What Does “Getting Toned” Really Mean?

April 9, 2023


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I'm Morgan — a sustainable fitness coach here to help you finally build lasting strength and confidence. 

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If you think you can tone your muscles, think again.

Seriously. You’re wrong.

Okay, I know that was a litttttle harsh so let me explain.

Being “toned” is a result of having a low enough body fat percentage so that you can see the shape of your muscles below. This is achieved by building muscle, losing fat, or in most cases, a combination of the two.

How do you tone your muscles?

Here’s something I really want you to understand.

Muscles themselves do not tone. You cannot tone your muscles.

Your muscles can grow or shrink, but the amount of fat covering your muscles will ultimately determine if you look toned or not.

Toning your muscles is a made up term. It’s been used to market products, services, workouts, supplements and programs that trick you into believing you’ll get the same results as so-and-so from social media.

Does that sound familiar?

What about toning workouts?

Again, any workout that’s promising you “toned” muscles is simply

One workout will not make you “toned.” One workout will not be “toning” your muscles.

How to look toned.

If you want to look “toned” by building muscle and losing body fat, you should focus on these five things:

  • Strength train at least 2-3x/week
  • Eat adequate protein to build and maintain muscle (.7-1g protein per pound of bodyweight per day)
  • Walk 7-10k steps per day
  • Incorporate veggies at every meal
  • Drink half your bodyweight in ounces of water daily

To lose fat you will need to be in a caloric deficit, so you may also want to:

  • Track calories to ensure you’re in a deficit
  • Complete 1-2 30 minute cardio sessions per week
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Reduce ultra processed foods
  • Eat one big salad per day

Workout tips for looking “toned”

Remember, in order to look “toned” you need to build or maintain enough muscle that you can see it below the layer of fat on top.

If the “toning” workouts you’re following aren’t giving you the results you want, it’s likely because they’re not adequately challenging your muscles to actually lead to growth. That, or you may be eating in a caloric surplus, which means you’re consuming more calories than you burn (this will ultimately lead to fat gain).

To optimize hypertrophy (building muscle), strength train two to three times per week and work within a few reps of failure during each set of your workouts. Pick weights that truly challenge yourself for the number of reps listed for each exercise, all while maintaining proper form.

Here’s a breakdown:

  • Get a gym membership
  • Start a strength training program for at least 4-12 weeks
  • Lift heavy weights that actually challenge you (while maintaining proper form)
  • Implement progressive overload to increase the weight or work over time

Don’t fall for “toning” workouts and instead invest in the proven practices that will help you reach your goals in the best and most effective ways.

Show up. Stay consistent. Challenge yourself. And always keep going. You got this.

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