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Toning doesn't exist

This is a post by Rachel Carpenter (@bothgirl). Check out her blog for her daily workouts!

So your fitness goal is to “tone up”.

I think what you meant to say is that you want to increase your muscle size and lower your body-fat percentage so that you appear to have more muscle definition. 

Cameron Diaz isn’t “toned”. She has developed her muscles and eats a clean diet for a low body-fat percentage so that those muscles can actually be seen.


You see - there is no such thing as toning, and I’m going to explain to you why.

I hear from one girl after another, telling me that they “don’t want to get big”that they “just wants to tone”.

This has always frustrated me, because I know that a musclecan only get bigger or smaller. It’s not a shape shifter. Unfortunately, the media has marketed the toning myth to us for quite some time – but it’s not too late to get educated on the facts. 

Shall we have a short lesson in anatomy?

  • Our muscles are anatomically confined to the space between our joints and our bones.
  • They cannot get longer; they have a starting point and an ending point.
  • Between those two points the muscle can only grow bigger or smaller. It can’t change its shape.

The “toned” look that most people are hoping for is actually a result of an increase in muscle size paired with a lowering of body fat percentage so that you can more easily see the muscles. In order to get that look you need to:

  1. Build up muscle (through strength training)
  2. Lose the fat around the muscle (through a clean diet) 

The misconception surrounding toning beings with the myth that doing light weight and high reps will result in lower body fat and increased muscle. This is essentially cardio, and all this really means is that it’s going to take you a heck of a lot longer to grow that muscle that you want to see. This is also why so many people struggle to see progress. 

The biggest offenders of this “toning” fad are the barre or ballet type classes, as well as Pilates. Don’t get me wrong, there are benefits to both of these types of exercises, but they claim to give you “long, lean muscles”, which is anatomically impossible.

By participating in these types of exercises, with the hope of “toning”, you’re just building your muscles more slowly than you would if you were strength training with heavier weights. You might achieve other benefits, but this is the hard way to get a lower body fat percentage.

I’d love to stop hearing the word “toned” – and I’d love to see a lot more women in the weight room. Don’t take my word for it. Find someone, like Cameron Diaz, who you want to look like and find out what they are doing. Chances are, they aren’t “toning” or practicing magical spells to get those results.  Remember to avoid the fads and stick to the facts…and don’t be afraid of heavy weights.

How PumpUp helped Brian lose 70 lbs after a racing accident


Brian (@bellsetters) has been an integral member of the PumpUp community since May 2014. He regularly challenges other members to do their best every week. A world without his positivity and thoughtfulness would be a dimmer world indeed. “A friend told me about PumpUp and people were talking about how much they enjoyed the workouts. I decided to give it a try,” he explained. “I never expected it to become a way of life for me, but it has! I love every minute of my experience with PumpUp.” 

The app helped Brian recover from a severe racing accident that left him in a wheelchair for months. “I had a number of plates and screws put in my back and neck,” he elaborated. “I had to retrain myself to walk when it was all said and done. Between not being able to move around and the medication I had to take, I lost a huge amount of muscle mass and gained almost 80 pounds.” Brian’s weight hit its peak at 260 lbs in June 2013. That October, Brian decided to make a change. He began a new diet regimen and was cleared to work out by his physician. “Since then, I have lost 70 pounds and put on the muscle mass I had lost. I am about 180 lbs now. I owe this all to PumpUp. That is why I say that this app literally saved my life.”



In the time that Brian was not using the app, he exercised irregularly and admitted that he didn’t exactly have the best eating habits. “I  maybe did a couple of home workouts a week and I ate just about anything I could get my hands on —-and WAY too much of it,” he laughed. “I drank a ton of soda and lived a sedentary lifestyle. I went to work, went back home, and would plant my butt on the couch.”

