I overheard you telling one of your clients that there is no such thing as toning exercises. That was the first time I ever heard someone say that. As an older female, my only reason for going to the gym is to get toned. What did you mean by your statement?
A: What I meant by my statement was that there is absolutely NO specific exercises that magically “shape” and “tone” your muscles, compared to other exercises that mysteriously build “big, bulky, ugly” muscles. This is one of the biggest misconceptions in gyms throughout the country. (There is such a thing as muscle “tone”, but the explanation may surprise you. True muscle tone is actually residual tension in a relaxed muscle. This kind of tension comes from neurological activity that keeps your muscles half-flexed when you are relaxed. But, somehow I don’t think you were looking for the scientific explanation of muscle tone.)
O.K., here’s my input on the more practical version of muscle “tone” that you were probably talking about. Muscle “tone” is achieved when people who strength train possess low bodyfat levels. Basically, if there is minimal fat covering your muscles, you will look “toned”. On the other hand, most people consider a muscle covered by fat a “bulky” muscle. So remember that it’s not the actual muscle tissue that gets “toned” or “bulky” by certain exercises – your shape is mainly dependant on how much bodyfat you are carrying! Oprah didn’t get to look like she does because she performed to many sets of bench presses and squats! What she eats is the main culprit for her “bulk”. (Sorry, Oprah, your name just happened to pop into my head.)
One of my biggest pet peeves are people who eat McDonald’s every day, then come to the gym and only use the plastic-coated, neon-colored dumbells because they “don’t want to get big & bulky”. Hopefully this hammers home my point.
In conclusion, the “real” way to achieve a tight & toned body is to lift weights, watch what you eat and participate in some cardiovascular activities or interval training (to shed some extra fat). It’s that simple. Don’t be afraid to push yourself in the weight room either. Don’t worry; you won’t turn into a man. Men produce approximately 10-times the amount of testosterone than our female counter-parts. This is the main reason that, in general, men have an easier time putting on muscle – especially in the upper body.
Don’t believe the hype!
Q: Mr. DeFranco,
You came into Starbucks today and I noticed your website address on the back of your t-shirt. We don’t get too many muscular guys in there that look like you. I was too embarrassed to ask you in person so I guess I’ll ask you now. We were all wondering after you left, how much can you bench press?
A: A lot.
I noticed in one of your posts you said that you only do 3 or 4 leg exercises with your athletes on leg day. Our coach usually has us do 6-8 different leg exercises on leg day. We usually do leg presses, barbell squats, hack squats, leg extensions, leg curls, seated calf raises, standing calf raises and then we finish with walking lunges for the length of the football field. At least 2 kids puke every leg day. It’s brutal! I know that you know what you’re talking about, but I just can’t imagine 3 exercises being enough. I always thought that since your legs are the biggest muscles in your body, you should hit them harder than any other body part. Isn’t this true?
A: Trevor, I have nothing against your coach, but I have to let you in on a little secret. ANY coach can make you tired, but it takes a true PROFESSIONAL to make you stronger, faster, more flexible, etc.
Here’s an example of what I am talking about: If you did jumping jacks for an hour straight, I guarantee you would be tired when you were done. But, would that make you a better athlete? I don’t think so. Hopefully you get my point that working hard is only half of the battle – you must also work SMART. In other words, puking should not be the goal of your workouts. Every now and then puking may be an unfortunate side effect of the workout, but it should never be the goal. The goal should be to become a better athlete.
I do commend you for working hard. Keep it up! You may need some direction with regards to how to train smart, though. I don’t know where you’re from, but I would be more than happy to help you. You can have your coach call me or you can call me personally. I can then give you a detailed explanation with regards to the science behind my training philosophies. Best of luck.
I’m leaving for college on Tuesday and will be tested in the 225 lb. bench press test on Wednesday. We have to bench 225 lbs. as many times as we can. I was wondering if I should do any kind of a warm-up before the test or should I save my energy and just get right into it? (My max bench is 385 lbs.)
Great question. Most kids don’t even think about the warm-up in this test. I feel the warm-up is, without question, the most overlooked component of this test.
Your question is very timely as well. I just finished a “mini-study” of my own that even surprised me with regards to how much a proper warm-up can help you with this test.
This past July, I tested 27 different football players in this test. The players ranged from high school to the NFL. (College players from division I, I-AA, II & III were all represented.) Their 1-rep max in the bench press ranged from 260 lbs. to 465lbs.
The first time I tested them, I had them all warm-up on their own before performing the test. 7 days after their original test, they took the test again. The second time they performed the test they had to perform the warm-up I designed. Although I was confident that this warm-up would get everyone at least another rep on their test, I was surprised by the results. The average increase of all 27 athletes was 2.4 reps. The least amount of reps anyone added to their test was 1 rep. The biggest improvement was 5 reps! NO ONE did worse and NO ONE did the same. After seeing these results I tried the warm-up myself. I went from 28 reps with my old warm-up to 30 reps with my new warm-up. That was the first time I benched 225 lbs. for 30 reps in my life! Hopefully this helps you to realize how powerful the proper warm-up can be.
You’re now probably wondering what
was the warm-up. Unfortunately, I don’t want to make
this warm-up public just yet. To be quite honest, I want
my clients to have the edge over everyone else when they
go to camp and perform this test. I’m also finishing
up a very exciting project that has this information in
it. Keep checking this site for more info.
(Jim, I will email you personally with the specific warm-up since you asked the question.)
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