math is correct that only leaves 6 hours of free time for “you time”.
And that’s assuming you are living the bachelor or bachelorette life style, if you have kids, I am guessing it’s somewhere between 2 and 0 hours of free time (I don’t have kids so if you do let me know if I am correct on this one). And if I have episodes of Golden Girls (put in favorite TV show) to catch up on, then how in the hell am I supposed to find time to watch TV, eat, shit, and workout?
Since I study, eat and breathe all that is steel plates and barbells, you would think I wouldn’t have this problem of finding time to lift. Well, it is true that I am at a gym for a good 9 hours out of my day. But the last thing I want to do is workout after a long day at the place I was just at for the last 9 hours.
It’s not because I don’t like being there, in fact I love my job, have not worked a day yet. So how do I find time, well I don’t find time, I make time. I do this by shear magic and having the ability to make small miracles happen, like creating more time.
Even though the ability to create time would be awesome I unfortunately can’t, sorry for getting your hopes up, but what I can do is make it a priority. That is why it is one of the first things I do before going to work (wait, that does not make sense because I workout at my work, forget it, you know what I mean). If you care about something you love you don’t just find time, you make time.
In this case that something you love is you, If you don’t love you some you then there is something wrong with you.
If your significant other asked to go out to eat do you say, “I’ll find sometime to do it” or do you say, “I’ll make time to do it”. Which one sounds better? It should be a no brainer. Of course it’s the second answer. It’s saying that you care about them and if it’s something you care about, you will put aside everything else just to be with them.
If your health and quality of life is something that you care about, you make time. To get the benefits of an exercise program all you really need is 30 minutes three times a week. A whopping 90 minutes a week. This isn’t to say you will look like a fitness model if you do this but you
will be healthier for it.
We all have 30 minutes in our day to do something that will help out our heath in the long run. If you can’t find time then make time, if that does not work then congratulations you must be the busiest most productive person on the face of this luscious green planet, and I would like to meet you.
Next week I will give you a few different ways that you can get a kick ass workout in less than 30 minutes. In the mean time, make some time in your busy schedules to get out and do something good for you and your health.
So I don’t know if you have heard but tomorrow is the 4th of July, ya Independence Day. The day were we will celebrate by the only way we as Americans know how to, by eating and drinking ungodly amounts of food and drink, and of course we will also watch things blow up as well, cant wait.
Well sense it is the 4th here are 5 things worth reading plus some pics of animals showing off their American Spirit.
When it comes to developing power, whether it is for sport or for life, there are no better exercises then the Olympic lifts. With the O lifts you are incorporating a whole body movement. All O lifts will start with the legs, transfer up through the core, and finish with the arms. This is the same in sports; power starts at the legs and ends at the fingertips. O lifts do a great job at preparing the body to develop power, because they incorporate the whole body just like sports does.
With all this being said, I personally do not do a whole lot of Olympic lifting with my athletes. This is not because I do not see the value in them. It has more to do with me not being an expert in coaching the lifts. Also, they are very complex and require a lot of mobility throughout all the joints in the body as well as coordination, which most people do not possess.
This is why hang cleans and hang snatching has become big. These still allow for a hip hinge but do not require as much mobility in the ankle and hips as a power cleans does (starting from the ground). These lifts are still complex and still require that you have good thoracic spine mobility and shoulder stability.
In the case that one, a coach does not feel comfortable coaching the Olympic lifts and two, the athlete or client at hand does not have the mobility or coordination to perform such lifts, seems to leave a coach looking to train for power, out of options.
But as you can guess we have options, the title kinda gives it away. One of these options is the medicine ball. Medicine balls are not anything new; they have been around since ancient Greece. Much like the kettle bells they are just a long forgotten way of exercising that now is back in vogue.
