The Truth About Toning

March 26, 2014 - 6 minutes read

Truth About Toning

Let’s be honest here…who doesn’t want Michelle Obama’s gorgeously toned arms or a pair of Victoria’s Secret model legs? Personally, I’d kill for a solid set of Gwen Stefani’s abs. And that woman has had babies! THREE of them!

So how do we go about obtaining these pinnacles of fitness? Grab a set of 3 lb weights and bust out a couple rounds of seated bicep curls once a week like this female-oriented fitness magazine sitting on my desk says to do? Somehow I can’t picture Mrs. Obama opting for the little pink weights collecting dust in the corner…

If you truly want to see results and, quote un-quote, “tone” certain parts of your body, there are a few things you’ll have to keep in mind before you lace up those sneakers and hit the gym.

Get your body fat percentage to a reasonable level

Spot reduction is the attempt to get rid of fat from specific areas in the body by performing exercises that target those areas and let’s be very clear: it doesn’t exist.

While performing exercises on a specific muscle or muscle group will strengthen those muscles, it will not reduce the amount of fat stored in that area. In order to truly see muscle tone and definition, you’re going to have to bring your total body fat percentage down to a reasonable level or it’s going to be very difficult to see that muscle definition, regardless of how hard you work.

Your best approach to reducing body fat is by focusing on how you can better your diet and nutritional intake and then work towards adding in additional cardio sessions.

Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself

Show of hands: how many of us are scared to lift real weights for fear of “bulking up”? I completely sympathize. The idea of becoming big and bulky is not one that I actively welcome for myself either. I do, however, want to get in a good workout when I have time to hit the gym so I also don’t want to put in a less-than-complete effort.

So where’s the happy medium? Let’s start by explaining a bit about the female body. Those over-the-top, hulk-mode body building women you see out there are not the norm. These women are intentionally following diets that support muscle growth. They are also actively altering their natural hormone profile to encourage this type of muscle development.

Average Janes like us physically cannot get to that heightened state so don’t be afraid to challenge yourself a little! Use a set of weights that allow you to keep good form but also fatigue you within 8-12 reps. If you’re using a weight that lets you to do more than 15 reps without breaking a sweat, that’s a good sign that you’re not going to see a lot of results from that session. You need to push yourself a bit more than that.

Work a variety of muscles

Don’t fall into the trap of only working one or two muscles in the group – this is how you create imbalances and that can do a lot more harm than good. If you’re wanting to see definition, be sure to target all the muscles in the group as well as those that perform the counteracting movements.

For example, if you want to work your chest or abs, be sure to incorporate back exercises into your routine to keep your body in balance.

Create some order to your workouts

Certain movements use bigger muscle groups and therefore require more energy to perform. These include multi-joint movements (such as squats, lunges, pull-ups, pushups, rows, etc) that work a larger area of the body at once. Denote these exercises as the foundation of your program and be sure to perform them at the start of your workout. Follow these up with smaller movement exercises such as calf raises, bicep curls, triceps kickbacks, etc.

Change it up when necessary

We all have certain exercises that we love but sometimes we need to set those free and try something new. In order to ensure that you’re progressing, switch up your program when you feel like you might be starting to plateau or when you’re getting too bored to go to the gym.

There is no magic number of how many weeks in this will start occur, let your body tell you when it’s time.