When we ask people what they want to achieve at The Gym they often say they want to look more ‘toned’. When they’re told they’ll be using weights to achieve this it’s usually received with a look of horror. This highlights the misinformation in the media surrounding the subject of weight loss vs the changing of body composition. The terms ‘weight loss’ and ‘toning’ therefore need to be differentiated.

Weight loss refers to total reduction in body weight irrespective of where the reduction has specifically occurred. The greater the calorie deficit the more ‘successful’ the person is in losing weight. As muscle mass is also lost people commonly become ‘skinny fat’: apparently thin but with a high body fat percentage and a wobbly, untoned appearance?

Toning refers to improved shape and increased muscle definition which generally happens with little – if any – weight loss. The reason? To increase muscle definition you need to build muscle tissue which is relatively heavy. The reduction in body fat is countered by the increase in muscle tissue so the difference in body weight becomes irrelevant. We’ve had many clients who have dropped two dress sizes without losing a single pound.

Training with weights has further benefits in reducing body fat. Fatiguing muscles during a high intensity session incorporating weights will burn calories during the session but also increase metabolism for hours after the session has finished. Muscle tissue is also metabolically very active at rest so increases energy consumption by continually burning calories to simply exist.

The fear many women have when using weights is becoming muscular but in reality this is very difficult to achieve. By using a combination of cardiovascular training, interval work, circuits and resistance training the result is a more athletic body, not an unnaturally muscular one.


Weight training can only be effective if the following principles are achieved:

  • The right exercises are chosen
  • The intensity (i.e. resistance) is high enough
  • The correct technique is applied
  • The training is progressive

Toning is the combination of increased muscle mass and reduced body fat. To change your body composition and appearance train with weights and forget about the scales: your weight is not remotely important.