Let’s get toned!

Ask a handful of women in a gym what they want out of their workout and 99.5% of the answers will include “to get toned”.  While I’m pretty sure I know what they mean by this answer, I’m not sure that everyone is aware of the fact that “getting toned” isn’t possible.  You can LOOK more “toned” (which is what I’m assuming they mean), but it’s not done through these internet-viral toning workouts flying around Facebook. You know, do 500 body weight squats in a month?  At the end of the month you’ll probably just have sore hips and knees.

I’m going to play the role of bad guy on this topic and possibly shatter some of your beliefs / views / hopes in terms of fitness.  It’s all an illusion! Yup, smoke and mirrors. LOL.  Ok, not that drastic, but to be honest, a little bit of LOOKING fit is done so in round-about ways. Case in point – bodybuilding poses. Check out these two pictures of me, taken precisely 30 seconds apart. In one I look fit and healthy, and in the other, I look a lot larger, muscle-y, and defined. Same lighting, same time of day, no body makeup shading, and no photo filter!

We use posing to strategically highlight our physiques. Relaxed vs. posed changes how I look in 5 seconds.

We use posing to strategically highlight our physiques. Relaxed vs. posed changes how I look in 5 seconds.

Trickery!  I’m not huge – even though sometimes I like to think I am… Simply using posing can change my appearance – we use this pose to look larger overall, while making our waist look small. Additionally, we train OTHER body parts to highlight something else. For example, we build bigger shoulders to help our waist look smaller in relation. By doing one thing, you can create a different impact. How does this relate to getting “toned”? Keep reading….

Contrary to popular online workouts, a muscle cannot be “toned”. Muscles do one of two things, they grow and shrink (known as hypertrophy and atrophy, respectively). Additionally, body fat can do two things, it can be lost and gained. In combination, muscle growth and body fat loss will result in you looking more “toned” as you start to see some muscle definition.

One of these aspects may be easier or sound more appealing to you – if you’re really lean already, you’ll likely  need to build some muscle mass to change your look. If you’ve got some extra weight on you, losing some body fat through proper diet may give you the result you’re after by uncovering some muscle definition.

In short, it’s all about body composition. Build muscle for a strong foundation, and then lose some of the fat covering it and you’ll look toned! Sounds so simple, but it takes a lot of hard, consistent work. To build muscle mass, you need to put the muscle under tension, and 30 straight days of body weight squats isn’t going to yield much growth. Sorry to be the one to bring all this bad news… But, any activity is better than no activity, so squat away if that’s what makes you happy. Just give your lower body a bit of a break and do some upper body training too – even just to save your joints from stiffness.

Now, go get toned! 😉

And ladies, don’t fear lifting heavy! Stay tuned for a future post on how you WILL NOT get bulky – I promise.

About Ashleigh

I'm passionate about health and fitness. I work as a Health Promotion Specialist, a group fitness instructor, and also a coach for physique competitors / weight loss clients. I grew up as a competitive athlete, and have continued with this passion as a Women's Physique competitor. Research and writing is another interest of mine, which I use to share my knowledge with the general public.
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