Med balls can be used in many different ways. The one I will focus on is developing power. Unlike the Olympic lifts, med balls are easier to coach and require less mobility throughout the joints. This makes them more usable for most athletes and clients. There is also a seemingly endless amount of variations you can do with the med balls. You can throw from the side, the hip, overhead, from the chest, etc. From there, you can even make them more dynamic by adding lower body movements such as a crossover step or jump.
Putting Med Balls in Your Program
Where you place med ball work depends on what you are trying to get out of them. For the most part I will place them as one of my first few exercises if I am using them to develop power. To develop true power you need to take advantage of your muscles glycogen stores when they are at they’re fullest at the beginning of your workout.
Another place I will put them is at the end of my workout. They just seem to fit nicely there. Of course when you put them at the end you will not be developing as much power as you would be if you had put them at the beginning of your workout.
Selecting a Weight
Med balls come in many different weights, from 2 pounds to 200 pounds. Well I don’t know about 200 pounds but there is a large spectrum to choose from.
If you are going for speed and power, then for the love of all things holy, do not pick up a 14 pound med ball!
Power is work divided by time, so if this is the case, time has greater effect on power then work. If I use a 6 pound med ball and move it faster then a 14 pound med ball I am going to produce more power with the smaller weight, the 6 pound med ball.
Light is right, at least until you can move a 14 pound med ball as fast as a 6 pound med ball.
Use More Leg
A lot of times when people start out throwing med balls, they try to generate all the force from their arms.
Instead of trying to push the ball harder, think of trying to generate more power from the legs and hips. This will ultimately lead to throwing the ball harder.
I find it strange that I even have this as a point, but I feel it is necessary. As a guy I love throwing things, breaking things, seeing things explode… its fun, don’t know why but it is. So when I give an athlete a med ball that is designed to be thrown as hard as one can throw it, you would think they would do just that.
More times then not I need to explain that the goal is for you to throw that ball through the wall. Every rep should be thrown as hard as possible.
Next time you pick up a med ball, think of trying to throw it through the wall or floor.
If you do not have the training background to coach Olympic lifts, or you just don’t think that the risk to reward is worth it because of the nature of the lifts or the athlete is just not ready or capable do to movement or coordination problems, then start working in some med ball training. You will find that your athletes will still be able to gain power without the use of Olympic lifts.
I get this question a lot, “How much weight should I start out at for this exercise?” This is not a bad question. It is, in fact, a relatively good one. This shows you have the concern that if you do too much weight you could hurt yourself or if you lift too light you will just be lifting for the hell of it.
The thing is, I don’t have a mathematic equation that allows me to tell you an exact number. Such as: [(height + weight)/training age] x (male/female+ exercise) = suggested weight.
This would be nice, but I do not know of such an equation.
My usual suggestion is to go light and get the movement down and then go from there. This would be for a person that I have not been working with for long. For a client I have been working with, I can usually guess within 10 pounds of the right weight. So I do have some good weight guessing skills.
What I am getting at is, if an exercise is important to you and you want to know if you have increased your strength in that exercise, then you should keep track of it.
With your handy dandy notebook (damn you Blues Clues). A notebook is a great cheap way to keep track of all your lifting numbers. It also is a great place to write how you feel and your thoughts.
And, no I am not talking about you writing how the ocean waves lapping against your feet make you feel on a cool summer’s eve. (Unless you want to, and in that case it feels good)
How you feel as in, did you feel tired coming into the work out, how do you feel after the workout, what were some noticeable weaknesses? Also, were you having trouble finishing lifts or were you getting stuck at the bottom? Did you feel tight or notice a lack of mobility? These are the things you should be writing down. Along with this keep track of your numbers for the day.
I am a little weird in the sense that I keep record of every exercise I have done, and at what weight and reps I was able to lift it, in an excel spreadsheet. You don’t have to go that far, but you should keep track of the lifts that you care about improving on.
With a well kept notebook, you should have all the information you need. Such as: what weight you are lifting, areas you need to work on or weakness, and how you are feeling. This record will help you be able to make your next workout more tailored to your specific needs and weaknesses. It also serves as a good reference to look back on to see if you are actually seeing improvements.
