Lifting weights for muscle tone allows women to gain strength with the extra added size. A lot of women want to get more toned verses really gaining the extra pounds. For many ladies they would just love to have toned thighs and arms, not really bigger arms and thighs right?
For many women the goal is simple: lose weight, have a nice figure, and look great. Rarely do women really want to bulk up unless they are in some type of body building or figure competition.
I truly have met many women that want to add a ton of mass to their bodies. Fitting into those jeans or Lululemons and having a smaller waist are key desires. Truth be told if you are a woman who wants to add weight then this post isn’t really for you.
You’ve probably seen or heard that women can’t put on a lot of muscle mass. While it’s true that naturally a woman wont get as big as Arnold in Conan or look like Rambo lifting weights you can’t miss the fact that lifting can still add mass that some just don’t want. It’s like if you already have bigger thighs like my wife you don’t want to do squats to add more muscle to an area you are hoping to get smaller.
Remember what’s too much is dependent on the person. You may think you need to lose 5lbs while another woman may be looking to add 10lbs. It just all depends. At the end of the day if you want to be toned then adding weight, any weight might be considered too much.
Getting your muscles to look more toned is about getting them to be more dense. There is a huge difference between muscle growth and getting them to look stronger and dense. If you want size you should do one thing and if you want muscle tone you should be doing something completely different.
Lift Heavy for Muscle Tone
I know this goes against what you have thought or been taught but hear me out. The best way to get more dense and toned muscles is to lift heavy. Lifting heavy weights allows you to generate and develop strong muscle contractions. Most women don’t lift heavy because they think this will make them look like a man.
In reality the thing that builds muscle is lifting weights until failure. Lifting to failure breaks down your muscle and requires it to build back up and usually bigger to be prepared for more lifting to failure. You can increase muscle size if you lift with 3 reps and you can do the same with 15 reps. It’s all about whether or not you are going to failure with the reps.
So in short, to avoid gaining size, you should cut your sets well short of failure and if you want to gain mass aim for failure. So an example would be doing squats. If you want to get bigger thighs and buttocks you would go to failure on each set. These will control gaining muscles and size in that area.
However, if you want to tone those thighs and firm up your butt you would do shorter sets not to failure. This control of fatigue and failure will allow you to decide on whether you want bigger thighs or arms vs more definition and tone.
Training to Failure Equals Bigger Muscles
If you want to get bigger then just train to failure. However, if you are looking for muscle tone and strength you need to train a few reps short of failure on each set. It doesn’t matter if you do 2 sets or 5 sets just don’t go to failure.
The more you train to failure (or closer to failure) the more you increase your chances of muscle breakdown. When you break down your muscle you risk the potential for muscle growth when it is repaired or healed.
Simply put, training to failure will create the potential for muscle growth which is usually opposite of what most women are looking for when training. Women are usually looking to firm up and tone their thighs and do not want to have to go up a size or two in their jeans and/or pants because they started working out.
If you are going up in pant sizes when toning your legs it’s because you are building muscle. Which means your thighs are getting bigger, same for your arms, back, etc. Shaping muscles is not done by doing reps to failure over and over again.
Lifting Heavy But Short of Failure
For women looking to tone up the key is truly in lifting heavy. You want to lift short of failure but you also don’t want to be lifting light weight. Light weights are really going to do much for you. By lifting heavy you make your muscles contract and repeated contractions of a muscle is what builds definition and density over time.
Look at the legs of a dancer. The repeated exercises build toned thighs and calves while also making the muscles stronger over time.
So the question next is usually how do I know what sets or reps to go for?
Lifting For Toned Muscles Guidelines
Below are a list of guidelines recommended for women wanting a good starting point for toning up and getting the dense muscle look.
Grab a weight you know you could complete for 8 reps.
- You are going to stop each set, with that weight, at 5 reps.
- Rest around a minute or so in between sets, to ensure the ability to contract the muscles hard each and every set.
- Complete 4-5 sets of an exercise, then move on to the next exercise.
- Choose 2 different exercises per muscle group.
- Each muscle group winds up with 8-10 sets.
- You should feel energized, not fatigued, after your workout.
- This is all covered in much more detail in the online course Visual Impact for Women.
I recommend a 2-day split.
- Day 1: Back, Chest, and Legs
- Day 2: Shoulders, Biceps, Triceps, and Abs
Note: So 2 exercises for back, 2 exercises for chest, 2 exercises for legs, etc…
If your legs are already more muscular than you would like, drop the direct leg work on Day 1
Finishing off your workout with a bit of cardio will maintain muscle tone while you drop a bit of mass on your legs.
Personal Trainers hate it when I give this advice.
…but if a muscle group is larger than desired, why do exercises that will potentially make that muscle group even larger?
Pick Exercises You Enjoy
I know you rarely ever hear someone say that. Usually it’s doing the exercises no one wants to do to get the body everyone wants. Well, honestly you can get the muscle tone and look you want doing exercises you like. Just simply pick two exercises you like and can feel for that particular muscle group.
Use whatever you need to use to get the job done. Whether it’s free weights, cables, kettlebells, machines etc do what you need to do to get your workout done.
Some women gravitate to machines and some free weights. In all honesty it doesn’t matter as long as there is resistance.
……hard contractions short of failure, is the GOAL
Just remember that there are many exercises that will allow you to accomplish hard contractions.
Heavy weights low reps = TONE Muscles
Heavy weights with low reps just short of failure is the key to toned muscles. As you get stronger you will still be increasing the weights just making sure you don’t over do it. Remember to gradually increase the weight as you feel the exercises getting easier and easier.
Getting toned is NOT difficult, it just takes a little time, some heavy weights, and consistency. Be careful not to get the trainer that wants to push you and push you to your limits. Going to failure and beyond is great if you want to gain muscle and size.
The focus here is helping you obtain your GOAL of looking tone and feeling great. Whatever your goals are, make sure the workout or training program has that in mind.