Toning series, pt. 1: the keys to looking toned
Summer’s around the corner and many of you (mainly the ladies, but this applies to guys too) have been asking about getting the often-sought-after ‘toned’ look. Now, before we begin it’s important to understand what ‘toned’ or ‘toning’ means, because it’s one of those vague words that gets thrown around a lot but has no real meaning. Ask most people what they mean by ‘getting toned’ and the general response is “errr, like… you know? Shoulders… with… the shape of shoulders? And… legs and stuff? And… two ‘V’ lines on the side of the stomach, whatever that is. And… all the abs and a firm butt!”
Luckily, we know what people mean when they say “I want to get toned”. Generally, it means having shapely arms and legs, sculpted shoulders, a tight tummy and a peachy booty! For many, it’s that ‘beach body’ look. It can also encompass having a body that looks fit and physically capable.
So, how is this look achieved? Well, two things:
- Having adequate muscle to provide shape (this is VERY important, and no, you won’t look bulky), and
- having low enough body fat to show off the shape of the muscle.
Let’s unpack these two points. Firstly, you can be slim and skinny and have very low muscle mass. This is what many call ‘skinny fat’. It’s hard to achieve a toned look if muscle mass is low. The reason for this is because muscle provides the shape and curves and stays in place; it creates that ‘fit’ and ‘tight’ look. Fat, on the other hand, tends to hang where it’s placed and is dictated by movement and gravity. Long story short, muscle is key.
This brings us to the second point: getting body fat low enough to show off the shape of the muscle. If body fat is up, then all those toned muscles will be hiding away. The (other) key is to get leaner (reduce body fat). On the plus side, the more muscle you have, the easier it is to achieve and maintain long term fat loss because more muscle means you burn more calories throughout the day from doing nothing at all. Double win!
Now you might be thinking “if I put on muscle, won’t I get bulky?”. Short answer: no. This belief has held back countless women from achieving their physical goals in an effective manner, if at all. To put things in perspective, it is very difficult for males to put on sizeable muscle to look jacked and beefy; it often takes years and years of hard work, dedication and, most importantly, consistency. It’s even harder for females because of having significantly less testosterone levels, which is a major hormone in muscle development. When we train our females for bikini or fitness model competitions we train them with weights… heavy weights. And they turn out slim and toned, not bulky. I will, however, have another post up about some of the factors that create a ‘bulky’ body, for those who are curious.
So, there you have it, the two things required to look toned. Muscle is your friend, so don’t be afraid of it! In the next segment of this toning series we’ll be looking at what sort of training is most effective for achieving that look!