Muscle toning – it’s something we all want to do. Who wouldn’t like the firm, defined muscles that come from a toning routine? Here are some keys to effective muscle toning.
1. Watch Your Diet
Are you suprised to see the first toning key refer to food? Don’t be. Regardless of how much time you spend working out, you will not achieve good muscle tone if you have a thick layer of fat covering your muscles. A healthy diet is essential to muscle toning, especially for women as our bodies tend to hold onto body fat more than men’s. Your diet should consist of lots of fruits and vegetables, “good” carbs (think whole grains), lean proteins and plenty of water.
2. Don’t Buy the Spot Training Myth
Most of us have one or more trouble spots that we would especially like to tone, say our abs or our upper arms. Then we go in search of specific exercises to target those areas. While these exercises certainly can’t hurt, neither will they produce definition in an area covered with fat. The first key to toning is to reduce calorie intake, and then to exercise generally – no specific areas need to be targeted. Cardio exercise is an excellent way to burn fat and drop pounds. As your calorie intake decreases, fat will decrease as well – but your body will decide which spots it will drop from first.
3. Use Resistance and Repeat
If you want to tone your muscles and not bulk them up, the key is to exercise using weight lifting. However, keep the weights relatively light, and do many repetitions. Lighter weights and increased volume creates the toned (rather than bulked up) muscles that you want. Try doing 3-4 sets of each exercise for increased effectivness.
Muscle tone consists of a muscle being partially contracted even in a relaxed state, and the way to achieve this is to work your muscles frequently and to increase reps and intensity as your endurance improves.
4. Try Pilates
If you haven’t yet tried Pilates, you may want to consider it. Pilates workouts are excellent for toning muscle, and weights aren’t required; you simply use the resistance of your own body. Most gyms offer Pilates classes, and there are numerous video Pilates workouts available.
5. Engage in Circuit Training
Circuit training is an excellent way to achieve muscle tone and definition. Basically, circuit training refers to performing a set or two of one exercise, then moving on to another exercise and continuing this cycle. This type of “switching off” keeps your muscles performing optimally and is great for burning fat as well. Many women’s-only gyms (Curves, for instance) utilize circuit training (or check with a local gym).
You’ve gathered by now that muscle toning is an ongoing process that isn’t achieved overnight. But, by eating right and incorporating these exercises into your daily routine, you will begin to see improved muscle tone and definition before you know it!