Coaches Corner


“I want to tone up”.

Have you ever said this to yourself? I have. Almost every client I have will tell me this in the first 5 minutes of meeting each other. But what does it mean to “tone up”?

From my experience I’ve come to define it as: improving your body composition by losing fat with the prerequisite amount of muscle.

Now the last part may be the most important piece to the puzzle that most people miss. The “PREREQUISITE amount of muscle” refers to the muscle being there BEFORE you begin to diet down and start burning fat.

If you start to manipulate your nutrition to lose fat then your overall calories will move to a caloric deficit. In a caloric deficit your body begins to “feed” on itself in order to get the proper energy needed for vital bodily functions. Building muscle is not a vital bodily function happening during a caloric deficit. This is why building muscle has to be the first step in “toning up”. And for the ladies reading this, it does not mean becoming “bulky”. Getting bulky happens when you train hours a day for multiple years and maybe enhance yourself with some extra hormones.

Building muscle first can be a hard commitment. This is essentially asking people to gain weight by training your body to be stronger and eating enough to fuel your activity. But the scale doesn’t paint the whole picture of your fitness journey. It’s just a small piece to the puzzle. You are in control of your body. Doing this the right way takes time and it takes a step by step plan.

The first step is having the prerequisite amount of muscle. Growing the proper muscle needed comes from strength training. It comes from stressing the muscles to elicit an adaptation. It doesn’t come from cardio (even though cardio is beneficial for other things). Muscles are there to shape the body the way you want. Without muscle the body can not tone but can only shrink. Have you ever heard someone use the term “muscle tone”? Muscle comes first. 

Now I don’t want to come off as someone who thinks other forms of exercise are useless. Yoga, running, pilates, and other modalities are all incredible forms of exercise. But if your goals are to get leaner and “tone up”, they aren’t the best way to get you there. Resistance training is the best way to develop the proper muscle size needed before starting to tone up or show more muscle tone.

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