Since the dawn of his new lifestyle with the PumpUp community, Brian’s habits have changed for the better. He runs 2 miles on the beach 5 days a week and exercises at the gym for 3-hour sessions, 5 days a week.  Though Brian’s appetite hasn’t waned, he’s happy to admit that he’s eating foods that nourish his body and keep him fuller for longer. “Tons of protein throughout the day: eggs, protein shakes, peanut butter. I try to incorporate a lot of lean protein into my diet as well, such as steak, chicken, and fish”


One seemingly insurmountable obstacle didn’t stop Brian from making a change. He got by with the help of his friends, quite literally.  He urges that those looking to begin an active lifestyle should never be afraid to ask for help or advice. “Some people won’t get into the fitness lifestyle because it’s different, and they don’t know a lot about it. There is always someone willing to help,” he counseled. “That’s the reason I make it clear to those on PumpUp that I am here if they need any help. I love to see that young people are beginning to embark on their health and fitness journeys, and I’m always on standby to offer help to make sure that they don’t quit.”

With the help of PumpUp, working out became a habit embedded within the fabric of Brian’s lifestyle, rather than a mere means to lose weight. “I have gained so much muscle mass since June 2013. Now I’m working on defining my muscles. It’s a lot of work, but it seems to be working,” he shrugged. 


Brian is most inspired by so many members of the PumpUp community, particularly @lilblondie714, @uneekapril, @mattgmi, and @_harleyjade_. “I have met so many wonderful and motivating people on PumpUp,” he gushed. “They are all so inspiring and motivating. All of these members have become very good friends and make me want to work my hardest and become the best person I can possible be.”

Brian’s Meals

My favourite meal is any lean protein…and lots of it!”

Motivational Mantra

When everything feels like an uphill struggle, just think of the view from the top!”

How Brian Stays Active

I love to target a different muscle group each day at the gym, then blasting it as hard as I can. Love the soreness that you get afterwards.”



More about Brian

I’m a really big motorhead. I love to tinker with cars. I have a ’68 Corvette that I rebuilt from the ground up. I love the satisfaction you get when you stand back and look at the finished product. Then you say, ‘Wow…I did that!’”

Pump Brian up on the PumpUp app @bellsetters and on Instagram @brians_fresh_start


How to strengthen your shoulders with the standing scarecrow

Check out PumpUp member @greenfitbodydnk’s progress on #throwBACKthursday! The standing scarecrow is great for strengthening your rotator cuffs. It’s important to keep them strong, as an injured rotator cuff can cause shoulder ache. It may also worsen during sports that require rapid throwing movements, such as baseball. 

How to do it

Start out with light dumbbells in each hand if you’re a beginner, feet shoulder-width apart.

Keep your elbows level with your shoulders, arms at a 90 degree angle.

With your shoulders down and elbows level, gently lower your forearms till they’re at shoulder level, pause, then press them back up to starting position. 

Follow PumpUp on Tumblr for more fitness tips, healthy recipes, and motivation

Anaerobic vs. Aerobic Activities: Which is Best for Your Overall Health?


Article by Andrea Wilkins, freelance writer. Follow PumpUp on Tumblr for more fitness tips!

If you’re looking to adopt a fitness regimen – whether for weight loss, increased endurance for an upcoming event or simply improving your quality of life through better health – you’ve no doubt come across a dizzying array of workout plans, all of them promising results. While fitness experts may squabble over weight machines versus free weights or duration versus intensity in a cardio workout, most would agree that variation in one’s workout is crucial to achieving full-body fitness, and there isn’t one single master fitness regimen that renders all others obsolete.

After taking a close look at some of the most lauded regimens, however, you might start noticing some patterns. First of all, there’s that variation factor again: Most decent workouts engage a variety of muscle groups, and some may vary in intensity – that is, how much you exert yourself – as well. On the other hand, many of them also have elements of consistency such as duration while gradually scaling up how many times an exercise is done, known as reps, with the end result being that your body becomes conditioned in the way of endurance or strength. 

(Image c/o Tumblr)

Whether or not you see the terms themselves bandied about in a workout description, aerobic and anaerobic training both figure into the most well-balanced regimens. Aerobic exercise simply refers to activities that require oxygen, which is needed to burn carbohydrates and fat to produce energy for continued exertion. During aerobic exercise, which typically includes low- to medium-intensity activities, your heart rate remains elevated for as long as you are engaging in the activity. While running, cycling and jogging are perhaps the most well-known forms of aerobic exercise, any activity that boosts your endurance and maintains a relatively steady intensity for a sufficient amount of time could fall into this category. Swimming, tennis, volleyball and even walking up several hundred steps can all constitute aerobic exercise as long as the activity is consistent and sustained. Among the many health benefits aerobic exercise – also known as cardio – confers are increased endurance, a stronger heart muscle that is more efficient at moving vital oxygen throughout the body, and even improved cognition in young adults, according to a 2009 Swedish study.

