I’m always asked – and I find other people are always asked – how they should tone up. Normally, they say something like: “I want to tone up my stomach to get a six pack, should I do sit ups or crunches?”
The problem is, it’s the rare few individuals who have any kind of rudimentary understanding of how the body works. Some people think, for instance, you can turn muscle into fat by not working out, and fat into muscle by working out – which is ludicrous. The two are completely different things, and you can’t turn one into the other any more than you can turn eggs into bacon.
People who have the ‘toned’ appearance, are people who tend to have a certain amount of muscle mass – built by doing weight training or some other kind of resistance training – and they also have very low body fat. You could have fairly low body fat, good muscle size, but you still may not see it, and not appear toned, simply because you are a few percent body fat higher than necessary.
For most people, a body fat of between 6 – 10% will give the ‘toned’ look (which basically means, they have body fat so low it shows whatever musculature they have well.)
So, to get toned, your task is to lose as much fat as you can. But, if you are already relatively fat free, but have very little muscle you’d be better off starting a mass building program (commonly known as bulking) where you work on building muscle size. During a bulking phase, because you are eating a calorie surplus you will put on some fat too, but, you’ll keep this to a minimum by eating just enough and not going overboard. Then you’ll cut the fat off later, and show off the added muscle.
If, on the other hand, you have good muscle size, to appear ‘toned’ all you have to do is begin cutting your calories below maintenance, and continue weight training, and bring your body fat down to a level sufficiently low that you start to see your muscle detail.
A basic bodybuilding program of 3 – 5 days will get you the toned look you desire, but really, that’s all it is. It’s not a magic system of bells and whistles, and most of the stuff you read in magazines about getting in shape is absolute crap. A bog standard bodybuilding program or ‘eat less’ diet (depending on you goals, as I’ve said above) will get you where you want to go. Forget all these exotic diets and living-room exercise gadgets… trust me, 99.9% of them are crap and a waste of time and money.