We hear the word all the time. Pilates studios tell us we’ll get, “Long, lean, and toned muscles!”. The covers of fitness magazines tell us “Tight and toned in 4 weeks!”. Yoga studios tell us, “A total body tone!”. Have you ever wondered what “toned” really means?
“I Want to Tone Up!”
To most people, “toned” means ripped, shredded, defined, cut….whatever you want to call it, in your mind, it means you have well-defined musculature. Women in particular think of “getting toned” as the alternative to “getting big and bulky”. Fitness providers are wise to this, and thus, use the word toned, especially when targeting potential female consumers. This doesn’t mean they’re doing something dishonest, they’re just using a buzz word they know their potential customers are paying attention to and looking for.
So what does “toned” really mean? Well first off, when someone says they want to get “toned”, they are really saying, I want less body fat covering my muscles, thereby making my muscles look more defined, pronounced, or……toned. That’s all being toned really is. People with less body fat covering their body will look more toned.
How You DON’T Get Toned
Now that we know what “toned” really means, isn’t it obvious there aren’t specific exercises that lead to a “toned” appearance? Lifting 5 lb dumbbells won’t lead to less body fat covering your biceps. It’s ridiculous to think this even possible. Just like there isn’t only one weight that will lead to toned muscles, there aren’t specific exercises that will make someone toned, while other exercises make them “big and bulky”. Talk to any fitness professional who isn’t trying to sell you something….they’ll all tell you to forget what you’re reading on the fitness mag covers about how to get “toned”.
How You DO Get Toned
Knowing what we now know, the goal of getting toned has become much easier to reach. A well-designed plan that incorporates ample amounts of cardio (to burn the fat covering your muscles) and compound exercises (to actually build the muscle) will eventually result in a toned appearance. The line between too much cardio and not enough is fine. Do too much cardio and you’ll start wasting away your muscle gains and start looking like a marathon runner (not toned). Not enough and you’ll never burn the fat covering your muscles.
Additionally, change your diet and you’ll start noticing changes fast. Getting toned is about being lean. Eat foods that help you reach your goal while avoiding foods that hinder your progress. Consume ample protein to build muscle tissue and make sure to avoid sugars and other simple carbs that your body will easily store as fat.
The Big and Bulky Myth
All of you reading this have the potential to develop a beautifully tight and toned body. For many of the women out there, they never accomplish their goal because they allow themselves to become too scared of getting “big and bulky”. This topic has been beaten to death, but allow me to very quickly explain to you why this won’t happen.
- Female bodies do not possess the same levels of the hormone testosterone (15-20 times less than men). Testosterone is an anabolic (muscle building) hormone. On the other hand, women have far more of the hormone estrogen than men. Estrogen is a catabolic hormone (muscle destroying).
- Men are genetically predisposed to building more muscle. Under a perfect scenario a man could theoretically gain up to half a pound of muscle a week. Women, if they’re lucky, could gain a third of this at best.
- You don’t get bulky overnight. Instead of refusing to do certain exercises, or using heavy weights for fear of getting bulky, give it a shot and see how you look/feel before swearing them off.
- You aren’t eating like a man, are you? Muscle doesn’t build itself out of thin air. There is a reason bodybuilders, big men, and high-caliber strength athletes eat thousands upon thousands of calories a day. In order to build serious muscle, you’ve got to feed your body insane amounts of food. If you aren’t eating like an offensive lineman, you don’t need to worry about turning into one overnight.
The “Get Toned” Plan
A lot of you are now probably wondering, “Okay great, now how do I
get toned…I mean, how do I burn fat, build muscle, and build a healthy and lean physique?” So glad you asked. As I mentioned before, you need a well-designed plan that walks the fine line between not enough cardio and too much. Given the opportunity to test and re-test the ratio on myself and clients over the years, I believe I found something that will work will for MOST individuals. As I always preach, fitness is NOT an exact science. What works for one may not work for another. Tweak things here and there as needed for your body type. If you need a little more cardio, add 10-15 minutes a day…Have a hard time building muscle? Cut back until you’re able to keep muscle on.
A 5 day routine looking like something below would be ideal…Notice that each workout has been defined as either fat burning, muscle building, or a combo of both. When subbing in your own workouts, if you so choose, opt to keep the ratio of fat burning/muscle building workouts.
- Monday – Explosive plyometric cardio workout, 45 minutes (primary-fat burning/secondary-muscle building)
- Tuesday – Lower body weight training using compound exercises (leg press, squats, Bulgarian squats, box jumps, deadlifts, etc) 60 minutes (muscle building)
- Wednesday – Complex workout sessions, 30-40 minutes (primary-fat burning/secondary-muscle building)
- Thursday – Upper body weight training using compound exercises (bench press, dips, military press, lat pulldowns, etc.) 60 minutes (muscle building)
- Friday – Intense interval cardio, 45-60 minutes (fat burning)
Feel free to sub in some HIIT cardio on cardio days or add an extra day of yoga, pilates, kickboxing, etc. on the weekend. If you’re looking for a huge database of full-length OnDemand fitness classes (like the ones mentioned above) you can take at home or anywhere else you have an internet connection, come check out our full premium site and sign up now for free access.
The only thing stopping you from developing the body of your dreams is yourself. You’re the one who allows your know-it-all inner voice to talk you out of doing the right things. You allow yourself to be overcome with doubt and fear of getting too bulky. Forget that. For once, listen to a fitness professional who ISN’T trying to sell you something. Once you make better decisions in the gym and in the kitchen that lean, athletic, and “toned” body won’t seem so far away after all.
What are some workouts that have been particularly great in helping you develop your body? Comment below and share your workout tips, advice, and secrets! Good karma will follow…!