The people who are not really into bodybuilding but still visit the gym once or twice a week will tell you that they simply want to become more toned. The word “toned” comes from the Latin “tonus” or the Greek “tonos” and means tension. Muscle building, toning and increasing definition are all fitness goals that are similar in the implication of strengthening the muscles to achieve that tension-filled look through exercise.
In reality, there is no such thing as “toning your muscles.” Toning up essentially revolves around shedding enough body fat so that the definition and shape of your muscles becomes visible, given that you’ve put some effort into increasing their size. And since muscles can either shrink or grow in size, they themselves can’t really “tone up” – that’s not in their modus operandi.
What being “toned” actually means is having a body with a pronounced musculature and a low percentage of body fat. And to get there, you need to engage in strength training that will stimulate your muscles to grow and become stronger and allow you to burn a lot of calories by elevating your metabolic rate. That being said, keep in mind that exercises that target more muscle groups at once or target larger muscle groups, such as the legs and back, will burn more calories than isolated exercises.
But regardless of how much you work out, if you don’t adjust your diet accordingly, you won’t achieve any great results. So, let’s repeat this to make it even clearer – being toned requires BOTH of these things:
- Fat loss
- Muscle growth
Bad news: there is no easier way around it, so start working on it right now. You don’t have to follow a competitive bodybuilder’s regime, of course, but you will need to structure a good workout routine and plan an adequate calorie deficit in order to achieve a more toned look.
First, let’s get rid of the two most common misconceptions surrounding the “mystical” process of toning:
1. Spot Reducing
This is a myth that just won’t die. You can’t lose fat in specific areas by performing exercises that target them because exercises target muscles, not the fat covering those muscles and that’s the end of it. Depending on your genetics, hormonal activity and a variety of other factors, you will naturally lose fat quicker in some areas than others, but you can’t really significantly influence this process.
So no, endless crunches are not the way to achieve a flat midsection. Instead of focusing on body parts, choose exercises that target more large muscles and stimulate greater fat burning all over the body around the clock. Don’t worry, if you stick with your training and calorie restriction for long enough, even the most stubborn pockets of fat will start melting.
2. High reps and low weight
Besides being terribly boring, your sessions of 20+ repetitions of one exercise using an unnoticeable amount of weight are literally useless. Simply going through motions without significantly stressing your muscles won’t challenge them to grow, nor will it help you burn fat. Ideally, the exercises you perform should produce fatigue after 8-12 reps. If you can get more reps than that, you probably need to go heavier. Anyway, instead of focusing on the number of reps and things like that, simply try to keep your workout challenging enough to make you give your maximum.
It may sound a bit scary, but in reality, “toning up” isn’t all that hard and it doesn’t require any special supplements or a specific body type to get there.
Here’s exactly what you need to do:
- Build muscle with a resistance training program: 3 times a week should suffice, but if you have the time for more, go for it. Opt for full-body movements like deadlifts, squats, push-ups, pull-ups, lunges and rows.
- Lose fat with a restricted calorie intake: slowly start reducing your daily calorie intake. If done too quickly, your body may be inclined to store more fat instead of releasing it. Start by consuming 300 calories less than you would normally do and see how it goes.
And that’s pretty much it. The more fat you lose, the more visible your muscles will be, and the more toned you’ll appear. Want to improve your shape? Build even more muscle. Want to improve your tone? Lose even more fat. Stick to those rules and we guarantee you’ll get even more than the tone you wished for.