Muscle Toning 101
When most of us think of toning our muscles, we typically think about getting leaner, firmer, more defined muscles.
In order to achieve this, you supposedly have to stick with lighter weights and increase your reps.
But did you know that muscle toning is impossible? It’s a complete myth!
The Truth About “Muscle Toning”
In order to understand why muscle toning is a myth, you have to understand how your muscles work in the first place.
Toning is a word used to describe the overall state of your muscles. When your body is at rest, your muscles are in a constant involuntary state of partial contraction, enabling you to be ready to go at a moment’s notice.
Additionally, you can’t make a muscle “longer” or “sculpt” it into a specific shape. You can either make it bigger and stronger through exercise, or make it weaker and smaller through inactivity. Simply going for that lean look rather than overly muscular one requires the exact same muscle building exercises.
Toning vs. Bulking Up
Your muscles consist of tiny fibers that work together to help you move. Every time you lift weights, your body learns how to properly use those fibers.
When you lift heavier weights, you can create small tears (resulting in muscle soreness) that can trigger the body to make those fibers grow larger, while lifting additional repetitions increases energy producing structures around those fibers, resulting in an increase in endurance.
Because your muscles only work in one way, the only difference between toning and bulking up is the amount of weights you lift on a regular basis.
Tips for Muscle Definition
You can work those free weights as much as you want, but if you want to actually see muscles then you’re going to have to lose that additional layer of body fat underneath the skin.
Instead of focusing on individual body parts (or spot training, which doesn’t work), find a health routine that can improve every area of the body. This requires a good balance between strength/endurance training as well as cardio exercise and a healthy diet.
You can increase your protein intake if you want, but do not go over the daily recommended limit.
Work Every Part of the Body
• Legs – Walking, jogging, and stairs are great ways to build leg muscles and burn fat.
• Butt – Squats are the ultimate exercises for training your glutes. You can add weights for a more challenging workout.
• Thighs – Squats (again), leg raises, and lunges can effectively work your thighs.
• Abs – You can tighten and strengthen your abs with crunches and sit ups, but remember, it’s going to take additional cardio before you’ll see that six pack.
Where to Start
If you’re a newcomer to the gym, the following equipment can help get your muscle-building goals off to a good start:
• Cross trainer – Great way to work in cardiovascular as well as strength training, the cross trainer works upper and lower body.
• Bicycles – Works the legs and stomach, bicycles can get your heart rate pumping for a great calorie burn.
• Treadmills – If you don’t like walking or running outside, jump on a treadmill instead. You can adjust speed and resistance to suit your individual needs.
Building muscle offers a wide variety of health benefits, and it’s a great way to slim down and tone up. However, remember that you need to focus on losing fat if you want to get that toned look that you’ve always wanted. You could very well have those sexy rock-hard abs already-they’re just hiding beneath a layer of fat.