“I want to get toned. I want to lose weight and look amazing. But wait a minute. Um what does ‘toned’ actually mean?”
We hear it all the time, right?
However, on the flip side, we also hear women mention that they’re afraid of lifting weights since they don’t want to bulk up.
To end the confusion, let’s see what being toned really means, and how you can develop your own body into the shape that’ll make you feel confident in your own skin (along with those outfits that you just have to buy now because of your new figure).
The Skinny on “Toned”
In a nutshell, the phrase “toned” is a concept that women find themselves drawn to as a way to feel shapely, lean, feminine and well-defined.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to look this way. Unfortunately though, it has given strength training a bad rap because the fear of getting bulky has prevented women from getting the most out of their exercise programs because they’re afraid to lift weights.
But here is the truth… Behind every shapely curve is a muscle.
This is a phrase I learned from the owner and chief instructor of the personal training school I graduated from several years ago, and it makes perfect sense.
In order to get toned, you have to introduce weight training into your life. Muscle gives tone to the body. There is no other way about it.
This is why.
Without building muscle, you have skin resting on top of fat and bone. With muscles, you are in a position to “wear” your skin in a way that gives it the appearance of definition.
The truth is, when you include a safe and structured strength training routine into your exercise program (in addition to eating the right foods and keeping your weight at a healthy range) you will be toned because this is the natural result of combining muscular development and low body fat.
The way to go about this is to engage in a well-rounded fitness program that involves a healthy combination of cardio, resistance and flexibility training.
There are plenty of creative, fun and exciting ways to go about this, and all it takes is for you to stick with it.
20 Simple Tips to Get “Toned”
1 – Eat a Healthy Diet
The reason this is the number one tip is because nutrition is everything when it comes to a lean and sculpted body. Stick with a diet filled with fresh fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and lean protein sources – and keep your blood sugar stable by eating every three hours or so.
2 – Be Active Every Day
You can support your workouts by doing things throughout the day to promote an active life. You can park further away from the store, take the stairs and go for walks with your kids. These are simple ways to enhance your exercise program.
3 – Start Slow and Easy and Build from There
If you are new to exercise, then it’s wise to start slow. Your bones and muscles need time to adapt to the new demands being placed on them. Work to the point where you feel tired, but great. As you build strength and stamina, progress yourself safely to higher levels of intensity.
4 – Include Variety
Different exercise programs can help you to build strength and flexibility by changing things up and focusing on different parts of the body – therefore, allowing a wide range of muscular development to occur. Yoga includes balance and isometric muscle contractions while running is excellent for lower body strength and agility.
5 – Invest in Exercise Equipment
This doesn’t have to be expensive, but you do want to keep a few things around. Dumbbells, resistance bands and a mat are useful fitness tools to have at your disposal.
6 – Work All Planes of Motion
Include exercises that allow for all planes of human movement. The sagittal plane is ‘forward and backward’, the frontal (or coronal) plane is side to side and the horizontal plane is rotational. Perform exercises that utilize movements in all planes to get a well-rounded workout in.
7 – Keep Your Muscles “Confused”
It’s easy to hit a plateau when it comes to exercise. To bust through this, change up your workouts every four weeks or so to keep your muscles guessing.
8 – Do Multi-Muscle Group Exercises
Exercises that involve several muscle groups at a time are effective in creating a strong and toned physique. An example of this is the squat/curl/press. You are primarily working your legs, glutes, shoulders and arms in this one exercise, therefore, utilizing a LOT of different muscles in one movement.
9 – Rest
Rest and recovery are important to muscular development because this is what allows your muscles to rebuild themselves after the stress that exercise places on them. This also helps to avoid injury and burnout.
10 – Keep it Fun
The most effective way to stick with an exercise program is to keep it enjoyable. Think about what sounds like fun to you and do it. If you’ve been interested in learning to dance, then take a class. If martial arts sounds appealing, investigate the different types and check out some classes.
11 – Do Compound Exercises
Similar to multi-muscle group exercises, compound exercises involve using one major muscle group while other muscle groups assist with the movement. An example of this is the shoulder press. In this exercise, the shoulders are the primary movers while the triceps assist with the movement.
12 – Do Isolation Exercises
The opposite of compound exercises are isolation exercises. This involves using one muscle group and focusing on building that. An example of this is the bicep curl.
13 – Strengthen Your Core
While commonly referred to as the torso of the body, your core includes pretty much everything other than your arms and legs. It’s important to have a strong core, not just for the benefits relating to your appearance, but to properly assist in other movements. Excellent core exercises include the plank, rotational exercises and functional exercises – which include use of the core in their movements to maintain balance and stability.
14 – Include a Variety of Fitness Equipment for Different Effects
Performing a bench press is different than doing a chest press using resistance bands. While both exercises work your chest, anterior delts and triceps (but in slightly different ways) – the bench press places more of the focus on the primary muscle groups itself since you are in a stable position, while the latter involves incorporating core stabilization – which is necessary to maintain your stance while the bands try to “pull” you back as you’re using them. Both methods are effective, but allow you to gain the benefits of different muscle groups being worked through the different needs required to perform both methods efficiently.
15 – Include Functional Training
Functional training involves training the body specifically to help with every day movements. Many of these exercises are effective in building muscle while improving balance and stability. An excellent functional training exercise is the “wood chop” – which involves use of the entire body while including rotation.
16 – Use Proper Form
Exercise is only truly effective if it’s done safely – and part of this includes using proper form. Your best bet is to master the actual movement of an exercise before adding additional resistance (weights) to avoid unnecessary injury. For example, when performing a squat, make sure your knees are in alignment with your feet (straight – not bowing in or out) and not extending beyond your toes. ONLY after you have mastered the movement in and of itself should you consider adding dumbbells, or including it in a multi-muscle group exercise.
17 – Stay Hydrated
From a health perspective, this is important for every reason imaginable. However, as far as your physical appearance goes, this is helpful in regard to flushing out toxins and keeping your appetite at bay. It’s easy to confuse hunger for thirst, so make sure to include plenty of water and water filled foods like fruits and vegetables into your diet.
18 – Alternate Muscle Groups
Whatever muscle group you place your focus on one day (especially if doing higher intensity exercises), consider focusing on a different set of muscles the following day. This way, you can still get a great workout in while allowing the prime muscles of the previous day’s workout to recover. For example, if Monday is chest day, then work your back on Tuesday.
19 – Avoid Overtraining
Believe it or not, there is such a thing as overdoing it when it comes to exercise. When there is too much stress placed on any part of the body, injury becomes possible (so does burnout). Rest and recovery are important, as is balance.
20 – But…What About Cardio?
Cardio is an important component of any exercise program because it can help to burn additional calories, keep weight down and train your heart. However, it isn’t necessarily ideal for toning. If you want to use cardio to help you with definition, you’ll want to incorporate some higher intensity cardio activities to build muscle. Running can be effective in strengthening the legs and glutes and cycling can do the same. Fitness walking also involves repetitive use of the lower body, so this can work as well. However, for true shape and “tone”, resistance training really is the best.
As mentioned, the word tone is nothing more than a term used in an effort to market an idea to women in regard to their appearance.
As long as you keep your weight down and continue with your program, you will not only get the appearance you’re looking for, but you’ll reap the rewards of a strong, flexible and energetic body that you’ll be proud of.