Spread the Health

The Truth About Toning

By Jess K., Office of Residence Life

If you are wondering whether you should increase the amount of reps you are doing at the gym or increasing your weight with fewer reps, you are not the only one. There is a great debate in the fitness world on how to stay strong, but slim. If you’ve been avoiding weights because you think that building muscle means that you’ll bulk up, think again.


When you lift weights that are challenging, you actually create micro-tears in the muscle fibers. These tears are then repaired by the body (this is where soreness comes from!) and in that process the muscle becomes stronger and a little bit bigger. However, because muscle tissue is denser than fat, adding a little bit more muscle to your body and decreasing your fat actually makes you look leaner—not bigger.

While there is some truth to the idea that lifting lighter weights for more reps does a better job of increasing the muscular endurance, lighter weights will not help you “tone” better than heavy weights. In fact, because heavier weights build the strength of your muscles–thereby helping to increase your metabolism and burn fat–lifting heavier weights with fewer reps (8 to 12 on average) and working until you’re fatigued is more effective at helping you reach your toning goals than lifting lighter weights. [1, 2]

The next time you think about working out at FitRec or anywhere else, try to incorporate weight lifting in your routine and don’t be afraid to add more weight as you get stronger.

SPREAD THE HEALTH: Doing fewer reps with heavier weights (not lighter ones!) builds muscle strength and will be more effective at helping you reach your toning goals.

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