The workout journal can be an important tool to helping you meet your goals. And if you want to, you can also doodle cool pictures of you slaying mythical creatures, just to make you look like more of a badass.
As I am sure you all are well aware, the bench press is a great bang for your buck exercise for your arms and chest. It is also the measuring stick to all things man. Most people, young and old alike, seek to be able to bench large amounts of weight. Benching heavy over the course of many years will put a lot of stress on the shoulder. This is why it is imperative to take precautionary action in making sure your shoulders stay healthy. This becomes even more important for the person with already jacked up shoulders.
The importance of a warm up has been preached to us for years, but many will still skip this step to save a few minutes. And instead they grab some 5 pound plates and do a couple of shoulder circles, some scap retractions, and to finish it off some shoulder internal external rotation. Worse yet they do nothing and just jump right under the bar.
A good warm up will prepare the muscle to do work. The warm up should be two part. The parts consist of a muscle tissue quality portion and a dynamic warm up portion. This will allow for maximal tissue recovery and preparedness to do work.
For getting after the shoulders you should have a foam roller and a lacrosse ball. The foam roller will be used to hit the over all upper back. The lacrosse ball will be used to get into the nitty gritty areas.
First start off with the foam roller hitting the upper back. Do several slow rolls along the upper back. You can change your hand position each time to hit different spots. For example: hands directly in front, hands overhead, hugging self with left arm on top, and hugging self with right arm on top.
Next, roll over to your side and place the foam roller on the back part of your armpit, this will hit the insertion of your lat onto your arm.
You will find that the lacrosse ball will become one of your best friends, especially if you have shoulder discomfort.
The areas you want to hit with the lacrosse ball are your: pec major, pec minor, and the shoulder blade (infraspinatus and supraspinatus).
This will take any knots out of the muscles and help your tissues to repair, which will lead to better recovery, and ends with you lifting more weights.
While the foam roller and the lacrosse ball help with shoulder health and recovery, the warm up prepares the muscles to do work by increasing blood flow to the working muscles and preparing your neuromuscular system. This is also a great time to work on any mobility issues you may have with your shoulders.
Your warm up should be a full body warm up. It should hit all the major muscle groups. In my warm up I incorporate a good mix of both mobility work and dynamic stretching.
Here are some of the exercises I use to warm up my shoulder and help gain/maintain shoulder mobility:
Note: I will only pick one or two of these for my warm up.
Scapular Wall Slide
Yoga Push ups
No Money Drill
Scap Push Up
Shoulder Friendly Presses
If the barbell bench press causes discomfort you should, you should not be doing it. But don’t worry, there are plenty of pressing variations that will allow you to still get your press on.
Here are four of my favorite non barbell pressing presses:
Dumbbell Bench Press:
By not having you arms fixed to a bar you are able to move your arms into a more favorable position i.e. elbows at 45 degrees.
Dumbbell Floor Press:
The floor press has all the advantages of the dumbbell bench press but also allows you to really lock you shoulder into position against the ground, creating more stability. It also decreases the range of motion preventing any anterior humeral head gliding.
Push ups also will allow you to more easily keep your arms at a more shoulder friendly position. You can also elevate you feet to incorporate more of your serratus anterior, which will create more acromion space leading to a decreased chance of shoulder impingement.
Neutral Grip Bar:
The NGbar allows you to, well, keep your hands at a neutral position, decreasing elbow flare and increasing acromion space.
Working Shoulder Stability
Having an unstable shoulder can be the cause of pain. Incorporating some of these exercises my help to relieve some of your shoulder ailments.
There are many ways for you to get your perturbation on. I prefer to have someone else assist me but you can also do it by yourself with a med ball. The goal of perturbation is to stabilize the shoulder.
A kettelebell farmers walk variations are also a great way to increase shoulder stability.
