The Art of “Toning”

Recently, I overheard a conversation among a bevy of women on how to get toned without looking bulky. (Not that I was eavesdropping by purpose - they were really so enthusiastic about their conversation that my ears just caught hold of the word " tone" ) And I thought to myself, I asked myself the same question 10 years ago. It is interesting to observe how women are still caught trying to achieve the "toned" look, despite the massive amount of information available on the Internet today. Perhaps, this goes to show how we are all still confused with what works and what does not and WHY.

When confusion arises, it makes logical sense then to understand what "toning" entails ( the "science" of it) and work towards incorporating them into our lives step by step ( the "art" of it)


The 7 principles of  the "Toning"

1. The first principle of body toning is that there is no “body toning”. There are still too many misconceptions over having a toned body without muscles. Having muscle shape with definition and looking lean and trim requires two things: a good amount of muscle mass and a healthy lower body fat.

2. The second principle is that to get the "toned"defined  look, you need to add more muscle.

3. The third principle is that to get more muscle, you need to lift weights.

4. The fourth principle is that when you lift weights, you need to lift heavier and using lower rep ranges, also known as The Strength Training (typically 6-8 reps per set.)

5. The fifth principle is that in order to bring out muscle definition, you need to also strip off body fat, also known as The Conditioning. How do you do that? Typically, adding muscle will help with this because it burns calories at rest. For some, they may also have to perform moderate or high-intensity cardio on your non-weight lifting days to help with achieving fat loss.

6. The sixth principle is that these rules apply to both men and women.

7. The seventh principle is that women typically will not become huge and muscular from lifting weights unless they are using anabolic steroids or have unique genetics.


Now with that we have to start applying the knowledge into our daily lives.

Lets' get into some fundamental art of it which I am going to break it down into two parts -
The Losing Fat ( " Conditioning" ) and The Muscle Building ( " Strength Training" ) part.


The Losing Fat ( " Conditioning" )

To keep it simple, there are two ways of tackling the conditioning phase.

1 - Interval Cardio Training: this can be performed indoors or outdoors, depending on weather conditions and your preference.
Outdoor interval training can range from interval sprints to swims to bike and skating.

Indoor interval training can range from various HIIT classes in bootcamps, at the gyms or even boxing; to elliptical, treadmill or even performing exercises using dumb-bells and barbells.

Whether indoor or outdoor, the key thing with the training here is the focus on getting your Heart Rate up to a certain limit or your perceived Heart Rate Exertion (aka how breathless you are)  during each interval.

2 - Steady State Cardio Training: this is probably the most common knowledge we know when we use the word " cardio " -- run, swim, bike for anywhere between 45-60 minutes or longer. Heart Rate is usually at about 60-70% of your maximum HR.


The Muscle Building ( " Strength Training" )

There are hundred of ways to achieve strength and gain muscles to help with fat burning, however, I am going to list two ways to approach the strength training phase.

1 - Full Body " Compound" Moves : Each session will incorporate movements that utilizes the entire body each rep, each time, each set, using our bodyweight or with added resistance such as a dumb-bell. This is also commonly known as metabolic compound training. Examples include a Squat+Press Up or a Reverse Lunge+Lateral Fly, using a weight that you can perform for 8-12 reps.

2 - Body "Split" : Each session focuses on exercises that worked one major muscle group (legs, back, chest, shoulders) , performing repeated sets with progressively heavier weights. This is common in the traditional bodybuilders routine. Examples on a back day can include set of exercises like Bent-Over Rows, T-bar Row, High Row, Incline Row, Seated Horizontal Row, Pull-Ups and many others.

The Frequency Game -- how much and how often?

To get effective results, one cannot ignore the number of times ( frequency) for each phase.
Conditioning can be performed 2-3 days/week for Interval Cardio or 4-5 days/week for Steady State Cardio; depending on the amount of time you have.
Strength can be performed 3-4 days/week for Full Body Compound or 5-6 days/week for Body " Split" to ensure we hit every major muscle group.

I hope I got you guys started off understanding what "Toning" entails -- and what it takes to achieve the desired look.

Whichever style of training program you prefer, just remember one Golden Principle -- choose the one that is most enjoyable and FUN for you 🙂 Only then will you be more compelled to stick to it.




Contact Yan

Stay in Touch

Yuyan Huang Facebook
Yuyan Huang Twitter Link
Yuyan Huang Professional LinkedIn
Yuyan Huang - Singapore Female Certified Fitness Professional

© Yuyan Huang 2016-2018, All Rights Reserved