(Image c/o Tumblr)

Anaerobic exercise, as its name suggests, requires sources other than oxygen to produce energy. The two main sources for anaerobic activities, which tend to have a shorter duration than cardio but higher intensity, are anaerobic glycolysis, a process in which the body breaks down glucose and produces lactic acid instead of using oxygen, and high-energy phosphates that are stored in small quantities in your muscle cells. The most well-known anaerobic activity is resistance training with either weights or one’s own body weight. This activity engages fast-twitch muscle fibers for short bursts of intense exercise followed by a brief resting period; repetition and gradually ramping up the intensity over a period of days or weeks both lead to increased muscle mass. Anaerobic activities, which can include high-intensity interval training, gymnastics, sprinting, swim sprints, some martial arts and even normally aerobic sports like volleyball or tennis when played with enough intensity, yield increased muscle mass and decreased body fat, and they can also boost your metabolism – even when you’re resting – and bolster your maximal aerobic capacity, known as VO2 max.

Numerous experts agree that the best workouts include both aerobic and anaerobic activities since the benefits of each are different and complement each other well. Some regimens blend them together; circuit training, for example, alternates between intervals of anaerobic training and short bursts of cardio to keep one’s heart rate up through the entire workout. Other trainers swear by beginning or ending with 30 or more minutes of cardio along with a period of time dedicated entirely to various weight-based exercises. Obtaining a consistent balance of both seems to be the overarching principle, so you’re free to experiment to find which regimen works best for you as long as both types of activities factor in.

This is an article by Andrea Wilkins.  She is a freelance writer and expert in health, fitness, and travel. When she’s not writing she can usually be found reading a good book or hitting the gym.


You asked PumpUp, we answered - Kate E. (jatie) edition


We initiated an Ask Me Anything with one of our amazing PumpUp members Kate E. (@jatie). We discussed everything from tips on how to stay motivated, to healthy eating, to exercises that target specific areas of your body!

Q: What are your best tips for beginners looking to get fit?

If you’re going to strength train, start with strength machines. They’re safer and don’t typically require a spotter. Nevertheless, these kind of tips depend on what your training goal is!

Q: My family isn’t very healthy. How can I stay healthy when they eat so much junk food?

As a start, talk to your parents and let them know you want to start living a healthier lifestyle. Ask if you can go grocery shopping with them to pick out healthy options. If you can, let them know that you want to try packing your own healthy lunches. 

Q: How do you stay motivated? What’s your routine?

I train because I care about my body. I’d rather push through it than regret not doing it. I don’t look at it as a chore. You gotta train your mind to work without motivation. Do it for a better, happier you. 

As for my routine, I do a lot of strength training, high intensity interval training (HIIT), and plyometric training. 

Q: Is it ever hard for you to be motivated to workout/eat healthy?

Of course! I have my ups and downs too.

I LOVE sweets, but I remind myself how crappy I feel after eating garbage, as opposed to how amazing I feel after eating healthy. 

Q: What’s the best time to exercise, or exercise in general when you’re busy with school and tired all the time?

Figure out what time of day you feel most energized, then get in a quick 30 min HIIT session. :) It’ll be super efficient!

Q: What are the best workouts to lose weight effectively?

Interval training. It’s said to burn about 6x more fat than regular same-paced cardio!

Q: How do you beef up your arms? What are the best exercises for this?

Be sure to eat plenty of protein within 30 minutes after you exercise. Workout wise, the best exercises depend on which muscles you’re trying to build! Anything from curls to tricep dips will be effective!

Q: What food do you eat before a workout?

My go-to pre-workout is a banana! Along with a slice of whole grain toast with peanut butter or a fruit smoothie!

Q: What are some healthy snack ideas/recipes?

Veggies and hummus, organic applesauce, baked sweet potato fries, fruit smoothies, and sliced apples with peanut butter and oats on top!

Q: What’s a good way to tighten your abs and slim down your thighs?

Keep your diet on point, be consistent with fat burning exercises like HIIT, along with core strengthening exercises. 

Q: How do you burn belly/thigh fat?

