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The myth of toning

The myth of toning

This is a usual fitness tag line " get to toned " or someone will say "I only want to get toned" unfortunately you can't get toned, you either have muscle and low body fat or you don't. I want to declare a war on the term "toned" it's time to stop this lazy con.

What really is muscle tone, this is when the muscle is under tension as when it is used to perform an action or when it is tensed as flexing your bicep.

So what do people mean when they say they want to get toned, normally they want to increase their muscle definition. For most people this means increasing their muscle and decreasing the fat layer over the top. For this the normal advice is light weights and high reps, so out come the pink 0.5 KG dumb bells and 15 to 20 reps and you're done. Unfortunately for most people this will do absolutely nothing for them, as the weight is too light and the reps to high.

Light weights and high reps (20+ reps) are used to build muscular endurance, but the weight still needs to be sufficiently heavy to tax the muscle for the last few reps of the set. Half kilo dumbbells will not do this for most people, so training this way will have very limited effect on most people. The second most popular programming is the 8 to 15 rep range (mostly 10 to 12) with moderate weights. This is great for hypertrophy, which means increasing the size of the muscle and is used primarily by bodybuilders to gain size. As this is the thing most people who want to "tone" are terrified of it seems odd that this is the thing they are encouraged to do.

So how should we train to get the results that we want, i.e increased muscle definition and lower body fat,

  1. Build muscle: this does not involve bulking up but learning to lift correctly and increase basic strength. This is best done through a 5x5 program this will add lean muscle and help a beginner learn correct lifting form.

  2. Sort out your eating: this means eating as clean as you can and getting the correct nutrition you need.

  3. Targeted cardio: doing the right amount of cardio at the right time, mixing HITT and steady state

We need to stop people being exploited by lazy or badly educated fitness professionals, we need to stop the pointlessly small weights and high reps that are prescribed for "toning", we need to stand up and say i want to get healthy and fit, I want burn fat & build muscle.

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