For over 22 years working as a fitness coach nothing drives me (and sometimes my staff) up the walls with frustration when we hear a new female members say, “I just want to tone, not be bulky!”

Then they tell us about how they found this great home routine where they just use a can of soda to perform 100 reps to achieve this “toned” look or that they want to do more cardio, Bootcamp based training or not lift as much weights? Let’s look past the fact there is a massive misconception that you can’t tone muscles. They only grow or shrink but it’s often something engraved in their minds due to seeing mistakes in their previous program or fearing they will look bulky.

Often when we dig a little deeper with our clients most of them will tell us what they mean is, that they want to have a little more muscle but with more definition and not bulk.


OK, how do we achieve this?


The only way to get their toned look is to add some lean muscle mass while losing fat mass. The problem that can arise is that women can get scared that if they pick up weights they will turn into the female version of Arnold Schwarzenegger (my childhood idol). The problem with this theory is that unless they are also consuming a large number of carbohydrates with every meal, anabolic steroids, or train in powerlifting reps of 4-6 reps, this simply cannot happen.

Ladies, please be encouraged and coached to use a heavier weight load from time to time, due to the fact that most women will underestimate their strength. Using heavier weight can also result in women having an increase in self-confidence, bone density, tendon and ligament strength, which is a happy effect of training. We can never under estimate the ability of strength training increases going side by side with emotional and mental strength.


It is important to remember that no one can ever become a bodybuilder by accident!


It takes months and years of training with a strict nutrition plan. Whenever a female client talks about a celebrity they want to look like, rest assured that the celebrity got there by lifting weights under a challenging strength routine. It is important for female clients to understand that muscle bulk is largely dependent on testosterone, too many carbs consumed and body-type. Compared to men, women just cannot create as much testosterone, so it comes down to a hormonal issue. Men create about 20 times more than women do. Even under a “hardcore” strength routine, women gain muscle mass much more slowly than men do. When women do gain bulk it is not a bad thing, muscle mass can help with injury prevention, reduce the risk of falls and increase bone strength which will lead to a reduction of fractures. Weightlifting also has been shown to decrease the likelihood of type 2 diabetes and have positive effects on blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Ladies…What I am trying to say is do not be afraid to lift heavier.

Of course, we always need to ease our way into any program, but increasing weight should be your goal, and the fear of lifting too much should not enter your mind. If your goal is between 6-10 reps, you want each rep to be challenging not just the last rep. Strength training does not have to be confusing, just pick up something heavy and lift it. Do not be afraid of strength or size – just go all out!


Above all, remember Don’t Worry, Lift happy!


Happiness is a decision, make it today!

Dimitri Giankoulas

Fascinated since an early age by the potential of the human body, I have devoted my career and much of my private life to pushing beyond my own limits – and to lead others to personal health achievements greater than they thought possible. My level of commitment to each and every client is unparalleled in the industry. I try to bring energy, optimism, and pure motivational power to every one of his workout sessions. I have been in the fitness industry since 1997, working as a personal trainer, nutrition consultant, and ultimately Personal Training Director at various well-known gyms across the GTA. Combined I have over 11,000 hours of hands-on personal training experience.