How do I Tone Muscles?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

In order to tone muscles, people need to exercise to build muscle and lose weight, and use diet to control weight loss further. Some of the best exercises for building muscle include weight training and abdominal work. Yoga, pilates, and similar activities can also build muscle, as can activities like rock climbing and cycling.

Doing push-ups on an exercise ball can help tone the upper body.
Doing push-ups on an exercise ball can help tone the upper body.

The term “muscle tone” as it is used in fitness is a little bit misleading. People usually use it to mean that someone has high muscle definition. The muscles are hard and clearly visible, and can be easily seen when someone is in motion. Medically, muscle tone is simply the tension naturally present in the muscles; everyone has muscle tone and the partial contraction of the muscles in the body supports posture.

Toning muscles require exercise and a healthy diet.
Toning muscles require exercise and a healthy diet.

When people tone muscles in the fitness sense, their goal is to develop the muscles while paring down body fat to make the muscles more visible. The purpose is not large, very clearly defined muscles as seen in body building, but rather moderate muscle development and definition. In addition, weight loss is necessary to allow the better developed muscles to show. Many weight loss techniques like aerobics and dieting also contribute to muscle loss, however, and people must balance their routines to reach the desired effect.

Sit ups are a good workout for the midsection.
Sit ups are a good workout for the midsection.

For weight loss to tone muscles, there are a number of dietary approaches that can be taken. As a general rule, it is advisable to select a diet that is diverse and will be sustainable in the long term. Crash diets designed for immediate weight loss can allow people to drop weight rapidly, but the weight loss is difficult to change. Dietary adjustments like cutting down on fat, focusing on complex carbohydrates and proteins, and eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables will help people lose weight and keep it off, in addition to providing cardiovascular and other benefits.

Yoga is a good overall body toning exercise.
Yoga is a good overall body toning exercise.

To improve muscle definition, a training routine that works the whole body is necessary. Muscles work together and spot training for muscle tone is not very effective. Different types of weight lifting exercises can be used to tone muscles. Typically, moderate weights and repetitions are recommended to grow and condition the muscles without allowing them to get too big. Core exercises like crunches and situps, along with pushups, pullups, and work on an exercise ball can also make the muscles larger and more defined.

Weight lifting exercises may be used to tone muscles.
Weight lifting exercises may be used to tone muscles.

A personal trainer can work with someone to develop a plan to tone muscles safely and effectively, and provide tips and advice as the client hits fitness plateaus or encounters other problems.

Workouts that target a select grouping of muscles within the muscular system can help to tone those muscles.
Workouts that target a select grouping of muscles within the muscular system can help to tone those muscles.
High muscle definition is when muscles are hard and clearly visible.
High muscle definition is when muscles are hard and clearly visible.
A one-handed pushup requires more strength and balance than a regular pushup.
A one-handed pushup requires more strength and balance than a regular pushup.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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