by Jim Cordova

You’ve finally made up your mind! You’re uncomfortable with your appearance and you’re going to put your heart and soul into transforming your physique. You’re determined to shed each and every one of those unwanted pounds and, by and large, you’re not going to give up until you’ve done so. Over the next three months, you put forth a passionate effort, and all during that time you see the pounds dropping, becoming ecstatic upon seeing your goal become a reality. You have high hopes, knowing it is only a matter of time before you drop enough weight to finally see some definition in your arms, legs, and midsection.

Fast forward a few months later and you have reached, or even surpassed your initial numeric weight loss goal. Right about that time the unexpected happens…you notice that, for some odd reason, and despite months of rigorous workouts, you don’t seem to have acquired the toned appearance that lies at the core of your goal. In fact, you still appear soft, your thighs have not become firm, and there is still that annoying jiggle in the back of your arms and around your waist. Yet your face reveals dramatic weight loss and you see a shadow of that unattractive drawn out appearance on the horizon if you lose another pound. You wonder why your body fat percentage has not reduced in proportion to the amount of weight that you have lost. Ultimately, you perceive that you’ve simply become a smaller version of what you were when you walked through the gym door months ago.

At this point, frustration sets in since you have sacrificed and worked very hard for the past few months. Every time you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror, you wonder, “How much weight will I have to lose before I can see more muscle tone?” It is only a matter of time before you begin to believe what will inevitably crush your fitness ambitions like a ton of bricks: You will never achieve your goal, not even close! Eventually, you give up, are tempted to hate fitness altogether, and even worse, become desperate and therefore subject to every ineffective fly-by-night gadget and magic pill on television…

Ladies and gentleman, I have seen that scenario play out week after week, in gym after gym, in a dozen forms, with hundreds of people, for nearly two decades! Why could this be? Is it because the vast majority of people simply aren’t equipped with the genetics to achieve a remarkable transformation? Ladies, are you relegated to simply dropping a few dress sizes? Men, is the toned midsection you have been dreaming of out of your reach, limited to the magazine rack? The sad news for many of you reading this is an emphatic, “Yes!” However, it surely is not for the reasons that you might guess!

Do you seek to lose weight? If so, how much and why have you chosen a specific number of pounds? What do you hope to look like once you lose it? This I can promise you: Weight loss, by itself, does not look good! When it comes to physique transformation, nine times out of ten, “weight loss” means a "I want a toned body." In one sense, these are two totally distinct goals when it boils down to the methods used to reach them. In fact, a toned appearance most likely necessitates that you gain a few pounds of muscle, which most never even take into account. For example, many women come to me stating that they desire to lose 30lbs., when, with the addition of about five pounds of muscle, they only need to lose a mere 15lbs. to look better than they had imagined!

This brings us to the very first thing you need to do before even considering a fitness and nutritional program, which is to establish a clear-cut picture of what you desire to achieve. This lays the foundation for your approach and ensures that you are not running around blind-folded, so to speak, by expending energy and hoping that you somehow end up at your fitness destination. What do you envision for yourself? "Losing weight" or "gaining some muscle" is far too vague of a goal! You may not realize it, but you do have a vague image in your mind. You simply need to clarify it so that you can structure a suitable training plan. If you desire to tone up, you can begin your quest by flipping through a few magazines and/or choosing a specific physique as your target.

Along these lines, I want to cancel out the common misconception that aerobics and cardiovascular work will allow you to attain the toned physique that you envision for yourself. You will burn a few calories, but more than likely it will not lead to weight loss, and it will get you virtually nowhere in your quest for muscle tone. In fact, the question I am often asked most by women is why they are not losing weight despite intense aerobic and cardiovascular activity. Without their even realizing it, in subtle fashion, they take an extra bite at dinner, have an extra soft drink, and balance out what they have lost through aerobic work by consuming extra calories.

The truth is that you will burn more calories with thirty minutes of sound resistance training than you will with aerobic work, by far. Moreover, you cannot tone a muscle without working it through a full range of motion while abiding by key principles, such as constant tension. In fact, when it comes to physique transformation, I will go so far as to say that cardio work is good for nothing more than burning calories. And the beloved treadmill is responsible for wasting more of your time than a rush hour traffic jam!

Of course, aerobics and cardio work are very effective tools when used to assist in the attainment of a toned appearance. Nonetheless, resistance training is the principle means to achieve the body that you seek, so much so, that you would be far better off choosing this style of training over cardio work if you had to choose between them. If you only have a limited amount of time, you will find that resistance training will deliver the biggest bang for your buck, hands down!

On that note, your efforts will result in complete futility if you are not adhering to proper nutritional guidelines. While you might get a laugh out of it, I am not exaggerating when I state that the second most common question I am asked by women is why they are not losing weight despite the fact that they are eating “clean.” Strictly with regard to weight loss, there is no such thing as eating “clean.” Generally speaking, you burn a certain amount of calories each day, which can be referred to as your metabolic rate. If you eat more calories than you expend, you will gain weight, if you eat less, you will lose weight, and if you consume what you burn, you will balance out and not lose a pound, period!

While you might find it surprising, hiring a trainer will not ensure that you are protected from experiencing the disappointment you hope to avoid. You might think that a certification, even from the most esteemed organizations, guarantees that a trainer possesses the knowledge to guide you to your goal, but it doesn’t. In fact, more often than not, many trainers aspire to establish a name for themselves by becoming trendsetters. This wouldn’t be such a bad thing if they didn’t formulate their own “style” of training and seek to pawn it off as the next best thing. As a result, they structure regimens and train their clients using an approach that merely taps into half of their muscle-toning potential, at best! However, you can rest assured that the most effective methods to both tone and build muscle have been around for decades – there is nothing new under the sun!

One hires a trainer because they don’t know the correct way to exercise, which is a wise move in itself. Naturally, they think they are on the right path simply because they sweat, breath heavily, rapidly move from one exercise to the next, tire out, wake up sore, and lose weight. Yet the end result is stagnation and dissatisfaction with the level of muscle tone attained. No lie – one could achieve similar results by running in place, doing a few push-ups, sit-ups, and dropping calories over time. Despite the usage of weights and resistance training, most of the routines set forth by trainers equate to nothing more than a temporary exciting new venture of mild cardiovascular work. Given that multiple essential muscle-toning principles are violated, the end result equates to merely burning calories, dissatisfaction with a sub-par level of fitness, and an eventual boredom with going to the gym.

Lastly, I can state with certainty that your desire and passion to improve your health and appearance is the hard part. You simply need match your ambition with the correct knowledge to make your goal a reality. To guide you along, avoid any trainer that does not believe in structuring the bulk of your routine around resistance training exercises (assuming you are healthy enough for such). You should also be aware that there are key principles that must be adhered to, some of which can be found in the articles section of this site. If you find a trainer that sets you up on a routine that violates them, you need to question his or her approach.

So, before you make the leap into a fitness and nutritional regimen, it is imperative that you consider and compare the various approaches out there. The objective is to identify the essentials of sound exercise theory by shopping around just as you would before making a considerable investment. After all, you will be investing in your life! This will entail a considerable amount of research, but it will be worth it. Upon doing so, you will find both consistencies and contradictions, with the most effective methods surfacing right before you. Ultimately, this will serve you well in that you won’t end up like the countless many that begin a fitness regimen and end up biting the dust!