Big, Swole, Strong, Fit, Lean, Toned

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Big, Swole, Strong, Fit, Lean, Toned” – Many people who use terms like this in their new years resolutions or in their fitness goals FAIL. If your goal is to get “swole” by the first of October 2014, how do you know if you have succeeded? You dont! Same with “Big”, “Strong”, “Lean”, “Fit” and “Toned”.

  • “Lean” refers to the amount of bodyfat. Both a pro bodybuilder and a marathon runner are lean but one weights about 4x as much as the other. What is “Lean” depends on who you ask thats why goals should always be for a specified bodyfat percentage. To some 15% bodyfat is “lean” but to a competing bodybuilder 4-5% is “Lean”.
  • “Big” can mean muscular, fat and muscular, or just fat. Because many men put on fat evenly over their whole bodies rather than into a beer belly, they can get “Big” without lifting any weights at all.  Having a goal of getting “Big” is a recipe for obesity and diabetes.  Much better would be a goal to increase your lean body mass to a specified weight.
  • “Strong” is the best of these terms, strong means the ability to exert a lot of force. Of course, its vague too because you are not specifying what kind of force. Are they strong in squats, bench, deadlift, or pullups? If your goal is strength related, a better goal is “to lift XXX pounds for N reps doing exercise Y”.
  • “Swole” is a horrible term, its as bad as “toned” in my book. Some people use the term to mean low bodyfat and vascular. Some use it to mean big and fat. Some use it to mean strong. If someone says you are “Swole” its a definite compliment, but you are not sure why.  If your goal is to be “Swole”, who gets to decide when you have achieved it?  Your girlfriend?  Your gym buddies?  Arnold himself?
  • Toned” makes me pillow-scream because its so vague that everyone seems to have their own personal definition.  Many people use it to mean a little bit stronger and a little bit leaner.  How do you know when you are “toned”, you dont!  A much better goal would be one that is related to reducing bodyfat to a certain level and increasing strength on particular exercises.
  • Fit” isnt the greatest term either.  Although the dictionary gives a pretty good definition, “fit” is not a useful term when making goals.  How do you know when you become “fit”? You dont!  Much better are specific, measurable things.  Reducing bodyfat to a specific percentage for example.  Increasing your hamstring flexibility to help reduce lower back pain is another example.  Increasing leg strength so you can lift with your legs rather than your back is another example.  Increasing your cardiovascular endurance so you can run a mile is a great example as well.

All these things have a common thread: Goals need to be specific and measurable!