To ‘tone up’?

I know that’s what you want, it’s the thing I hear from female clients ALL the time.

I have never had a woman come to me and say she wants to build muscle.

What’s just as common as ‘toning up’ is ‘I don’t want to lift weights or bulk up’.

I understand that, totally.

You want to look like a fit and healthy woman not some body building meat head, right?

Well here’s the 5 big things women need to know about lifting weights, getting big and ‘toning up’.


  1. What is toning?

When most clients tell me they want to ‘tone up’ I know EXACTLY what they mean (and it’s very rare that a man understands a woman)!

You want your skin to look a bit tighter, a bit firmer and to have a more defined body shape.

There are two things you can do to change the shape of your body.

  • Lose fat
  • Build muscle

The reality is that if you want to tone up, you need to do both.


  1. Why do I need to build muscle?

 Let’s say that the only thing you did to lose weight was to eat less calories than you burned – it WOULD work.  The scale would give you a smaller number than before.Toning achieved by squatting

Once you lost the amount of weight you had set yourself as a goal, you’ll no doubt fit into smaller clothes too, but that’s not everything.

You wanted to be toned, didn’t you?

Without much muscles mass, you have nothing to provide shape or ‘tone’, other than your bones.

Your booty would be flat with no ‘junk in the trunk’.

You would look ‘skinny’, kind of like Keira Knightley or most ‘super models’.

If that’s how you want to look, then great but I suspect it’s not.


  1. How do I build muscle?

Lifting weights – pure and simple.

Going to spin & Zumba classes 3-4 times a week is just not going to cut it.

In order to build muscle, you need to place it under stress in the form of resistance (weights).

As you get stronger, you then need to increase the stress or the resistance (reps or weight).

The idea that doing more reps with a lower weight will tone the muscle is sadly, completely false.  Your muscles can either get bigger or smaller, that’s it.

Lifting a weight for 50 or so reps with the ‘pink dumbbells’ (1-3kg) is not going to do much, other than tire you out and waste your time.


Muscles grow by increasing the workload progressively over time.

If you are new to weight training you may find that you can increase the weight or reps you are able to perform from session to session.  Once you are more experienced this progression will slow down.

Of course it goes without saying that you should train your whole body and not just the parts you want to change the most.

You’ve seen the guys with huge arms and sparrow legs? Not a good look!


  1. I really don’t want to get too big!

Haha – I do!

As a male, let me tell you that getting ‘BIG’ is actually pretty tough going.what toning actually looks like

Testosterone is one of the key hormones in muscle growth.

Women have approximately only 10% of the testosterone that men do.  So you could say that it’s 10 times harder for women to get ‘big’ as it is for a man.

Hopefully this helps put your mind at rest but you’ve probably seen pictures of female bodybuilders that are HUGELY muscular compared to nearly every man.

I can assure you that they either have some kind of genetic abnormality OR……. they are taking some pretty fruity steroids.

Also…………it’s the steroids!


  1. Looks aren’t everything, you know!

This is true – but lifting weight carries over into everyday life more than you would think.

Weight training not only strengthens muscle, it also increases the strength of your connective tissue (ligaments and tendons) as well as improving bone density.

What this means in the real world is that you will be at less risk of getting aches & pains or getting injured.

We’ve all been there.  You pick up your child, reach for something in the cupboard or get up from a chair when your back decides it’s had enough.

The pain is not nice (although women are far better at coping with pain than men).

Weight training, when performed sensibly and correctly will help to improve your posture and keep you feeling fitter than ever.


What next?

If you want to tone up for next summer, the time to start lifting is now. benefits of toning

I said that toning up was all about building muscle AND losing fat.

If you are lifting at the correct intensity 3-4 times per week, the fat loss part will take care of itself as a beginner.

I’m not saying that you SHOULDN’T run, do zumba or whatever else it is that you enjoy – exercise SHOULD be enjoyable.  Just remember that it is likely to not be what you need to get you to where you want to be.

So remember – if you want to tuck that tum and lift that bum then lift some weights and you’ll look great!


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