Toning/spot reduction

Discussion in 'Fitness Health and Exercise' started by Kate, 10 January 2007 Social URL.

  1. Kate

    Kate CDC/PT/PITA

    I've seen a few posts today that made me think of a particular article that you might find interesting. It's part of a series of "Mythbusting" articles addressing various popular myths about exercise and diet:

    Mythbusting: toning and spot reduction

    Two of my least favourite myths surrounding exercise and weight loss are:

    - you can "tone" your muscles
    - you can target your weight loss to a particular area

    They're my least favourite because they're so hard to bust. A lot of people believe so strongly in these two that convincing them otherwise can be a real uphill struggle - and it's a struggle most trainers have to deal with regularly, because these myths are particularly widespread.

    The problem with the myth of "toning" is that it's based on a misinterpretation - the idea that you can tone a muscle, giving it more definition and firming it up.

    Sorry, you can't.

    The reality is that you can only "tone" your body as a whole, by losing weight and gaining muscle. The only things you can do to a muscle are:

    a) make it bigger
    b) make it smaller

    You can't lengthen it, change its shape, or make it firmer. You can give your arms better definition by losing fat in order to reveal the muscle, and building up that muscle so there's more to show off (the huge added benefit of this is that muscle burns plenty of calories, even at rest - so if you build a bit of muscle, the fat will melt away that much more quickly!).

    I often hear it suggested that this mythical "toning" is achieved by lifting light weights for lots of reps. Not so! Lifting light weights for lots of reps will build muscle just the same as lifting heavier weights for fewer reps, but you'd be working on your endurance, whereas lifting the heavy weights for fewer reps you'd be working on strength.

    "Toning" often goes hand in hand with spot reduction. The theory here is that if you work a particular area, you will lose fat from that area. For example: lose belly fat by doing lots of crunches (doesn't work!) or eliminate bingo wings by doing tricep dips (sorry!).

    I'm afraid it's just not possible. When you lose fat, your body will decide where it's going to go from, and you can't influence it. You can, however, speed up your fat loss (see above - a pound of muscle burns a whopping 25 times more calories than a pound of fat) through weight training. It'll also increase bone density, improve your strength, flexibility and general health and fitness, and reduce your risk of disease.

    While we're at it, I'll bust one more myth, because I can imagine some female readers might see this and think, "well, I'll just not bother with weights, then! I don't want to make my muscles bigger!" Relax. We ladies don't produce enough testosterone to build a lot of muscle without a fairly intense training regime. Add a bit of resistance exercise to your training programme and you'll look great, feel great, and burn more fat faster.
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  3. Russiandoll

    Russiandoll Carpe diem

    Start Weight:
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    Cambridge Weight Plan - Step 1
    What an interesting article!
    I knew about the spot reduction thing i.e I can't lose weight specifically from my stomach by doing crunches (if only though!!) but I didn't realise about the toning part.

    I've always been led to believe that you can 'tone' muscles i.e make them firmer. Now I know that we're just making them bigger and losing the fat from around them!

    Mind you, 'toning' has a nice ring about it especially for us ladies. Don't think many of us would like to use an expression like 'muscle building' - people might think we're aiming to look like Arnie!

    At the end of the day, I don't suppose it matters what we call it as long as we know what's happening to our bodies when we train. :)
  4. Kate

    Kate CDC/PT/PITA

    Absolutely! And you're right, "toning" does sound nice. I like the term "conditioning" too.
  5. B-D

    B-D Full Member

    Cambridge Diet
    So what hope is there for my saggy postnatal tummy. I was just contemplating crunches and press-ups while subconciously looking for an excuse not to 'punish' myself.
  6. Kate

    Kate CDC/PT/PITA

    You can still build up the muscles and lose fat - it's not that you can't 'tone', just that you tone the *body* rather than the *muscles*.

    How long ago did you give birth?
  7. B-D

    B-D Full Member

    Cambridge Diet
    4 months ago
  8. B-D

    B-D Full Member

    Cambridge Diet
    but it never recovered from the previous one 18months ago
  9. olijames

    olijames Member

    Thanks so much for posting this article..makes sense!!

    Hey DQ Im looking to lose post natal flab also...almost 9 years later....
  10. cah-ching

    cah-ching Gold Member

    Hi Kate,

    Very good post. Although I knew all of what you wrote already it's still amazes me that when I go to the gym I hear fitness instructors telling women to do a particular exercise in order to "target the bingo wings" or "reduce those thighs!"
    I'm unclear as to what "toning" means. All I know is, I'm hoping my skin (bingo wings and upper thighs especially) won't be too bad after I reach goal and it continues to shink over time - or else it's plastic surgery for me!
  11. cah-ching

    cah-ching Gold Member

    LMAO ..... you mean B_D not D_Q. :D ;)
  12. olijames

    olijames Member

    I Do mean BD I just glanced saw 2 initials and thought DQ..I read so many of her posts....oops!

  13. Kate

    Kate CDC/PT/PITA

    Thanks! I'm glad people are reading it.

    Mixed messages from instructors, qualified or otherwise - that's just part of the reason why people are so confused about what exercise does for their bodies (other chief offenders include women's magazines).

    Top tip: if you have a bit of saggy skin that won't shift, and you build up the muscle in that area, it will minimise the 'saggy' look because it'll fill your skin out a bit. If you can't make your bingo wings smaller, make your arms bigger! ;)
  14. Mrs Pink

    Mrs Pink Banned

  15. Kate

    Kate CDC/PT/PITA

    LOL originally posted January 2007...see how I repeat myself :D
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