Kettelebell Arm Bar:
The kettelebell arm bar is an exercise that was brought to my attention by Mike Robertson. I have been using it in my own programs and have loved the bang for your buck you get out of it. With this exercise you get a whole lot of scapular stability and recruitment of the shoulder muscles.
Cues For Benching
Bad form can also cause your shoulder to get a little irritable. Here are three things to keep in mind while benching.
Screw Shoulder Blades Back:
Before setting up to bench have your arms out in front of you and think of screwing your shoulder blades back together. When you do this correctly you should feel your shoulder pull tight together. This will help keep your back tight and stable.
Actively pull the bar down:
Don’t just let the bar fall to your chest. Actively pull the bar to your chest. This will activate your back muscles, keeping you nice and stable.
Tear the bar apart:
When you lift the bar think of ripping it apart with your hand. This will help prevent you from flaring you arms out to the side.
Putting It All Together
There are many reasons your shoulder can be causing you pain. It could be due to instability, overuse, or a bone or ligament issue. You may find that even the shoulder friendly lifts many be painful, if this is the case you should not perform them.
What I have outlined above are ways to keep your shoulder healthy and to give you some ideas of how to work around some jacked up shoulders, not injured shoulders.
No new fresh to death blog this week. Truth be told I got a little behind this week. I would love to blame it all on the fact that I am graduating this saturday, but the real reason was I got myself into a time management funk. What this means is I just spent countless hours playing disc golf (my new found love) and getting lost in the black hole that is watching Youtube videos.
Next week I promise, well almost guaranty, promise seems like a really strong word, a new post filled with adventure, laughs, and some hot romance (or just filled with stuff I know about, so mostly romantic lifting).
So to make it up to all you knowledge hungry, weight crushing people out there here are some good articles to get your knowledge fix for the week.
Last week I put out a blog on increasing your grip strength to help increase your overall strength. If you have not read it yet give it a reads: 5 Ways for You to Get A Grip
As for the rest:
The past two weekends I have been away at conferences. There was the Elite Training Workshop at Cressey Performance and the NSCA Maine State Conference at the University of New England. Oh, and I was also an invited speaker for the UNE research symposium.
Let me just dust my shoulders off before proceeding.
What this all means is me spending a total combined time of roughly 24 hours sitting in cheap plastic unsupportive chairs, which has done wonders for my back. Luckily it paid off with me cramming my mind full of new ideas and knowledge, and a couple of cool drawstring swag bagz, spelled with a “Z”. Score!
Since all this new knowledge has been bestowed upon me, I will also let you drink from the cup of knowledge. Sorry, I can’t give all of you cool free drawstring swag bagz as well, but if it makes you feel better I would if I could.
Assessments, They’re Important
You have probably heard the saying “if you’re not assessing your guessing”, well it rhymes so it’s right.
When you are working with a new client, how are you supposed to know their past history and how they move, if you don’t do an assessment? The assessment should consist of some kind of questionnaire that delves into the past history of activities and injuries, along with some kind of movement screen.
From this information you can pull areas of weakness and exercises that they should and should not be doing.
If you are part of a gym that does not have coaches that can perform a full assessment, I would recommend you look into the self movement screen. This will at least give you some idea of some imbalances that you may have that you are unaware of.
So don’t guess, assess.
Look at the Demands of A Sport
Every sport requires a different skill set. There may be some overlapping between sports, but there is some facet of the game that makes it unique and that is why baseball and soccer have different names.
Baseball pitchers don’t have to run a lot so why go for 5 mile runs? Same with hockey players and football players, they are all quick explosive sports. Running long distance is the antithesis of this.
Side Note: I just used a big word in my writing and did not even have to find it in a thesaurus – little win.
Looking at overall energy demands of a sport is important, but it is also important to look at the movements that are used in the sport. Look at the work to rest ratio, the explosive vs. non explosive movement, and linear and lateral movements. A program should take all this into consideration.
