The desire to have muscle “tone” is a fairly common request I get from clients. Improving muscle tone really means losing body fat AND making muscles more visible. Most people want shape and strength because it feels and looks good, but how about another reason? Muscle is healthy! People with more muscle mass tend to have more energy, less diseases and a faster metabolism.
Some people want really big muscles, but many find that goal to be unattainable and difficult to maintain. But with muscle toning we aren’t always talking about bodybuilding, rather a lean body composition that makes the muscle appear more elastic and visibly outlined.
Achieving a lean body depends on where you start from. No matter what, a lean body has a higher percentage of lean weight, including muscle, than a more fat body. Seems obvious, but to become leaner, a person needs to either lose fat weight, increase muscle weight or both.
Losing fat weight involves cardiovascular (heart-pumping, sweaty) exercise. It also involves making the right food choices, including plenty of lean proteins, vegetables, water and complex carbohydrates. Limiting alcohol, sugars and unhealthy saturated fats, plus paying attention to serving sizes and packaged foods are other critical factors in losing fat weight.
Gaining lean mass is important for anyone trying to improve their body composition, which should include anyone trying to lose weight. To gain muscle, a person has to eat the right foods (with the tips explained above) plus lift weights or perform body weight resistance exercises.
Through years of counseling, I’ve found that most people either really like strength training, or they avoid it like the plague. Most of the difference comes from a person’s level of confidence. Just knowing what to do with all of those machines and free weights is typically the biggest hurdle, but once you know, that’s the easy part.
The key is to consider where you’re starting from, record what you’re able to achieve and work to continually challenge yourself. Add at least two and a half hours of cardio exercise a week and proper eating, and you’ll achieve a better body composition. It takes at least a month to notice a major change, so be patient!
Below is a list of muscle groups and simple exercises. The idea is to include this list as part of your workout, at least three times a week. Complete these exercises with weights that will challenge you, but still allow you to complete 10 to 15 repetitions. Some people need more or less weight, and some people need more or less repetitions.
- Chest: Pushups, Chest Press/Fly, Pull-ups
- Back: Long Row, Upright Row, Deadlifts
- Legs: Seated leg curl, lunges, squats
- Shoulders: Lateral raise, front raise, shoulder press
- Biceps: Preacher curl, hammer curl, reverse curl
- Triceps: Tricep extension, tricep press, dips