What is muscle tone and how do you achieve it?
If you’re spending time in the gym, it’s a good idea to have a goal in mind. For some, the mission is weight loss, better heart health, or stress management. For others it’s about getting toned and defined muscles.
While men often desire to bulk up and get strong, women are usually more concerned with getting firm, toned muscle. After all, no one wants to jiggle or carry around flab.
Like many areas of fitness, there are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to muscle tone. Keep reading to learn what muscle tone is and the best way to get it.
Toned muscle is slightly contracted, even when at rest. Unlike fat, toned muscles look and feel firm when you’re not even using them. They appear defined, so there’s no question as to whether it’s fat or muscle. Besides helping you look lean and fit, toned muscle is muscle that’s healthy and ready for action. It helps keep you balanced, improves posture, and allows for quick movements.
In order to have a toned look, you need a low body-fat percentage. You can have all the muscle in the world, but the extra fat you’re carrying around prevents your muscle from being seen. The less fat you have, the more toned you look—period.
Toning Tall Tales
Many people mistakenly believe that the way to get toned muscle is by lifting weights with high repetitions, little resistance, and long rests in between. The reason women especially think this is because they also believe the myth that lifting heavy weights produces big, bulky muscles. What these women should know is that lifting light weights with high reps will accomplish nothing for tone if the muscles are covered in a layer of fat. And with only a few exceptions, women don’t need to worry about bulking up through weight lifting, as they lack the hormone testosterone that leads to bulk.
Secondly, don’t fall into the trap of thinking weight machines are meant for toning and dumbbells and barbells are for building muscle. As it turns out, neither one are going to give you that toned look if you’ve got too much body fat. Weight training of any kind won’t make “soft” muscle turn “hard.” Muscle either shrinks or becomes bigger.
A third myth many people believe is that spot reduction is possible and effective. However, performing bicep curls alone won’t give you defined arms, just like doing squats and nothing else won’t give you toned legs.
So if high reps with low weights and weight machines aren’t the way to get toned and spot reduction doesn’t work, how can you get that firm, defined look? In order to have toned muscle, you’ve got to get rid of the extra layers of fat that are covering up the muscle you already have. And it may not be exciting or sexy, but the best way to lose body fat is by eating a healthy diet. Reduce your calorie intake and focus on foods that are high in fiber, protein, and healthy fats. For some people, losing body fat is enough to give them the toned look they desire. Others need to go a step further.
To build strong, well-proportioned muscle, incorporate strength training into yourworkout routine. You should work towards lifting heavier weights with fewer repetitions and shorter rest periods between sets.
Circuit training can be an effective way to get a cardio workout while lifting weights. With circuit training, you burn more calories while building strength by working your way through a series of compound weight-lifting exercises that focus on different muscle groups. Since you’re changing the muscles you work with each movement, you need little to no rest between exercises. A short rest period is allowed after each circuit, and then you go at it again!