Looking for: exercise program to deal with flab, but NOT drop weight
January 19, 2011 8:08 PM   Subscribe

I want to be less flabby. I cannot afford to join a gym or get a personal trainer. Does it sound like strength training will work for me?

I am a 23 year old female. About five years ago, I lost 80 lbs. I am now satisfied with my weight (112 lbs, 5'2", BMI of 20.5 - totally healthy and normal). I like the way my body looks in clothing and I do not want to lose anymore weight, but I am still not happy with the flabbiness of my stomach and upper arms. I know that if I lost about ten more pounds, the flabbiness would go away (I know because I've been that thin before), but my body seems naturally happier at around 112 lbs. I don't mind gaining weight in the form of muscle, I just don't want to lose anymore weight. Is there anything I can do at home to "tone up"? Or is "toning up" a myth, as my seriously confusing Google research has suggested? Should I try yoga or Pilates? Looking for tips and insight from people, as well as links to good resources.

I am broke and the most money I am able to invest in this is enough to buy a Pilates or Yoga DVD off Amazon (suggestions for these would be helpful as well, note that I HAVE seen this previous thread on this topic). I already have a treadmill, an exercise ball, and small weights (from three to ten pounds), if any of these would be helpful. I'm basically looking for any advice at all concerning getting rid of this flab. Thanks all!
posted by SkylitDrawl to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Strength training with heavy weights should help.

Maybe I'll be the first to recommend stumptuous.com!
posted by Aleen at 8:15 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

These goals don't match or make sense. You don't want to be flabby but you don't want to lose anymore fat.
Why are you so concentrated on the number when you're really interested in your image?

Run, eat clean, do yoga or whatever and you won't be flabby. (Don't weigh yourself though, the number will be different)
posted by zephyr_words at 8:17 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Strength training will be the best way for you to accomplish your goals.

Of course, the best way to do this is with an actual weight set, so that you can progressively increase resistance every workout using a program like this one.

However, there are some bodyweight programs that are decent. Some of these are Pavel's "Naked Warrior", "Never Gymless", and "Convict Conditioning".

Things like yoga DVDs and Wii Fit are beneficial, because there is always a benefit to moving around at low to moderate intensity. But you will not see nearly as much physical improvement as with a proper strength training program. My personal experience is that you can gain muscle and lose fat while maintaining the same weight, at least over your first few months. Go for it!
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 8:20 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yes, strength training will work for you but you're going to have to find something heavier to pick up than those paperweights you have. Apparently Stumptuous is a pretty good site for women-focused weight training. They have an article on equipmentless training (though you might hold off on the car-pulling for a while.

Yeah, you can't "tone" but you can make your muscles bigger and reduce your overall body fat percentage so that they are more visible. My advice is to not sweat the exact number on the scale too much as you progress in your workouts but rather how you look. You might end up looking better but weighing a little more if you put on some muscle.

(on preview beaten to the stumptuous rec)
posted by ghharr at 8:22 PM on January 19, 2011

Oh, also you can get weight bench sets off craigslist surprisingly cheap.
posted by ghharr at 8:23 PM on January 19, 2011

Response by poster: I guess I need to clarify: I just don't want to drop more weight because if I do, I get kind of sick and weak. My body pretty much wants to bounce back to this weight range, this is my natural "weight". I am okay with gaining weight in muscle, but losing more weight would just be unhealthy for me.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 8:24 PM on January 19, 2011

Pilates would be perfect for your goals. Also, do as many pushups a day as you can handle, that should get rid of the flabby arms.

Not sure if "toning up" is a myth or not, but I definitely felt "tighter" when I was doing pilates, yoga, and strength training.
posted by katypickle at 8:44 PM on January 19, 2011

To make it explicit, "tone" is just a combination of muscles that are large enough to notice and bodyfat percentage that is low enough to not hide them.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 8:46 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Well strength training will of course make you stronger and look better but you're going to have a hard time doing strength training with what you currently have. Do whatever you can now and make it a goal to get into a gym later if you aren't meeting your goal.

Again, don't focus on the weight number maybe dropping or increasing. With what you have available it's highly unlikely that you can change your appearance while keeping the same weight. Everyone would love to be able to just drop 10lbs of fat while putting on 10lbs of muscle but it doesn't work that way. Initially, you'll probably gain some muscle, lose some fat, your bf% will change.
You'll probably end up weighing less than you do now if you start exercising regularly but you'll look healthier than you did before.

I guess I'm just trying to stress this point because the scale messes with too many people if they aren't using it the right way. If you feel good and you're starting to look better to yourself why worry about if you weigh less than 112 lbs? Through your fitness you'll set a new "sticking point" that your body will want to jump back to.
posted by zephyr_words at 9:00 PM on January 19, 2011

The term for what you want to achieve is "body recomposition." Recomping basically means gaining muscle and losing fat. I guess this is akin to what people are thinking of when they say "toning," which isn't a "myth," it's just an imprecise/semi-meaningless term.

