Women often say something like this when talking about their fitness goals:
“I don’t want to get big and bulky, I just want to get toned.”
I want to discuss the goal to “get toned” and how you can go about it.
We should first clarify something: technically/medically speaking, “muscle tone” refers to the constant state of muscle tension in a healthy individual. Your muscle tone is already normal unless you have some type of medical condition (such as a neurological or muscular disease).
But I know what people mean when they bring up “toning”: they usually mean they want their bodies to look and feel firmer, but they don’t want big muscles.
So how do you achieve this look? First and foremost, I’d recommend resistance training, also know as weight lifting. Let me ease your fears about becoming the next she-hulk. Women usually don’t get huge muscles for a couple of reasons:
Muscle Fiber Composition: women tend to have a higher ration of slow-twitch (endurance) fibers compared with men. These muscle fibers have less potential for size and strength. This is one reason women tend to like aerobic training more than men.
Hormonal Makeup: Men typically have 15x the amount of testosterone as women. This also keeps women from building big “manly” muscles.
Here’s a picture of Jen Ferruggia (there’s a link to my review of her program below). See any huge muscles or veins? Nope–she is a natural (drug-free) trainee who has been lifting weights to sculpt her body. You can check out my article on women and weight training for more research on resistance training.
The type of training she prescribes focuses on the body parts women usually want to focus on (hips, thighs, etc) and she also designed her training to maximize fat burning.
You also have to get your diet in order if you are really serious about transforming your body. The “toned” look comes from having a low body fat level. You’ll need to create a calorie deficit (burning more calories than you eat), and you should be eating a balance of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats.
I can’t emphasize this enough: diet is ultimately going to make or break you in terms of body transformation. Gyms are full of overweight people trying to out-train bad diets–it just doesn’t work.
Having a toned body is a result of building muscle/strength and lowering your overall body fat level. I’d highly recommend a program like Bikini Body Workouts if you are a woman who is serious about achieving this look. This program will teach you how to work out and eat.
I’d recommend Turbulence Training for men who want to lose fat and get lean.