High-intensity interval training, plyometric training, and heavy weightlifting are my favourite fat burning exercises. you can’t spot burn fat, but you can burn fat all over. It comes down to eating healthy, and exercise!

Q: Do I stretch before or after the workout?

Stretch after you exercise, but be sure to do dynamic warm-ups before you exercise to prevent injury! Stretching cold muscles can be damaging! 

Q: Favourite workout gear? What works best for you?

I love anything comfortable! I wear airabella apparel capris basically everyday, but I love Nike and affordable clothes from stores like Marshalls. 

Q: Can you make more videos for exercises that target your legs and glutes?

Sure! I would love to. 

Follow Kate on Instagram (@katefit_) and on PumpUp @jatie 

Kendrick W. is basically superman - PumpUp Spotlight Series


The late Christopher Reeve was quoted saying that “A hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere…in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” Today’s PumpUp spotlight member Kendrick is certainly a hero in more ways than one. He brims with positivity on PumpUp and has overcome bullying in the past. If Superman’s “S” stands for “hope,” we’re very optimistic that Kendrick will accomplish great things on PumpUp in the future. 



Kendrick had to overcome his fair share of adversity before he managed to attain his current physique. “I use the past to fuel my present so I never feel alone and sad like I was back then,” says Kendrick. Never the tallest nor strongest child growing up, he explains that he was not only targeted during grade school for his small stature, but because he was reading at a college level by the 6th grade. Bullies were quick to pick on him for his other physiological conditions as well. “Having asthma and immune deficiency, I was always sick and many kids picked on me and beat me up. I am stronger now—though I almost died after being hit by a pick up truck when I was 10,” he elaborates.


Presently, Kendrick’s lifestyle consists of healthy eating and exercising at least three times a week. Since joining PumpUp, he abandoned his bad habits and cut back on his partying. He recently shared how maintaining this routine led to his impressive 4.3% body fat composition, and he doesn’t take supplements or even protein shakes. “Just the occasional protein bar if I am out and about,” Kendrick shrugs. “I am constantly eating and if I am not eating, I am training or working.”


He gives a great analogy for PumpUp members who are looking to lead a more healthy and active lifestyle. “Fitness is a marathon, not a 40 yard dash,” Kendrick muses. “The true results you can feel good about will come with time. Within that time you must not lose faith in yourself or the journey.” The word Kaizen, Japanese for “continuous improvement” or “good change” sets the framework for Kendrick’s fitness goals. “Continuous improvement. That’s how I see fitness each day—it’s a day to improve upon yourself, rather than to deny that who you are is not great already,” he affirms.

Kendrick brings a herculean force of positivity to PumpUp and he hopes to inspire others while in exchange deriving inspiration from members within the app. “I’d like to motivate others to keep pushing forward in their journeys and to spread as much positivity as possible,” he shares.



Biggest motivators

In all honesty, Captain America and Superman. I have been obsessed with them since I was a kid.

Motivational Mantra

My favorite saying is “I may not be the strongest, I may not be the fastest, but I’ll be damned if I am not trying the hardest.”

Favourite Exercise

Pull-ups or Shoulder Shrugs

Fun Facts about Kendrick

I’ve travelled to over 10 countries and plan to touchdown on every continent before I kick the bucket. 

Follow Kendrick on PumpUp @kendrickwilliams1291 and on Instagram @kfitbro93. 

This is why women shouldn't be afraid of lifting weights

This is part of a series of posts by Jennifer (@liftingfairy on PumpUp), an aspiring bikini competitor. Check out her blog here. 

Let me present the body of every woman’s dream: Being lean, without being too skinny nor too muscular, having feminine (but defined) arms and legs, a flat belly and of course a sexy round bubble butt that fills your jeans. Am I right?

To achieve this, losing fat isn’t enough. Women lack the required muscle tissue, so losing weight, spending hours over hours doing cardio and training with 2kg tinkerbell-weights won’t get you this athletic look.

If you want a toned body, all you have to do is build muscles and reduce your Body-Fat Percentage (BFP).

Lowering your BFP is only a question of a proper diet, which also includes supplements to support the recovery of your muscles. This leads us to the next point : To build up muscles you have to lift heavy weights. 