So you do actually want to "lose weight," it's just that you only want to lose a certain kind of weight, namely fat; and you want to gain a different kind of weight, i.e. muscle, at the same time. It's easier to focus on gaining muscle or losing fat (what bodybuilders sometimes call "bulking" and "cutting," respectively) rather than both at once, but it's possible to do both, especially as a beginner, with the right combination of training and diet. Both will be essential though -- it won't matter how you train if you're not eating right.

The very basics of proper diet will involve focusing on unprocessed foods and getting a lot of protein -- at least your bodyweight in grams of protein per day. It's hard to go wrong with a diet based around meat and veggies. The very basics of beginner strength training involve focusing on movements that use many large muscles at once (e.g. squats, deadlifts, presses), using weights heavy enough to be challenging, and progressively increasing the amount of weight you lift.

Do yoga or pilates if you want, but I don't think it'll be the most efficient path to get your results. Your three to ten pound weights will be pretty much useless. I'd recommend starting with bodyweight exercises while you save up enough money for a gym membership.
posted by Anatoly Pisarenko at 9:05 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

This guy runs a gym for kids and claims to achieve some pretty impressive results using a series of exercises progressing to two static holds (planche and front lever) and the associated push-ups and pull-ups. Nothing more than a floor and a pull-up bar is required.

On the other hand, you may not like his time scale---he might produce teenagers who deadlift three times their body weight, but it takes years and years.
posted by d. z. wang at 9:16 PM on January 19, 2011

I like Joyce Vedral's approach - she has books and videos although some might be out of print. Her approach is to do more reps with lighter weights. So, the one I follow she has a set of three exercises for one muscle group - do each of three 12 times with 3 lb weights, 10 with 5 lb and 8 times with 10 lbs, with no breaks until you have done all three exercises at all three weights. (then you can exericise #4 and #5. She claims that you will get good muscle definition - can't tell on my body but I can feel myself getting stronger when I go it regularly.
posted by metahawk at 9:33 PM on January 19, 2011

Best answer: One hundred push-ups will help you work on your arms and your core strength.
posted by zerbinetta at 9:55 PM on January 19, 2011

Best answer: For stronger arms and stomach you can put your feet up on the exercise ball and then do pushups, like this guy is doing. You may have to work your way up to it starting with your knees on the ball.

The myth about toning is when people say something like: this exercise won't build muscle, it will just tone it. That just doesn't make sense. As others have said, there's just two things you can do: you can build muscle at specific places, and you can lose fat overall. So, you might be able to get some tone in your upper arms by getting more muscle, and then maybe you'll get some more by burning fat overall. Those are basically your two options.
posted by creasy boy at 11:52 PM on January 19, 2011

Best answer: Push-ups and pull-ups are both marvelous upper-body exercises because your body provides all the weight you need (you can add weights as you get better of course). Add in some squats, some core work, some skipping or some other high intensity exercise, do decent reps, and you'd have a pretty solid basic bodyweight program.

Personally, when I'm away from my gym I use the Wodshop gymnastic workout generator for ideas for bodyweight only routines. (Crossfit related link - be warned!)

Of course, to do a pull-up you really need a pull-up bar of some sort and given that most women struggle to do any pull-ups at all, you'd probably also want resistance bands to help you work up to it, which could be a budgetary restraint.

But honestly, nothing beats being able to do a pull-up, especially as a girl.

(I also find movements such as pull-ups and push-ups and squats work your whole body at once - push-ups are an amazing core workout in their own right.)
posted by jasperella at 12:01 AM on January 20, 2011

To lose flab, you don't do strength training. You do fat burning cardio at 50-60% of best effort. If the OP wants to both lose flab and maintain weight, they need to look at combining the cardiovascular fat burning with a good healthy diet. Mild weights work with high reps and low weight will maintain tone throughout and help retain "good" weight - eg muscle, as the flab is burned off.
posted by dougrayrankin at 4:35 AM on January 20, 2011

Best answer: I agree 100% with dflemingecon. What you're wanting to do is "lift heavy things".

There is a perfect free e-book that is all you need at: marksdailyapple.com


It will give you bodyweight exercises that will work your whole body as well as many others that require minimal equipment.
posted by Paalen at 9:44 AM on January 20, 2011

Do not do "100 pushups" or anything that's not an actual program designed by someone with a good understanding of the human musculature. You will see much less in terms of results, and may open yourself up to injuries caused by poor muscle balance.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 10:41 AM on January 20, 2011

Best answer: The New Rules of Lifting for Women has everything you need to know.
posted by squasher at 11:55 PM on January 20, 2011

Best answer: Without a doubt, Convict Conditioning. You will not be wasting your time.

Calisthenics rules.

Best of luck!
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 6:00 PM on January 21, 2011

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