I got a wonderfully bitchy comment in response to my latest fitness essay. And in response to my mild rebuttal, I got two more, which were not so wonderful and have been deleted. I don't have to let people work out their issues by slamming me in my own space. (She reminds me of someone who went postal on Nicole and Maggie over at Grumpy Rumblings. Those comments got deleted, too.)
For the record, the commenter says she was able to lose significant weight, and keep it off, by lifting heavy weights. This is great; I'm happy for her. But that's not what my piece was about. It was about use of light weights to facilitate mild fitness gains.
Most people who achieve significant weight loss due so by reducing calories, not by lifting heavy loads. When I write about weight loss, that's what I emphasize. I never had 100 pounds to lose, but that doesn't mean I can't apply the best of current fitness research when I write about weight loss.
The commenter claimed there is no such thing as "toning." However ... she's incorrect. Everything I've written about fitness on this site is consistent with mainstream fitness advice which I've gleaned from ten years of study and experience as a certified personal trainer and long-term-fit person.
When I say I do a "toning" workout, I'm talking about using light loads to keep the muscle I already have in a strong, functional, and shapely condition. I'm not talking about going from 100 pounds overweight to a normal weight, or about becoming a bodybuilder, or about going from completely deconditioned they-kicked-sand-in-my-face weakling to a strong, fit person. I'm already strong and fit. For others in that state, it certainly is possible to maintain their level of fitness with light weights.
Lifting too much weight, too soon, with improper technique, under inadequate supervision, is dangerous. People get hurt this way all the time. However, very few people are going to get hurt by picking up a pair of "Barbie weights" (commenter's hilarious term) and starting to learn how to use them.
When a qualified trainer starts someone on a weight program, they don't start them with 20-pound weights. Someone who is learning to perform a squat is going to do it first with body weight only. Then with - yes - light weights, like 5-lb dumbbells. Gradually the amount of weight is increased until the client can perform the squat with perfect form with an unloaded bar (which weighs 30 to 40 pounds). A trainer who puts a client under the bar in the first workout should be immediately fired.
You have to start somewhere, and then work your way up. Strength is like flexibility - if you can't touch your toes today, you're not going to be touching your toes tomorrow. It's going to take time, and you have to progress through various intensities and challenges and loads.
And - the real point of my preceding essay - by using light weights you are not going to bulk up. You're going to start strengthening your muscles, increasing your metabolism, and increasing your overall physical stability and function, without bulking up.
So, this was for the women out there who have been afraid to use weights but who have not been getting the results they want. I build muscle easily, and if I don't bulk up, neither will you. That's all I'm saying.