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Tone Deaf

I was asked today by a wisp of a girl I work with what she should be eating now that she had signed up for a “toning class.” I groaned and told her that was a terrible question. She could tell that I work out so she figured she should ask me.

First a grumble about “toning up”. You want to show some definition without getting huge – okay, that means leaning out. We’ve all got muscles, most people just can’t see them clearly because we’ve got fat between them and the skin. Most of the time that’s fine, a little fat is not the least bit harmful. Maybe it’s not sexy, but it’s not putting us in a grave early either. But to show that tone some of the fat has to go. With less fat the body gets smaller and looks smaller. To combat it, and assuming we’re eating an adequate amount, we put on some muscle weight. That’s what happens when you successfully tone up. Your muscles get bigger and stronger and you lose fat. It’s not something to be scared or ashamed of, it’s something to be proud of because so many people have proven that they can’t do it. If you can then take pride in it. You won’t look like you spent twenty years busting rocks in a maximum security women’s prison, you’ll look damn good to anyone who doesn’t prefer their dates to be women they keep imprisoned in a pit in their basement.

I showed her a picture of my wife (well, a picture of my family) and asked her what she thought of her. She said she was very pretty (she is too — the kind of pretty that I’d be scared to talk to if I wasn’t already in a relationship with her). I then gave her a hint of the abuse I put my wife through multiple times a week as her trainer. And the pride I felt watching her deadlift that 210lb cement ball at the Arnold Classic 30 times to set a record at that booth for women. The girl I work with (name with held to protect the innocent), was amazed. “She doesn’t look big!” she commented.

Damn right. Strength and “big” can be unrelated. Just like a person can look normal and be strong as an ox, so can a big and burly looking person struggle to carry a bag of dog food from their car to the front door. I told my co-worker this and I’ll share it with anyone brave enough to read this: women can not get that freakishly large and scary look on their own. Even with the help of a trainer they will continue to look like a woman. In order to be packing large masculine muscles and veins big enough to slip a nickel through a woman has to resort to anabolic steroids.

I went on to tell her I was leery of classes like that. Typically they end up being nothing more than cardio classes with pink dumbbells tossed in to provide some variety and make it interesting. Is it true resistance training? Maybe for a week and a half, then it become aerobic, catabolic, and mind-numbing. And the best part – you’re paying somebody to do that to you. Yeah, no thanks.

If you want muscle tone and definition, pick up the weights. I just saw several studies the other day where squats were the subject of attention, in particular the depth of squats. Two things were found – provided you do not have actual knee damage, parallel depth squats are good for your knees. Similarly, the deeper into a squat you go the more activation your glutes receive from it. More activation means more calorie burning and more strength / muscle growth. The glutes, by the way, are the single largest muscle in the human body. Large means it has more potential for raising metabolism and burning fat. Oh, and for the connoisseurs of fine posteriors out there, squats will deliver the curve, shape, and firmness often desired.

This particular woman was also wondering how to make her back look better. Given that I could not see her back, nor did I want to suggest or even imply that she should take her shirt off and show it to me, I could only offer some rather canned advice. Squats again, to start, as well as deadlifts, rowing exercises, and vertical pulling (lat Pulldowns, pull-ups / chin-ups). Especially the latter if she’s trying to make her lots get more definition and help showcase more of an hourglass figure. Giving the shoulders a little more pop with some overhead pressing helps define that shape as well. Then again I’m a sucker for a chick with good shoulders. Lucky me, my wife’s got some!

Now most of the piece has been devoted to the female form. I’d argue much of life should be devoted to the female form, but as soon as I did I’d need a shovel to see how deep I could dig my own hole. Instead let me point out that by taking a step back it is easy to apply these same principles to men. After all, I’m told that women like their men to have a nice butt too!

But us guys aren’t so much into the hourglass figure, at least for ourselves. Building up the shoulders and lats, if you’re looking for a beach body, is a great way to build a tapered look. Strong glutes and a lower back will do wonders for helping and preventing back, hip, knee, and ankle problems down the road as well. Not to mention what guy doesn’t want to feel like they’ve got oak tree trunks for thighs? Sure, maybe they aren’t the size of a tree, but just knowing that they feel solid enough to laugh off a swinging axe is a big confidence boost. As a matter of common sense don’t actually test them against an axe — I have personal experience with this, the axe will win.

But what about her initial question regarding food? Well this lucky lady doesn’t have a problem maintaining her weight. I did warn her that starting an exercise program will probably require her to eat a little more though. Eating more frequently is a good idea as well, for reasons I’ve talked about already. I encouraged her to lean more towards protein and less towards carbs – and that fat is not a bad thing unless she has a craving for deep fried stuff. Her response was, “You mean I don’t need to go on a diet, just be smarter and think about what I’m eating?” YES! Finally somebody that seems to understand that we don’t have to be miserable while eating, we just have to be conscious of it and intelligent. Make smarter choices, not choices that push you off a cliff.

Jason’s Website
Jason’s Smashwords Page
New book out – available at no cost on Smashwords – Voices

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Categories: Weight Lifting
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