Train for Effect
Well this sounds like a no brainer. Everyone who works out is training for some kind of effect, whether that is strength, fat loss, or sexiness. Everyone is training for an effect. So what does this mean?
When you write your exercise program you should not just think of exercises as movements that strengthen muscle groups – anyone can do that. I could pick any meathead in the gym to write me a program to get me stronger and there is a good chance some of my weights would go up, this doesn’t mean it was a good program.
There should be a purpose for each exercise. You have depressed shoulders so you program exercises X, Y, and Z to help fix that; your core is weak so you program this exercise over that exercise. The point is you want your exercises to cause an effect, its not just sets and reps with bench, squat, and deadlifts. Writing a good exercise program is so much more than that.
Think about the effect you want to cause.
Base of Aerobic Fitness
This is an idea that I guess I have always known but never actually put much thought into it. Your base of aerobic fitness is what allows you to progress to more strenuous activities, like sprinting. Without a base the individual will have nothing to build off of.
For example if you have a client, or you yourself have not had any form of training in over a year, you can not expect them to know how to pace themselves. By developing an aerobic base first, this will lead to better endurance, allowing them to do more work. Once you, or your clients, have an idea of how to pace yourselves then you can move on to harder activities.
What I mean by pacing is that a sprint should not be the same speed as a jog and visa versa. Without an aerobic base you and your clients may not know the difference or be at a fitness level to perform at a higher level. So get that base and then build off of it.
Ice Cream, Hot Dogs, and Omega 3’s
What do all three of these things have in common? Well, nothing really, except ice cream and hot dogs are not the healthiest food choices. So what is omega 3’s doing linked with these two outlaws of food health.
With our ability to inject almost anything into any food, we now have the ability to put omega 3’s into any food we want to. This includes foods like ice cream and hot dogs. So now my junk food will have some resemblance of being good for me.
So instead of taking fish oil pills I can now just eat some ice cream to get my daily recommended value of omega 3’s. And people can now say, “It’s ok that I eat ice cream every day because it’s good for me.” Let me just say, and this is my last point, a part does not make a whole. Just because something has some healthy part to it does not make it inherently good for you.
PRI Is A Lot of Smart
After hearing about PRI (Postural Restoration Institute) I now fully understand what the phrase “drinking from a fire hose” means. What is PRI? Well it was developed by some smart PT by the name of Ron Hruska.
Their principles are: “To explore and explain the science of postural adaptations, asymmetrical patterns and influence of polyarticular chains of muscles on the human body. To develop an innovative treatment approach that addresses the primary contributions of postural kinematic movement dysfunction.”
Intriguing right? Sounds like a whole lot of smart to me, something that I will have to look into.
These are some of the big things that I learned over the past two weeks. So assess, don’t guess, look at what the sport demands, train for an effect, get that aerobic base, ice cream is awesome but still not good for you no matter how you dress it up, and PRI, that is just smart.
If you have been lifting weights for longer the 6 months, then this might be a familiar happening.
You planned out your workout perfectly. Each set and rep and exercise was strategically picked to optimize your results. The first 4 weeks or so your bench seemed to jump by 5 pounds each week with ease. The next 4 to 6 week you are still seeing some improvement, you are still going up 5 pounds every week or so. By the third month you see your lifts come to a screeching stop.
The first thought you have is to increase the work. “I am not working hard enough. I need to do more sets. The more sets the stronger I’ll get.” You try this for a few weeks but nothing happens, your weight seems to have stayed the same or even slightly decreased in some instances.
The next idea might be to change up your workout. Either you make a new one or pull one offline that seems appealing to you, or one out of the latest issues of some muscle magazine. You stick to the program, doing everything it tells you to do. Your bench goes up in the first two weeks but after that nothing. Once again you find yourself stuck.
If you have ever been stuck at a plateau you know how frustrating it can be. It is as if you are in no mans land, nothing you do seems to work.