Unfortunately, when it comes to heavy weight lifting, I always hear women complaining about how this is going to make them look bulky. You will never get a bulky look because the hormone that directly regulates muscle growth is testosterone, which is, for women, only at 5-10% of a man’s average testosterone level. 

Scientific research has shown that a man’s testosterone level is 45 times higher than a woman’s after exercising. This should not surprise you, because resistance training doesn’t increase the level of testosterone for women.

I can reassure you that you won’t look like Arnold Schwarzenegger overnight if you lift heavy. It would take you years and a lot of very hard work to really bulk up and obtain a large amount of protruding muscles. The women in the real bodybuilding-scene don’t get that look by only drinking pineapple-juice, just saying…


Still not sure about lifting weights? Have a look at the benefits:

Health benefits of lifting

  • It reduces the risk of developing diseases like diabetes, metabolic syndrome or cancer.
  • It strengthens your bones
  • It’s easier for you to stay lean as your metabolism speeds up (even post-workout)
  • It increases your life expectancy
  • It strengthens your immune system

Physique benefits of lifting

  • You will get nice curves due to the well-developed muscles.
  • Lean muscles will improve your look (”Fit girls look better naked”, remember?)
  • A strong and developed body helps you age better, as research has shown that a greater muscle mass in older women is associated with better mobility, lower body weight and BFP.


Therefore, if you want to get those toned and sexy legs and that round bubble-butt, nothing beats an intense workout of ‘guy exercises’ such as walking-lunges, squats or stiffed leg deadlifts. To get sleek and defined arms, just do some heavy exercises like curls, triceps skull crushers, shoulder press, dips or military press.

Ladies, it’s definitely time to put down those pink baby weights and get sexy by lifting with the guys! They will respect you even more if you lift heavy and work for your body. Believe in yourself and don’t get intimidated by the guys-corner at the gym!

Your Lifting Fairy xx


This is part of a series of posts by Jennifer, an aspiring bikini competitor from Luxembourg. Check out her blog and follow her on PumpUp @liftingfairy and on Instagram @lifting_fairy.

Debbie's Weight Loss Journey Will Inspire You

Easing into the groove of a healthy and active lifestyle isn’t without hardship, and PumpUp’s own DebbieMC1232 chronicles her story beautifully. Through her weight loss journey, she has been able to motivate and inspire others both on PumpUp and through her own personal fitness page. After losing nearly 42 lbs since January 2014, Debbie is now well on her way to becoming a certified personal trainer and fitness instructor. Learn about how Debbie has been able to marry her passion for motivating others with the PumpUp community down below. 


My name is Debbie and I’m from Ireland. When I was younger, I would spend all of my pocket money on fitness magazines and would read through every single page taking every single bit of information in.  Suffice it to say, I loved everything about fitness. I loved working out and keeping active and would play any sport when I was younger.

Everything changed when I was 18 and accepted a job at a discount store. I couldn’t wait to start and had kept imaging what I would buy with all my money (as it was my first job). But six years later, I was still working there. I had become a different, unhappy, depressed woman. I had gained 3 stone (42 lbs) over the years from comfort eating because I hated my job and hated what my life had become. I stopped going out, detested looking at myself in the mirror and just wanted to leave the job, but felt somewhat stuck as I had been there so long.

This year, on January 7th, I was fired from my job. Some people would think I would be upset but I was over the moon. It meant that my life was going to change for the better. This was the day I decided that this was my chance to prove everyone wrong. I was going to lose the weight, not by ‘dieting’ but by eating healthy and working out. I had found that every time I told someone I was going to lose the weight that they would say ‘oh sure, how long will this last?’ and nearly straight away I would give up.


This time it was going to be different. This time I wasn’t going to tell anyone. I would let them see my weight loss for themselves. The first time that my boyfriend commented that I looked like I had lost weight was the moment I knew I couldn’t give up. I had to see this through.

I found a free workout website called and did the 30 day challenge to get in shape, combined with healthy eating and working out and lost 12lbs in 2 weeks. I was ecstatic. By doing the 30 day challenge it got me into a routine of working out daily and I loved it!!

A few months later, I set up my own fitness page called Debbie’s Health and Fitness Motivation. I have constant daily tips for helping men and women lose weight. I am overwhelmed by the amount of followers I have and the amount of people that write to me daily seeking my help. I always make time to help other people with losing weight, as I know exactly what it feels like. One girl in particular has lost nearly 3 stone with the help of my page—and she is one of many.

