Toning exercises are physical exercises that are used with the aim of developing a physique with a large emphasis on musculature. In this context, the term toned implies leanness in the body (low levels of body fat), noticeable muscle definition and shape, but not significant muscle size (“bulk”).
Research and basic anatomical knowledge implies that the notion of specific exercises to improve tone is unfounded. Exercises can aid fat loss or stimulate muscle hypertrophy, but cannot otherwise improve tone. The size of the muscle can change, as can the amount of fat covering the muscle, but the ‘shape’ cannot.
Appearing “toned” is a common fitness goal, particularly associated with women.
For many, there is a fine line between “toning” and “losing weight”, and it can often quickly become blurred by those who are not familiar with the differences of each.
What is toning?
Toning is the process of losing fat and building muscle at the same time, to ultimately alter our body compositions, resulting in a leaner, more defined (or “toned”) look.
What are toning exercises?
Any resistance exercise can be classed as a toning exercise. Resistance exercises cause tiny tears in the muscle, which then heal and rebuild stronger, leading to muscle growth. To enhance the “toning” properties of resistance exercises, you need to try to perform them as part of an intense session. This will increase the amount of total energy expended in the session, which will help you to also lose fat at the same time. An example of this type of exercise would be having back to back exercises with very little rest or completing HIIT circuits as a great way to increase intensity and start toning.
Is toning the same as losing weight?
When people refer to losing weight they usually mean losing fat, however, most low calories diets lead to both fat loss and muscle loss. The trick to maintain muscle mass when dieting is to combine a high protein low-calorie diet with resistance exercise. This will protect your muscles when the body is under the stressful condition of dieting (where you are not feeling your body as much). When toning, you are losing fat but also actively trying to build muscle at the same time. This might result in a slower weight loss in terms of decreasing numbers on the scales, but you won’t necessarily be losing fat at a slower rate, as you’ll be increasing muscle (which weighs more than fat).
How does toning help weight loss?
Building muscle at the same time as losing weight, or “altering your body composition” is always going to be a great thing, as having more muscle mass has so many amazing benefits. For example, if you have more muscle mass, you require more energy to live and maintain weight, so you have to eat more to merely maintain your weight, and you’d have to eat a lot more to gain. Muscle also acts as a sink for carbohydrates. We store a small amount of carbohydrate in our muscles, when we work out we use this store, then when we eat carbs we refuel it. So, having more muscle means you can get away with eating a little more carbs to fully refuel – and who doesn’t love carbs?!
Can you tone without losing weight?
Yes, depending on the rate at which you are losing fat and building muscle you may not lose any weight. The good news is it may still look like you have lost weight, as you will appear firmer and fitter despite being the same weight.
Why is toning so hard?
Toning is hard as it is usually a longer process than simply trying to lose fat or gain mass. Building in extra resistance exercises and workouts to your daily routine can be tough, as it requires knowledge on how to do it properly. Classes such as body-pump and cross fit are great full body resistance workouts that also work on getting the heart rate up. If you have some disposable budget in your life, investing in a good PT is also a great help. They should be ready to look over and correct your form when performing exercises, ensure you’re doing the correct amount of reps and could potentially push you further than you would go on your own.