Why You Plateau
To beat the plateau we must first understand why we plateau. If you are someone who has just started a workout routine then the first 4 to 6 weeks is going to be filled with weight increase. You can do almost anything and see increase in strength.
The reason is that you are untrained. Going from something to nothing is a huge stimulus change for your body. The first 6 weeks your strength goes up due to your nervous system and your body being able to coordinate muscular contraction and motor unit recruitment.
The next 4 to 6 weeks you have actual muscle adaption. This means the muscle grows in size and is able to recruit more motor units. This is why you still see gains but not as drastic as the first 4 to 6.
By the fourth or fifth month adaption seems to come to a halt. This is due to the body’s inability to adapt. Without adapting you can’t lift more weight. The reason for this lack of adaption is because the body does not have enough time to adapt between workouts.
Simply put, you plateau because you are not allowing enough time for your body to adapt between workouts.
Getting Over the Plateau
Now that we have an idea of what plateauing stems from. We can now address the issue. To beat the plateau you need to allow more time for adaption. So the mind set of making your workouts harder or increasing the workload is the exact opposite of what you want to do.
What you need to do is go through a week or two of less work. This is called a back off period or a deload. This works by decreasing the workload without decreasing the intensity.
Example: You were doing 5×5 at 205. For your back off period, or deload you will know do 2×5 at 205.
The weight stays at the same intensity. You want to stay within 90% of your rep max, even during the deload, this will allow your body to maintain its level of neuromuscular readiness. What is changing is the amount of total reps. This is what we want to decrease. By keeping the intensity the same we are able to maintain our strength while giving your body time to adapt.
The back off period will last for a week or two, but it could be a full month before your body is fully recovered. Once you have recovered you can go back to your normal sets and reps and progress to higher weights.
Getting stuck at the same weight week after week can be very frustrating. The natural human thing to do is just to push through it and think you need to do more. This mind set will only take you so far, you have to let your body recover and adapt to the stimulus that you are throwing at it.
Keep the weight up and decrease the sets. This will allow you to get over your plateau and help you see gains for months to come.
I was thinking back to the days when I first started lifting; how simple it was, it was upper body or lower body days. I did what I wanted. Loading up the leg press with all the weights in the gym, it was a small gym, but still as a high school kid I felt badass, doing 400 pound shoulder shrugs, the true test of how strong you are, and sets and reps, always without a doubt, had to be 3 sets of 10 reps.
I don’t think I ever went higher or lower then the 3×10 until my junior year in high school. I always thought it was the perfect number, hell it was what everyone else was doing. It turned out that 3×10 was not the best set up for my goal of becoming a stronger athlete. I would have fared much better from a 5×5 or even a 5,3,1 set up. But with youth comes ignorance and many years of ineffective lifting.
At this point I have done a plethora of different set and rep schemes. Two that I have been playing around with recently is cluster sets and high-density sets (honestly I have know idea what these are called, if you know the common name feel free to tell me).
The Cluster Set
Cluster sets are a great way for you to be able to lift heavier weights for a higher number of reps. This results in an increase in strength.
Before you carry me off to be burned at the stake for my wizardry, let me explain how they work. You will soon see that there is no magic involved, just some simple sets and reps manipulation.
The cluster set is a group of mini sets within a set. This is what it looks like: (4×2)x5, this would be five cluster sets of four sets of two. You would do two reps rest 10 seconds and then do the next set and repeat this for four total sets. This equals one cluster set.
Are you following me? Just think of it as the ‘Inception’ of sets, a set within a set within a set.
If you were confused by the movie ‘Inception’ at any point then you should first watch it again and figure it out before attempting these.
For simplicity I will stick with the (4×2)x5 as my example. When selecting your weights you will not be able to use your two-rep max or your eight-rep max but something more like your five-rep max will be used.
