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Weight Training: toning, size, endurance & strength

14/08/2009

1.  Using weights is NOT bodybuilding

There is a common misconception that if you so much as look at a weight, you will turn into Arnold Schwarzenegger.  This is not true.  Using weights in different ways will have vastly different effects on your body.  Weights are commonly used for:

Injury rehab.
“Toning”
Injury prevention
Endurance
General health
Strength
C.V. fitness
Power
Improved quality of life
Size
Improved aesthetics (“looks”)
Bodybuilding
Bodyfat loss

Virtually every elite athlete in the world uses weights, from marathon runners to sprinters, and from ballet dancers to heavyweight boxers.  They use them in different ways and end up with very different abilities and body shapes.

Although there are many reasons to use weights, most of the general public end up using them for aesthetic reasons – to get the body shape they desire.

Here you will see some of the different ways to use weights and get different results.
But first, an explanation of some of the jargon:

Reps – or repetitions.  This is the maximum number of times you can move the weight safely in one go, before it gets too heavy.  eg “10 reps” is “10 times”.

Sets – a “group” of reps.  So in the above example, you would move the weight for 1 set of 10 reps, have a breather, then move the weight for a second set of 10 reps.

Rest between sets – exactly what it sounds like.  You have a rest between sets.  Let your body recover, shake and loosen your limbs and recover before starting your next set.  Don’t neglect your rests!  They are important!

2.  Toning

Toned bodyAims – To firm and tighten up a body.  This often is a mixture of endurance (for healthy, lean muscles) and hypertrophy (to avoid a “skeleton” look).

Examples – many dancers and models have a classic “toned” body.

Guidelines – How to train for “tone”.

Sets
Reps
Rest between sets
2-4
12-15
30-60 seconds

Notes – There is no single definition for a “toned” body.  Everybody has their own opinion and it usually changes with the current fashion.  But it is the most commonly asked for body shape in the gym.  It usually means a combination of low body fat levels (see our “How to Lose Weight” infosheet) and good muscular definition.

This will bring about an increase in muscle definition, rather than muscle size.  Best suited for your average person who just wants to get “a bit more toned”.

3. HypertrophyMuscle Size

Aims – To increase the physical size of muscles, or to “bulk up”.

Examples – Rugby players, bodybuilders, American footballers.

Guidelines – How to train for size:

Sets
Reps
Rest between sets
3-6
6-12
30-90 seconds

Notes – This is the kind of weight training most people think about and is often done for aesthetic reasons.  Best suited for those who have a definite safety advantage in being big (eg rugby players) and those who want to “bulk up”.

4. Muscular Endurance

Marathon RunnerAims – The aim of endurance training is to improve the ability of the muscles to work continuously for a long time without getting tired.

Examples – people who train for endurance include marathon runners, long distance swimmers & soldiers.

Guidelines – How to train for endurance:

Sets
Reps
Rest between sets
2-3
>15
<30 seconds

Notes – This will bring about hardly any increase in the size of your muscles.  Best suited for those who find their limbs start to feel “heavy” before they have finished.

5.  Maximum StrengthAmir Khan

Aims – to maximise the strength produced by the muscles you already have. This way you become stronger but not bigger/heavier.

Examples – boxers, high/long jumpers, runners for all distances, cyclists, soldiers.

Guidelines – How to train for Maximum Strength.

Sets
Reps
Rest between sets
3-6
1-5
3-5 minutes

Notes – This training will have little effect on the size of your muscles.  It improves the bodys nervous system, so making the muscles you already have work much more efficiently.

This way a relatively small Amir Khan (pictured) can be much stronger than a much larger bodybuilder, who only trains for muscle size.

Best suited for advanced trainers where a good strength:weight ratio is needed.  This is not suitable for beginners.


Remember the most important thing about weight training of all kinds.

Your body works on the “good enough” principle.  That means your muscles will only get “good enough” to cope with what you are currently doing, then they will stop improving.  For further improvement you have to constantly push them out of their comfort zones, forcing them to get toned/stronger/bigger/better.

If you have any questions about fitness and how you can improve it, contact us for a free consultation.

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