In today’s blog post, I’m going to address one of the most widespread misconceptions when it comes to getting in shape…cardio. Cardio is extremely important because if we do it correctly, it strengthens our heart, increases circulation, and helps with our endurance, but the problem is, everywhere you look, someone is telling you that in order to lose weight and tone up, you need to do massive amounts of cardio.
That’s just not the case, especially if your goal is to develop a tight, toned body and get long-term results. Cardio does not make that happen. Most people want the same things: a flat stomach, more defined shoulders and arms, no back fat, tighter waist with no love handles, lose inches around the thighs. Because of those goals, our key focus within the gym needs to be building lean muscle as it’s the number one thing that governs our body’s metabolism or the number of calories that we burn throughout the day. That’s how we’ll finally get that fit, firm, and toned body that we’re all looking for.
It’s a key concept that we must understand; more lean muscle leads to a higher metabolism, causing us to burn more calories throughout the day, taking off that extra body fat.
If we’re doing things correctly, it takes our body 4-6 weeks to develop one pound of lean muscle tissue. This extra pound of muscle will allow us to burn more calories every single day. N, we know that we’re not going to gain or lose weight, or make significant changes to our body composition overnight. It’s a slow process, so the important thing is to develop the proper habits and be consistent.
So that’s why it’s so important that we start to build that lean muscle tissue. The higher metabolism will really help us take off that extra body fat while allowing us to get that tight, toned look. Now let’s talk about the process of how our bodies actually add that muscle on.
How Our Bodies Build Muscle
When we lift weights correctly, we actually break the muscle down by creating microscopic tears. If done correctly, we will send our body into a state of shock. You’re probably familiar with what I’m talking about here. Maybe you haven’t done barbell squats for months and you decide that you want to include them in your workout. Well the next day, your legs are stiff, it hurts to sit down or get up from a chair, and going up and down stairs is not pleasant. In that instance, our body isn’t used to the stress that we’ve placed upon it and it literally feels the need to adapt in order to survive.
At this point, if we go home and eat and rest appropriately, our body will grow back stronger than ever, we will increase our lean muscle, raise our metabolism, and make all of those changes to our body that we want to make. This is the positive side to our bodies ability to adapt.
The flip side is the fact that our bodies are extremely efficient at adapting to things. Thousands of people join a gym every January and many start to see results. They’ve lost a few pounds, their clothes feel a little different, maybe they start to notice a little more energy throughout the day. Things are going great, then suddenly…everything stops! It’s like somebody stomped on the brakes. What happened? We’re still working hard, still going to the gym a few days a week, still trying to eat healthy. We still really want these goals, but our body has literally stopped changing.
We call these training plateaus and unfortunately they keep more than 95% of people who exercise from ever reaching their fitness goals. Now it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s not because of genetics or age, it’s because people don’t truly understand how these plateaus work. We don’t have to work out 2 or 3 hours a day, 7 days a week either. It’s typically not about working out longer or harder, it’s more about working out smarter.
The short answer to this problem is that as our bodies change, our workouts have to change as well to continue to shock our bodies. There are a number of ways that we can vary our workouts, such as: splits, weight, sets, reps, tempo, and ROM. These are all important, but the one thing that I have seen derail people the most is exercise selection. The average person that joins the gym these days knows maybe 3-4 exercises per muscle group. Most people tend to gravitate toward the machines and mix in a few free weight exercises here and there.
That’s a great start, but unfortunately it’s not enough to continue to shock and change our bodies over the long-term. Once we branch away from using the machines and start using exercise balls, medicine balls, bands, kettlebells, free weights, TRX, and other dynamic movements, now all of a sudden we know At this point, the sky is the limit. We can continue to shock and change our body however we want.
In the end, the secret to getting that tight and toned body, as well as achieving permanent, life-long results is to focus on building lean muscle through weight training. This will allow us to raise our metabolism, burn more calories throughout the day, and take off that extra body fat, unveiling that firm, tight, and toned body.
We also know that we have to constantly vary and change up our workouts in order to prevent those training plateaus from occurring. That means branching out from the typical circuit machines inside the gym and using equipment such as free weights, dumbbells, kettlebells, etc. That will allow us to change up our workouts all the time and get positive results month after month.
If a tight, toned body is what you’re after, make sure you start to include more weight training into your weekly routine. Pair that with some cardio and a great diet, as well as staying consistent along the way, and you have discovered the recipe for getting in great shape.