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Phrases that Irk Me: Long and Lean

2012 March 16
by Jess

Maybe I’m a bit grumpy from not being able to workout this week due to a silly cold, but I’m so sick of reading workout descriptions that use the phrase, “long and lean” to sell their workout.

I get it. Most women I know covet a thinner, longer appearing silhouette (no matter what their current body type).  I’ve also never had a female client tell me her goal was to bulk-up. No matter how many articles are written about how hard it is for women to actually bulk-up, it appears it’s still a big concern.

I’m also well aware that at 5’1, I’m not exactly the “long and lean” type no matter what type of workout I do.

I’ll level with you.

I’ve had a few female clients who did not lose weight while strength training and actually put on inches in virtually every part of their body. These clients usually had a significant amount of weight to lose, did not change anything about their eating habits, but regularly lifted weights without doing much cardio. In fact some of them ate more food because they were hungry from working out. These clients were obviously unhappy with their results and blamed weight training.

Without explaining “why”, I think it’s clear as to why they did not get the results they wanted. They increased their muscle size because they started a challenging strength training routine, but continued to over-eat. Throughout the years, these clients have been the exception, not the rule.

Question: How many bulky women do you see walking the streets of Manhattan or leaving the gym?

If you eat healthy and lift weights you will not bulk up.

Will your thighs increase in size by a little? Quite possibly depending on your body type.

Will you be able to run faster for longer and possibly avoid more injuries? Most likely, yes!

At the end of the day working out is suppose to be the thing that helps us live a healthier, more productive life. The long term benefits of strength training out weigh any minor increase in muscle size. Tell me this list of strength training benefits doesn’t make you want to cut your next run short and grab some dumbbells? You WILL NOT bulk-up, I promise!

  • increase in bone density
  • increase in lean muscle mass
  • strengthens connective tissue
  • increases metabolism
  • minimize or eliminates muscle imbalances
  • reduces risk of injuries associated with aging (i.e. breaking a bone when falling)

Why can’t those class descriptions and advertisements use the words “strong and fit”?


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16 Responses leave one →
  1. March 16, 2012

    I loved this post. I kind of hate those terms too, but I use them all the time, for lack of something better and more accurate! It’s almost like i am so used to hearing those phrases everywhere I go, it’s become second nature. Strong and fit are much better!

  2. March 16, 2012

    I hate the word tone. I am not toning I am building muscle. Lot’s of muscle! The number of women who I just see do cardio at the gym drives me nuts, muscle is sexy and you don’t get bulky.

  3. March 16, 2012

    At 5’1 too there is nothing long about me :) I almost always gain lbs on the scale but loose inches when starting a weight training program. We need to start changing the way we view success in the gym and to keep in mind that not every body is the same. Not everyone can be long and lean. You are so right when you talk about diet change. Diet change is just as necessary as the time in the gym for a healthier, compact and strong body.

  4. March 16, 2012

    I love this post. It so much sums up something I’ve only learned recently. (I’m young, cut me some slack here.) Strength is so much more beautiful than bones. Thank you for sharing this!

  5. March 16, 2012

    AMEN! Well said. I hate that phrase and it’s one of my pet-peeves with regard to barre classes. As Brynn (Jinnett of Refine) always says, “the only way to get a longer muscle is to cut it off and attach it further down [a longer] bone!” Or something like that. When I was lifting in the gym back in my body-building days I was a 00. I was certainly not long. But I was strong and lean! But it was 80-90% based on a diet that eschewed sugar and processed food, was high in protein and topped out at 1650 calories max. Diet is still key. And genetics.

  6. Rochelle permalink
    March 16, 2012

    This is such a great post. I have recently gotten into running (a lot more than just for cardio sake) and I have totally realized the importance of strength training in order to keep my whole body strong. Thank you for the honest post.

  7. March 16, 2012

    Hilarious. I literally JUST used those terms TODAY in my blog post when I posted my before and after photos after 3 months of heavy lifting & HIIT & Intervals (Chalean Extreme).

    Sooo….having said that, I get your point. But the physical appearance is just that, longer, leaner muscles…so I don’t know what else to call it. Maybe just strong and lean. Or something.

    Anyway, thanks for giving me something to ponder! haha :)

  8. March 16, 2012

    I completely agree that these words suck, but unfortunately I use them time and time again because it’s what women want to be. If you ask most women (clearly many of the women who read your blog are not like this), the reason they exercise is to lose weight or get skinny. Strong and fit is an afterthought. But hey, at least if they actually do the exercises in the article, then they will be strong and fit! It has to start somewhere, right?

  9. March 16, 2012

    So true. “Strong and fit” should be new mantra. “Long and lean” is so misleading.

  10. March 16, 2012

    Love this post! Strong and fit should definitely be the new mantra. I think that when I first started exercising, it was about losing weight or getting skinny but once I learned more about fitness and experienced what it did for me, it was all about getting strong and fit. My Mom always asks me why I lift weights and why I lift heavy weights (i.e. not 5 lb dumbbells) because God forbid her Chinese daughters shows some muscles :-)

  11. March 16, 2012

    I can attest to the fact that it takes more than just lifting to change your body. After my son was born I was working out like crazy but eating a ton bc I was still nursing and I couldn’t lose weight. Weight training burns fat but it can make you hungry and requires smarter nutrition choices combined with cardio to get the lean part.

  12. March 17, 2012

    I couldn’t agree with you more! The phrases that bug me the most are claims that certain exercises will ‘torch calories’ or ‘melt fat’. It’s so deceiving and makes it sound like the results will be immediate and in the end, it sets people up for failure. Great post!

  13. March 18, 2012

    I agree. Long and lean is a description that isn’t going to fit most people unless you are tall and very skinny. I also dislike the word “toned” because of how people use it like they are afraid to say muscle. Ugh. Muscle is sexy too!

  14. Amber permalink
    July 3, 2012

    UGH!!!! I had to come back to this post because I am so annoyed. The new boot camp I have been going to has had this sub for the past couple of days and she says things like “Come on ladies, let’s burn some calories and get toned.” UGH UGH UGH.

    I just had to vent. I do not work out to burn calories and get toned, and it offends me that you assume that is why we are all here. I don’t think I can go back if she is subbing.

    • Jess permalink*
      July 5, 2012

      I HATE it when instructors focus on stuff like that! Especially when they say stuff like you’re going to burn up to 8,000,000,000 calories in this class. Such b.s.!

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