“I just want to be toned”.
We’ve all heard it before. At the gym, from friends, on TV, and you might have even said it yourself at some point.
Within countless gyms people hear it every day. The word “toned” is misused and misunderstood. Why?
The media can lead the general public to be under the impression that you can get “toned” by performing a certain rep scheme, a certain routine, or certain exercises. How many times have you heard “full body toning routine” or “toning exercises for women” (as if women need to exercise differently than men)?
The problem with these gym workouts, programs, articles, and the people selling them is that not only are they claiming that certain exercises will tone muscles, but that you can spot reduce fat in specific areas as well. This spot reduction myth is another one that needs to go. The idea that by exercising a specific body part, the fat in that area will be used and reduced simply isn’t true. It’s impossible – regardless of what that article in your magazine or advert for the latest fad fitness product told you.
What Does Being Toned Mean?
When people refer to being toned, all they mean is that they want a low enough body fat percentage to see the shape and definition of the muscles. It’s that simple. And let's be clear, muscles DO NOT go from soft to hard, or hard to soft. They either shrink or grow. They CANNOT tone, sculpt, or any other adjective you may have heard. There is no other way about it. When it comes to changing our body composition, we can really only do two things. We can either gain or lose fat, and gain or lose muscle. So, if you want that “toned” appearance, you’re going to have to shed the layer of fat that is covering up your muscles.
You can certainly attain this toned look through training and diet. The biggest myth comes from health and weight loss companies who claim that certain types of exercises will get you toned, or that you can tone a specific area by training it directly. For example, most people are misled in to thinking that doing crunches will reduce their stomach fat and make their abs show. Crunches can sure grow your rectus abdominis (stomach) muscle, but it won’t decrease the layer of fat that’s covering it.
Bulk The Hulk
What seems to come with this concept of toning muscles, is the idea that lifting any significant amount of weight will turn you in to the hulk overnight. If you lift anything heavy, you’ll become “bulky”. If it were that easy, every guy in the gym would be huge, which also isn’t true. Whether your goal is to reduce fat, gain muscle, or both, you’ll need to stress the muscles with relatively heavy weight. Your muscles need this stress for them to grow and show (or even to simply maintain the muscle mass you have). Simply going through the motions with little to no weight won’t produce the results you want.
A New Perspective
Commonly, people looking to 'tone up' will spend hours doing sit-ups or gruelling calorie-controlled diets. These are not necessarily the best ways to go about toning. If you want a lean, toned back and a six pack, the best way to approach it is through a full body workout that is designed to target a range of muscles.
With this in mind, let’s consider some smarter ways to achieve this goal.
How to Exercise Your Core
Treat your body to a great overall workout that focuses on building core strength, and you’ll see that lean, toned body you’ve been dreaming of in no time.
Your core muscles are more than just your abs; it’s your body’s whole trunk, side muscles (obliques), back and your butt (gluteus). All your muscles work effectively and in unison to give you strong posture and fluid mobility. Engaging the core will make your body work better in general and enable you to burn more calories and build more muscle over a wider area.
One of the best exercises for engaging your abs and your back is the plank. Read on for more information.
A plank variation is great for firing up your glutes and targeting your core muscle system. Start by settling into a half-plank on your knees, and once you’re more confident, shift your hips forward and feel your ab, glute, back and thigh muscles engage.
The next stage is to lift your knees away from the floor. Your aim is to keep your back as flat as you can (avoid raising your butt) and push into your elbows for stability. This is the full plank and is one of the simplest and most effective core exercises. There are also lots of plank variations that enable you to mix it up and find the one that’s right for you. As well as engaging your abs, your back will reap the benefits too!
Attend CXWorx Class
If you want to get to grips with the whole-body approach to exercise, or want to learn new and inspiration fitness ideas, then why not come down to one of our CXWorx classes?
CXWorx by Les Mills is an innovative class that is designed to strengthen your core, improve your posture and enhance mobility, as well as having the awesome benefits of toning up abs and back for that perfectly lean silhouette and six pack.
Book your spot via the app or try CXWorx On Demand.
Need a little help? Speak to our team about personal training sessions to ensure your fitness goals are realistic, achievable and practical. Or book yourself onto a Fitness Orientation to kickstart that new fitness quest.