This week I want to talk about something I love dearly... BEER. Just kidding, did you believe that for a second? No I want to talk about resistance training - something I do indeed love. With something as complex as this it is important to note everything written here will be quite general - not at all a plan for all to carbon copy. Strength training frightens just as many people as it excites, and it really shouldn't, No matter what gender, age, body type etc that you may be. The more I have learnt about it, the more I have embraced it for all my clients.To start lets talk about what muscles CAN'T do:
- Get toned without building larger muscles
- Get longer
- Turn into fat
- Stunt your growth
And now let's talk about the HUGE amount of things muscles can do:
1. Get bigger
2. Get smaller
Wow that's a lot! Now before you stop reading right now due to my outrageous points above, keep in mind that the appearance of a person's body composition comes largely from their body fat. So if you are thinking right now: "But I have seen resistance training tone my muscles!" What you have noticed is not "muscle toning" as so many Personal Trainers will dub it, you have instead noticed that resistance training has decreased your body fat which exposes our muscles, and on top of that, due to the resistance training you did, your muscles cells have synthesised and therefor your muscles have grown and become further exposed. Through resistance training your residual muscle tension increases, the idea of lengthening a muscle or making it "long and lean" spouts from the body fat loss as a result of strength training.
So, to elaborate: resistance training will certainly give us a "leaner" and more "toned" appearance, but not due to high rep ranges, use of cables, Yoga and Pilates over dumbells and squats or avoidance of heavy weights. In fact these traits will often detriment your goals. Heavy weights with exercises like squats and dead lifts are extremely effective for protein synthesis, increased residual muscle tension, metabolism and ultimately thermogenesis. Anecdotally when I look at all my clients, our great success stories and most toned and lean clients are also our strongest and most willing to lift heavy! All our clients have a huge amount of periodised hypertrophy in their programs, and after looking at what we do for people, you will see bulking isn't a word that comes to mind!
Ahh bulking. What a strange thing to be scared of, not because I think everyone should bulk, it is strange because bulking is very difficult to do and EXTREMELY slow. Being scared of bulking from simply using weights is like being scared of being run over by a turtle. You have to be trying extremely hard and training/eating in a very specific way for several years to bulk up, it is not something that happens by accident or quickly. For very many people (especially women) it is near impossible, without the right hormone balance bulking just does not happen no matter how hard that person might try.The reason I love resistance training is because it is so compatible with a healthy, fit and attractive body, in men and women. The benefits to joints, bones and muscles in relation to injuries and longevity are amazing. Every injury I have ever encountered in my work has been improved in some way through strength training. Who knows how many injuries or problems people are preventing every day by pumping iron! The other huge reason I believe resistance training is so compatible with the healthy beautiful body we all want, is because of the the body shape our muscles give us. All our before and afters on the website show amazing transformations, clients who have lost 20kg look like they have lost 30kg, our clients who have lost 30kg look like they have lost 40kg! This is because of the resistance training these wonderful clients have done through their weight loss journey. The pattern of intensity in most periodised resistance training programs slides in perfectly with what enhances our metabolism (HIIT)
not what lowers it (Steady State Cardio).
A V-shaped torso and a perky bum does not come from cardio I assure you!
I would happily put up an example of a periodised hypertrophy program for some of you to use, but I strongly believe that for a resistance based program to work, it needs to be tailored. In closing, don't fear weight lifting for a single second, it is probably one of the very training methods you should be embracing to achieve the body composition you desire. And lift heavy!
So if someone tells you low reps bulk and high reps tone, enjoy a quiet chuckle. And if someone tells you that muscle turns to fat when you stop training, run away.
P.S. Here are a few interesting studies on some of the points I make: