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Old 02-17-2011, 06:53 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default "Building muscle" vs. "Toning muscle"?

Okay, I am probably just a complete newbie, but bear with me, I have a couple of questions!

I've built myself up to exercising 5x per week (sometimes 4 if work is busy) -- usually 3x per week of pure cardio (45-60 mins, whatever my ankle feels like it can take), and then 2x per week of a cardio/strength mix (I'll usually do 15 mins. cardio, then 30 mins strength on the gym machines, and finishing with 10-15 minutes cardio again)

I haven't done strengthening exercises since high school (about 10 years now). I know that I want to build muscle to help burn more calories (and so it looks better once I lose the fat!), but I don't really know if what I am doing is going to "build" what's there or "tone" what I already have?? -- is there some kind of difference? It seems I hear the boys in the gym talking about building or toning, and it makes me a little confused. Of course, they might just be talking about bulking, which I really don't want to do.

For details, what I usually do is go around to the open machines on a circuit -- I do 3 reps of 10-12 (I adjust the weight so that 12 is usually very difficult to get to and I'm grunting at the end of the rep, but not so hard that a 30 second rest and "shaking it out" doesn't allow me to do another rep) and I usually do something like arms --> core muscle (like chest, abs, or back) --> legs --> arms --> core muscle etc. I focus a little more on arms and core muscles since my legs get more of a workout on the cardio machines. I warm-up by jumping around a little, jumping jacks, arm circles etc. and I do static, longer stretches after I'm done.

Is that...right? I'm not really sure what I'm doing, haha. I don't want big muscles, I just want tone what I have so that when I do eventually lose the weight and get slim and trim, what's underneath looks good. For example, I don't care about getting a six-pack (just a flat stomach would be nice), but I am hoping my arms look a little less floppy That sort of thing!

Help?
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Female, 31 years old, 5'4 1/2" tall
Starting weight 1/4/11 = 215.2 lbs.
Weight 9/19/14 = 176.6 (net: -38.6)
Last mini-goal: 180 lbs. REACHED! Reward - new sports bra
Current min-goal: 175 lbs.
Next large goal: 165 lbs. by 12/25/2014
Lowest weight: 156.7 lbs.
150.2 lbs. <--- Official "Healthy BMI" weight
Estimated final goal: 130-140 lbs.
"You don't have to change your life today. You only need to change your day today."
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Old 02-17-2011, 07:08 PM   #2 (permalink)
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It's hard to say what' "right" for a particular individual, but I can tell you that, as a female, you won't "bulk up." Women simply don't have the hormones to do this. The occasional pic of a woman bodybuilder you will see has gotten that way by seriously cutting body fat to a very low level and making a concerted effort to ramp up protein significantly in order to put on muscle weight, in addition to heavy lifting.

I say to go ahead and lift, and don't be afraid of working up to lifting as heavy a weight as you can handle. I've been doing strength training for almost a year now and even though there are others far more serious than I am, I've got good muscle tone and defined muscles that are not bulky by any stretch of the imagination. However, two added bonuses from lifting: I found that I can eat slightly more and stay in maintenance mode because muscle is active tissue and burns calories, and I also look more balanced, whereas I was a definite "pear" before. The muscles in my shoulders and arms have filled out enough (again, without being bulky) to create more of a visual balance between my upper half and my hips.

I don't think you can go wrong with strength training, as long as you keep good form, push your limits but don't push past them, and know what you are doing. Just my two cents; hopefully others will chime in!
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Old 02-17-2011, 08:38 PM   #3 (permalink)
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The toning/building dichotomy isn't really a meaningful thing. Toning usually implies making ones muscles more visible, yes? The only way you can accomplish that is by 1) building muscle (usually posted as the opposite to toning?) and 2) getting rid of body fat so that muscle you're building becomes more visible. I realize that contradicts these possibly absolutely ripped guys in the gym saying the opposite, but just because they got there doesn't mean they took the best path, y'know?

I really hope you take cjohnson's first paragraph up there to heart, because it's 100% true. Unless you embark on a long road of highly focused training, diet and quite possibly chemical assistance you aren't going to turn into she-hulk. Don't be afraid to strength train or push yourself with weights.

As far as exercise, it really depends on what you have available there to work with. I tend to recommend stumptuous.com for pretty well an encyclopedia of material oriented towards women wanting to learn the nuts and bolts of getting in shape and examples of some programs that give good results.
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Old 02-18-2011, 02:53 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cjohnson728 View Post
It's hard to say what' "right" for a particular individual, but I can tell you that, as a female, you won't "bulk up." Women simply don't have the hormones to do this. The occasional pic of a woman bodybuilder you will see has gotten that way by seriously cutting body fat to a very low level and making a concerted effort to ramp up protein significantly in order to put on muscle weight, in addition to heavy lifting.
That was very reassuring to hear, thank you. I'm a complete weakling right now so I'm just doing what I can. I've never been a "pear shape" (I used to have quite defined shoulders, back, and chest muscles from swimming) but I do hate the weak feeling in my entire upper body. I feel more confident to just "go for" the weights now and do what I'd like to do.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TheLiftingYeti
Toning usually implies making ones muscles more visible, yes? The only way you can accomplish that is by 1) building muscle (usually posted as the opposite to toning?) and 2) getting rid of body fat so that muscle you're building becomes more visible. I realize that contradicts these possibly absolutely ripped guys in the gym saying the opposite, but just because they got there doesn't mean they took the best path, y'know?

I really hope you take cjohnson's first paragraph up there to heart, because it's 100% true. Unless you embark on a long road of highly focused training, diet and quite possibly chemical assistance you aren't going to turn into she-hulk. Don't be afraid to strength train or push yourself with weights.
Yeah, I have to admit I didn't understand these guys. This wasn't at a gigantic gym but at the small gym that comes with my apartment complex -- these younger men (I'd guess college, they all looked about 21) who were obviously into some kind of sport (maybe football?) -- they were just big dudes, tall, muscular. Not bodybuilder ripped, but certainly focused athletes. I will take that to heart and not worry so much about strengthening exercises, especially as I start to add more in (I'm more lose-weight focused than build-muscle focused right now, though I want the two to even out over time)

Many thanks to you both
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Terri
Female, 31 years old, 5'4 1/2" tall
Starting weight 1/4/11 = 215.2 lbs.
Weight 9/19/14 = 176.6 (net: -38.6)
Last mini-goal: 180 lbs. REACHED! Reward - new sports bra
Current min-goal: 175 lbs.
Next large goal: 165 lbs. by 12/25/2014
Lowest weight: 156.7 lbs.
150.2 lbs. <--- Official "Healthy BMI" weight
Estimated final goal: 130-140 lbs.
"You don't have to change your life today. You only need to change your day today."
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Old 02-18-2011, 07:57 PM   #5 (permalink)
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You may want to consider 'mixing up' your repetition and weights. Adjusting the weight to achieve failure at a higher or lower repetition range will provide different benefits depending on the number of reps acheived. For example using a weight that only allows 4-6 reps before failure (defined as not being able to perform another rep with good form or assistance) provides the most muscle mass gains. 6-8 reps provide the greatest strength gains. Reps greater than 8 provide the greatest muscle endurance gains. This doesn't mean you won't gain some mass when lifting in the 6-8 rep range or that you won't see any strength gains when only lifting 4 reps.

Most of us want to have a balance of size, strength and endurance. To acheive this you can change up your routine (daily, weekly or monthly) to include all three rep ranges. The change helps keep your workouts from becoming stale and forces your muscles to adapt in new ways so your gains do not plataeu.

Don't worry about gaining too much size from low reps. As others have stated, it just isn't going to happen for women.
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Old 02-28-2011, 04:47 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I just realized I never posted back here to say thanks for all the insight!!

The idea of adjusting the weight to do different amounts of reps is a good one, and I'll take it to heart and mix up my routines a little bit! I'm just such a worrywart - I'll stop worrying about it. I'd really only get ripped if I wanted to, right? I'll push just as hard as I can, whether on a machine or otherwise. Sometimes the machines have a line as my gym is tiny, and there are a bunch of people working out at the same time I do. Free weights ahoy, on those nights.
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Terri
Female, 31 years old, 5'4 1/2" tall
Starting weight 1/4/11 = 215.2 lbs.
Weight 9/19/14 = 176.6 (net: -38.6)
Last mini-goal: 180 lbs. REACHED! Reward - new sports bra
Current min-goal: 175 lbs.
Next large goal: 165 lbs. by 12/25/2014
Lowest weight: 156.7 lbs.
150.2 lbs. <--- Official "Healthy BMI" weight
Estimated final goal: 130-140 lbs.
"You don't have to change your life today. You only need to change your day today."
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Old 03-03-2011, 05:03 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by taubele View Post
I'd really only get ripped if I wanted to, right?
Absolutely! Not to mention that it takes a lot of dietary and training discipline, and also maybe some "special vitamins" for the ladies to get to the point of "too much muscle." Even if you go heavy, you'll just get closer to your goal of defined arms and shoulders and flat tummy. If you think you're getting too big (which you aren't ), just back off on the weights a little bit. Muscle definition isn't permanent. You have to keep at it. Good luck!
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My rules:
1) eat real food - more vegetables, moderate meat, moderate fruits, less grains, less sugar, less vegetable oils.
2) exercise - moderate intensity cardio, sprinting, heavy lifting, dedicated stretching and mobility.
3) live - relax, de-stress, meditate.

Disclaimer: I'm not professionally qualified to make any formal recommendations. I've just done my homework and I'm my own guinea pig. All of my data, unless otherwise cited, comes from a sample size of n=1 (me).
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