Toning is one of those words used all the time in the fitness industry to describe exercises for certain body parts. First off it’s a made up word for fitness non experts. There are NO toning exercises. You can train to lose body fat, but there are no exercises that get rid of arm fat or leg fat specifically. If you want an individualized fat loss program that can spot reduce, it has to be done through manipulating hormones via nutrition and supplementation. That’s why I use the BioSignature Method, because it allows me to do just that and a whole lot more.
Back to exercises though. Lets discuss this in the context of the female training client looking for weight loss. If I had to make a list of the least effective exercises for female fat loss, a large portion of them would consist of bicep curls and triceps extensions. Despite that fact in the period of waking from one end of the gym to another I saw every fat loss client doing some sort of isolated bicep or triceps exercise. Had there been one person in the gym doing squats, they would have been achieving better fat loss than the rest combined. If your trying to lose weight and would not consider yourself a strong athlete, you have no business doing isolated arm exercises in your fat loss program male or female. A reference would be that of a pull-up. If you can not perform a single chin/pull-up, arm training should not be part of your routine yet. Smaller muscles don’t burn significant calories, or create the systemic hormonal responses needed to burn fat.
What makes a good fat loss exercise for a female training client?
1. Its a big movement – This means it requires a large range of motion for the muscle to go through. A full squat requires a lot more movement than a small step up.
2. It crosses multiple joints – An example of this would be a squat or lunge which require movement at the hip and knee or a row which moves at the elbow and shoulder. Crossing multiple joints means more muscles are involved. The more muscles involved the greater systemic response you can produce to solicit fat burning effects.
3. The exercise can break the anaerobic/aerobic thresholds – Basically if it’s not an exercise that you could make someone gasp for air with, its not going to be very effective by itself. You have to be very strong to be able to go breathless from a set of bicep curls before they would just give out from fatigue. You could also use heart rate as a measure of this, but it’s not quite as accurate.
4. It breaks the lactate threshold – In other words it burns. The creation of lactic acid is crucial for the stimulation of fat burning hormones. If you’re not doing big multi joint exercises with the right reps, tempo, and rest intervals, you can make a good exercise ineffective.