Originally written in 2011, edited in 2021
Today's subject is tone. How often do we hear someone say, “I don't want to get too big, I just want to tone up”?
When I hear this, I want to laugh hysterically. It would be the nutritional equivalent of hearing someone say, “I don't like apples so I'm going to just turn this apple into an orange”.
Just for starters, tone is not a scientific word. It is a sales gimmick. In my mind, any time a fitness professional uses the word tone, I can only hope that they are saying it to market to an uninformed consumer. If fitness professionals or consumers believe they can “tone up”, they are sadly mistaken.
Let's get right to the truth. Most people should never worry about getting too big. The reality is that the hardest thing to do as a personal trainer or strength and conditioning coach is to get someone to gain muscle mass. Strength is easy, muscle mass is much more difficult. If we acknowledge that the fear of “getting too big” is somewhat irrational and difficult for most people, it is much easier to move on with the real process of training.
I will add one qualifier. There are people who gain muscle easily. I refer to them as responders. They can be male or female but, for the average fitness enthusiast the idea of getting "too big" is crazy. I have females athletes I've trained for a decade who have not gained significant amounts of weight.
Getting too big should be put to rest with other foolish statements. For example, imagine a client telling you:
- “I'm not going to concentrate on nutrition. I'm concerned I'll get too lean.”
- “I'm not going to exercise regularly, I'm afraid that I'll develop too much consistency.”
- “I'm not going to do any cardiovascular work; I don't really want to live past 50 anyway.”
All of these statements are as foolish and inane as “I don't want to lift heavy weights, I don't want to get too big”. We need to stop perpetuating this fraud of “too big”. The “too big' thing is a result of steroid-loaded athletes pictured on magazine covers. It has nothing to do with real life.
The best part of the joke is that the person who usually doesn't want to get too big is a housewife or stay-at-home mom who has never picked up more than a ten-pound dumbbell. This takes the thought process from inane to absurd.
Do me a favor. Start telling your clients the truth. The key to improving a bad physique is simple. Hard work. Push yourself. Lose the “light weights and take a walk” thing. The reason we look like crap is that people try to convince us that gardening is exercise.
Gardening is something you do as a hobby. The only people who should just walk and lift light weights are those that can't do anything else. Yes, something is better than nothing. But, something hard is far superior to something easy.
I read a great quote yesterday in a book called Raising a Team Player.
“When all is said and done, a lot more is said than done.”