I eat healthy 6 days a week, and one day in the week I have one treat day and have what I want, but I never over indulge any more.

On Monday September 22nd I started a combination course in Galway Ireland with Image Fitness, and I will be a qualified gym instructor, fitness instructor and personal trainer by February (as long as I pass my exams, that is).

Life is so much better since I lost the weight, became healthier and became a happier person in general.


Six years ago I could barely get myself out of bed, I hated work and I was so so unhappy. I will never go back to the way my former, unhealthy lifestyle was.

I motivate myself every single morning I get up. I go straight on my page every morning and help motivate the 1,800+ followers I have by going through all the positives of losing weight, promising them it is worth it. I have lost nearly 3 stone since January— a combination of not giving up, setting myself goals, and rewarding myself with weekends away, perfumes, and other things every time I lost 5 lbs. Take your weight loss 5 lbs at a time. Don’t pressure yourself to do the impossible. Take it a few steps at a time, but always remember to look back at how far you have come and pat yourself on the back!

You deserve it!!! I am so, so happy I was told about PumpUp as I myself need some motivation at times. I do spend most of my time motivating other people, so I found it a ‘God Send’ to find PumpUp. I honestly wouldn’t be able to go a day without the constant and daily inspiration from other people all over the world, sharing their progress and stories. 

So thank you PumpUp, you are doing such a great job, keep it up!

Spotlight Series: Melody Y.

Today’s Spotlight blog sings the story of Melody Y, an ex-gymnast who means business with her workouts. A Criminal Justice major hoping to work with juveniles in or out of prison, Melody is as ambitious as she is inspiring. Read on to find out more about her story!

Gymnastics burns serious calories by leveraging almost all of the body’s major muscle groups. After Melody left gymnastics, she sought motivation to get back into shape. She began by going to the gym at her college for at least an hour, but still ate whatever she wanted. PumpUp helped her routinize her workouts. “I’ve made workout circuits that I use everyday. I have them memorized,” confesses Melody.

Working out has and still is helping her overcome depression by motivating her to get out of her room and interact with other people leading a healthy and active lifestyle. “I’m not going to lie and say my life is perfect and have no problems,” admits Melody. “Sometimes I feel the need to break a mirror or lock myself in my room, but that doesn’t help; it makes it worse.”

At this point in her life, Melody is fueled with confidence to pursue her fitness goals and she is proud of the many feats she has been able to accomplish. “[I’ve lost] ten or more pounds, work out an hour or more, [and feel comfortable] asking other active people for advice on certain muscle groups,” lists Melody. “I believe that I can still look good as an ex-gymnast.” To say that she looks good would be an understatement—she looks fantastic. For the time being, Melody’s next big fitness goal is to have washboard abs. “I know it’s going to take some time,” she admits, “but I’m willing to get them the right and healthy way. 

She advises those looking to lead a more active lifestyle to use the app as a starting point—a catalyst for motivation. For her, the customizability of PumpUp’s Build a Workout feature is where the app gains its purchase. “These workouts have helped me lose 15 pounds and it is also a good stress reliever,” explains Melody. Exercise is proven to stimulate the human body’s dopamine receptors to release adrenaline, attenuating the effects of stress and depression. “The other day I was upset about some personal things going on in my life and I ended up running six miles,” elaborates Melody. “I usually do two [workouts] a day because of my knee issues. Push yourself every day and cut out all fried foods!”

Melody’s Motivation

Michelle Lewin. Her body is amazing. Her abs are flawless and her booty is phenomenal.

Melody’s Meals

Melody does her best to make healthy choices at her college’s cafeteria.  “I eat at least a Nutri-Grain bar or something at the cafeteria for breakfast, a salad for lunch, and a sandwich or wrap for dinner,” she elaborates.

Favourite Snack: Cookies and cream Quest bar

Favourite Meal: Baked tilapia with rice

Favourite Drink: Water

Motivational Mantra

Believe in Him, because He believes in you!

Favourite Exercises

Leg raises, lemon squeezers (bringing your knees to your chest) and plank! 

Follow Melody on PumpUp @themelodyyoung