You will end up lifting your five-rep max eight times. Isn’t set manipulation great? You can now lift your five-rep max eight times in one set. This will lead to an increase in strength, allowing you to do more work within each set. You can also use this for increasing muscular size and endurance by changing the reps and sets to fit your goals.
High Density Sets (Put Name Here)
This is very similar to cluster sets but with a little twist. This is how it works. You would have your sets and reps set up something like this: 3×5/2×8. At first glance this seems cut and dry, that is because it is.
The magic in all of this is not seen just by looking at the sets and reps. You also have to look at the numbers. This setup allows you to do more work within your workout. Let’s say your five-rep max is 225 and your seven-rep max is 200. If you were to do 5×5 at 225 you will have lifted at total of 5,625 pounds. If you did 3×5 at 225 plus 2×8 at 200 that will be a total of 6,575 pounds lifted. That is 950 more pounds lifted.
This results in more weight lifted but with using less weight due to the increased reps and decrease in weight in the last two sets. This is another great way to do more work but at the same time lifting less weight. Resulting in strength gains and muscle hypertrophy, while giving your joints a rest from the heavier weights.
Give these two sets and rep schemes a try. Not every workout has to be 3×10 or 5×5. Get a little crazy with your planning. Throw in a cluster set for your squat and bench or try using the high-density sets for your lunges and chin ups. If strength is what you’re after then try them out.
I am going to be honest I have not been in the fitness industry that long, but without a doubt the #1 goal for all females that are not athletes, or are athletes for that matter…. O.K. let me rephrases this; the #1 goal for any female that walks in through your doors is to tone up. The conversation goes something like this.
Me: What are some of your goals that you would like to accomplish?
Female: I would like to loose some weight and fat and maybe get a little stronger, but I don’t want to bulk up, I guess I would like to just tone up a little. Oh and I’d really like some abs.
Don’t get me wrong. I think this is a great list of extremely vague goals. The goal of wanting to be toned is a fine goal, if you know what it is.
For some reason the phrase “toning up” has come to be the all-encompassing phrase to sum up, “to get in better shape”.
The word tone means to be firm or to have the appearance of being firm. I used to think this was a combination of weight loss and muscle gain. As you loose fat and gain muscle mass the skin will appear to be firm or tone. This is what toning up meant to me. It’s pretty much the same thing as just getting into better shape, which is a part of the toning process.
While reading Mark Rippetoes’ book, “Practical Programming for Strength Training,” I was able to gain a better understanding of what it truly means to be tone. Here is a quote from his book, “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.”
So what does this all mean? What it means is the more your muscles are ready to lift weights the more tone you will be. So a sedentary person is going to be less tone then a person who frequently lifts weights, and a marathon runner is going to be less tone then a power lifter.
How To Get Tone
If you look at the spectrum of what will get you toned the fastest, going from least effective to most effective, it would look something like this.
Low Toning Medium Toning High Toning
Aerobic Exercise → Low Intensity → High Intensity
Weight Training Weight Training
Huh, that’s funny, if this spectrum is correct then most of the programs that are out there to get you tone buns and thighs are not the most effective means of programming. The typical commercialized toning program usually involves loads of long duration cardio or a cross between a bodybuilding program and an endurance program. This would fall somewhere between aerobic exercise and low intensity weight training, but where you really want to be is all the way over to the right.
Just to clarify, the word intensity is not describing how hard the workout is, it’s describing how heavy the weights are you are using. Doing circuit training and bootcamps can be taxing, and described as an intense workout, but this is not what is meant when talking in terms of weight training. High intensity means to be lifting heavy weights. If you want tone then you need to lift heavy.
If your goal is to have rock solid buns that resemble week old biscuits, not the best analogy moving on though, then take off the pink head band and put down the pink doubles and pick up some heavy weights. The more your muscles are ready to do work the more tone they will be. This is accomplished by strength training, not aerobic exercise or interval training but by good old strength training. Remember its 2013 and strength is the new sexy.