As part of my initial screening when I pick up new clients I give a little questionnaire. One of those questions….
“Why have you decided to start training and what goals do you hope to achieve”
Almost always yields the same answer (from female clients)
Answer: “I want to be more toned”
So what actually is muscle tone and how do you achieve it?
Muscle tone is one of those topics within the fitness industry that just attracts total bullsh*t when it comes to how best to achieve it. Why this is I don’t know. Maybe because it’s such a common goal and there’s a lot of money to be made from churning out fad “toning” diets and “best toning exercises”
Look at any fitness magazine and you can almost guarantee there will be a caption on the front page that reads something like:
“Get involved in (insert Z listers name) new 4 week tone up fitness program”
“the 5 best exercises for muscle tone”
Let me tell you now…..those reality TV series Z listers don’t know FUCK all about fitness, fitness programs, thermodynamics, physiology or how to achieve muscle tone. They are just the face of companies looking to take your money for generic programs that are not sustainable and are no different from any other program that you can get for a fraction of the price or even for free on youtube!!! There is no quick fix for creating or sustaining muscle tone. (Apart from those vibrating plates you get in gyms…..THAT’S A JOKEEEEE…..There is absolutely no correlation between vibration and muscle tone and I’m literally laughing out loud as I type this at the very notion of it)
DON’T WASTE YOUR MONEY!!!
When it comes to muscle tone there are SO many myths around how to achieve it that even uneducated PT’s are getting it wrong. How many of you have heard this….
“Lifting a lighter weight for lots of reps is best for muscle tone”
I see “Insta famous” PT’s quoting this all the time and all I have to say is
I’m not trying to put PT’s out of business…but if YOURS has ever told you that then you should seriously question their credibility!
Rep range (the amount times you lift a weight in 1 set) has nothing to do with muscle tone!
So ladies…You can pump that 4 kilo dumbbell 1000 times… but you ain’t guna achieve the results you want. (and NO…lifting a heavier weight won’t make you bulky either)
So let’s talk about the reality of muscle tone!
Essentially muscle tone is a combination of 2 things
1. Presence of muscle
2. Having a low enough body fat % to see that muscle
It’s pretty simple really!
Have you ever noticed that bigger people are stronger than smaller people. If we took 2 guys who live sedentary life styles…
Subject A- Tommy (28 Y/O and 16 stone)
Subject B- Timmy (28 Y/O and 9 stone)
and took them to the gym who do you think would lift the heavier weight?
Of course it’s Tommy!
That’s because there is a direct correlation between fat and muscle. Fat people have a lot of muscle mass…you just can’t see it because it’s covered by…you guessed it….FAT.
The point I’m getting at it here is that everyone has muscle…those of you who can’t see it just have more body fat than those who can see it!
So now we know what muscle tone is, how do we achieve it?
We need to lose some body fat and ensure our muscles are in the best possible state to show through!!!
-Enter weight training!!!
There’s no two ways about it…weight training is the best way to achieve that leaner look you’re after! Primarily because it’s the best way to lose body fat and preserve muscle tissue at the same time!
Notice how I said PRESERVE muscle tissue. This is an important point because when it comes to the fat loss part you need to be eating in a calorie deficit (eating fewer calories than you are consuming everyday).
If you’re eating in a calorie deficit (which you need to be to lose weight) you will burn both fat AND muscle and THAT’S why weight training is SO effective for becoming leaner. Because it helps to PRESERVE existing muscle tissue which you neeeeeeed to look leaner as your body fat % drops!
“But Ollie, if I lift heavy weights I will get bulky” UMMMM no you won’t because if you’re in a calorie deficit you physically CAN’T grow muscles! and even if you’re not in a calorie deficit you girls don’t have enough testosterone to grow muscles that big. Have you got any idea how hard it is to grow muscles. Take me for example….I’m walking around with 10x the amount of testosterone (muscle building hormone) you have…I’m smashing 3500 calories a day with a high protein diet… I’m working out 3-5 times a week and I don’t exactly look like Arnold Schwarzenegger do I! You’ve got fuking no chance!
PHEWWWW…are you still with me!!!
Clients who train with me will recognise the following cue points….hell you probably hear me shouting these in your sleep….
“Pick up a challenging weight”
“Your desired rep range per set is around 10-12 reps”
“you’re last 2 to 3 reps should be a fight with muscle fatigue to get them out”
“If you’re smashing out 20 reps per set with ease you’re NOT lifting heavy enough”
“Light weight, loads of reps does NOT create muscle tone”
“Exhale on the exertion points”
When I say this stuff it’s not just for fun! It’s because that’s what you need to be doing for optimal results. The “exhale on exertion points” cue shouldn’t really need to exist. The truth is…if you’re lifting heavy enough, exhaling as you lift the weight should be natural.
When we lift weights (that are heavy enough) it creates small micro tears in the muscle tissue. That’s what causes the soreness after a workout. Our body then goes about repairing that muscle tissue and over time it becomes denser and a LITTLE bit bigger which is exactly what we want for that muscle tone!
So there we have it….that leaner look isn’t so hard to achieve is it!