There are many recreational lifters who aren’t necessarily looking to get jacked like a competitive bodybuilder. If you ask them what their main goal is, they would often give you the answer that they simply want to get ‘toned’. This is an abstract word for many and it needs some clearing up.
‘Toned’ comes from the Latin word ‘tonus’ or the similarly sounding Greek word ‘tonos’, which literally means tension. This draws the logical conclusion that building muscle, increasing muscle definition and toning are similar goals.
Generally speaking, a concept such as ‘muscle toning’ doesn’t exist. What many people have in mind when they are talking about toning their muscles is burning enough fat so that the separation between their muscles becomes evident making their muscles by hard and heavy training. Considering that muscle size can fluctuate depending on the stress they are exposed to over longer periods of time, the muscles themselves cannot ‘tone up’, that’s not how they work.
What ‘ getting toned up’ really means is building a body with an increased overall musculature in combination with a low body fat percentage. In order to achieve that, you will need to start lifting weights exposing your muscle fibers to mechanical stress that will stimulate them to grow and become stronger so that they can endure the ever increasing load.
This will also enable you to spend a higher amount of calories by increasing the metabolic rate. Taking this into consideration, it is worth mentioning that the exercises that stimulate multiple muscle groups at the same time or stimulate muscle groups that are larger in size, like the back or leg muscles, will burn more calories than exercises targeting isolated muscles.
However, if you don’t pay attention to your dietary habits, no matter how hard or consistently you train, you will not get the body you want. Let that sink in for a while. You need to fulfill two criteria in order to ‘tone up’ successfully:
1. Build muscle.
2. Lose fat.
And there’s no way around it. You either do it, or you don’t. If you are serious about this, you’d better start working on it as soon as possible. There’s no need to follow some professional bodybuilder’s training or diet plan, but you will have to make a customized training and nutrition program as per your needs to get that toned look you are after.
In order to clear up the confusion regarding toning, we must first bust the two most common myths regarding the often misunderstood concept of toning:
1. Fat spot reducing
This is an oft-repeated misconception that refuses to be exterminated from the fitness world. There is no way you can lose fat in specific parts of your body by doing exercises that isolate the parts directly because the exercises stimulate the muscles in those areas, not the fat tissue that is above the muscles. It’s simply not the same tissue.
Fat loss mostly depends on your genetic makeup, overall hormonal activity, and some other factors. You will be more likely to lose fat faster in some parts than others, however, there is no way you can directly influence certain body parts.
This means that doing sit-ups months on end, will in no way help you get a slimmer waist. The solution is to stop targeting specific areas and start doing exercises that will stimulate multiple and larger muscle groups which will burn fat all over your body faster like compound exercises do. That means that if you are consistent with your workout regimen and caloric intake in the long term, you will succeed in burning off the most stubborn fat deposits.
2. High-rep training using lighter loads
Aside from the fact that training with lighter weights and many repetitions can become very tedious and boring, it is also utterly useless. The reason that makes this type of training useless is that you don’t provide enough stimulus to your muscles by causing an ever increasing progressive weight overload.
This will not cause them to respond to the stress by growing and will not make them burn off more calories. Bodybuilders are right when they say that you should keep the repetitions of one set within the range of 8 to 12. That is the sweet spot of creating enough stimulus to make the muscles grow. If you can do more than 12 reps, you should increase the weight. There are many ways to progress, the first being using progressive overload. However, you should always strive to make your workout sessions challenging in any form.
You may not believe this at first, but toning up is not all hard to do and you don’t need any machines to achieve your ideal body.
We give you two main guidelines to follow that will help you tone up faster:
- Follow a muscle building program. At first, start training thrice per week and if you have more time, increase the number of training days. Do full-body workouts. Always choose compound exercises like the squat, deadlift, overhead press, bench press, pull-up variations etc.
- Lower your caloric intake. Start decreasing the daily caloric requirements slowly. That way you will be able to lose fat at a slower pace but preserve the precious muscle tissue. If you do it quickly, the body will think you’ve gotten yourself into a situation in which you are forced to starve and will go into defensive mode. It will start storing more fat than burning it. A good starting point is to cut 300 calories than you would otherwise consume on a daily basis. Test out with various amounts and see which one works best for you.
It’s really that simple. If you lose the fat covering your muscles, they will become visible and you will appear toned. If you want to look bigger you will need to build more muscle. If you want to get toned, you should lose more fat. Follow these rules and you will get the body of your dreams.