I saw one of those tabloid women’s magazines the other day and there it was, an article for how to trim down and tone up your arms.
The recommendation? One of the oldest myths in the book: lift fluffy light weights for high reps and get the blazing guns of your dreams.
Let’s get real for a moment. If you can lift a weight for 50 reps without so much as breaking a bead of sweat, and you could probably do another 50 right on top of that, then it’s probably too light…. way too light.
In order to understand why this is a myth, we have to break the answer down into two separate parts:
- 1) Localized muscle conditioning; and
- 2) Reducing body fat
Localized muscle conditioning
The adaptations that occur in your muscles are specific to the training stimulus applied (called specificity of training).
For example, if you lift heavy weights for low repetitions, you’ll develop muscular strength.
If you lift comparatively lighter weights for higher repetitions (or do long jogs), you will develop localized muscular endurance.
With regards to muscle tone/definition, lift all the weight you want but nothing is going to expose your guns for the world to see unless you burn off the fat between the skin and muscle.
Reducing body fat – methods that work
Irrespective of which training program you’re on, if you want your muscles to see the light of day, you need to work on reducing subcutaneous fat (just below the skin surface).
How do you do this?
The answer isn’t sexy, but it still comes down to good old fashioned healthy eating (cut out the soda, chips, and cheeseburgers), regular exercise which maximizes calorie (kJ) expenditure, blowing energy with lots of incidental movement, and then being consistent with it for the long haul.
You didn’t put on all that body fat overnight and it certainly isn’t going to vaporize after a 50 fluffy five-pound dumbbell curls.
Lose fat, build muscle, meet in the middle
The trick is to build muscle, reduce fat, and have them meet in the middle.
Using light weight might have merit for simply learning the basic movement pattern (i.e., learning how to do a bench press the first time), but once you’ve trained the brain how to properly perform the exercise, then it’s time to toss the two pound chipmunk-sized dumbbells and graduate to grown-up weights (ones that actually make you sweat and breath heavier).
Provided you’re sticking to your diet, exercise, and incidental movement plan for the long-term, you will eventually notice that, as you reduce your subcutaneous fat, your skin will become tighter over the muscles: DEFINITION!