Finally, after all that dieting and hard work in the gym, you’ve lost those few extra kilos that you’ve always been meaning to shed. And yet, you’re still not satisfied with the results you can see in the mirror. Your figure isn’t how you imagined it would look. Your skin looks drained, feels untoned, and the contours of your body lack definition. So, what went wrong? And how can you rectify it?
The fact is that after dieting and a training programme based solely on aerobic activity, your body loses its excess fat but unfortunately become less toned, a bit like a deflated balloon. So what’s the answer? You need to work on developing muscle definition with the right exercise selection. If you want a toned body, there’s nothing else for it, you have to work on your muscles.
Aerobic exercise and strength training for your muscles must always form part of a programme aimed at building body tone and definition. This is because slimming doesn’t only mean that you lose weight. The needle on the scales that shows how much weight you’ve lost doesn’t just relate to fat loss, but also sometimes to the loss of water and protein mass, ultimately muscle mass. And this happens when a low-calorie diet is not combined with the correct training programme or when the programme only consists of long-duration, low-intensity aerobic exercise.
The importance of toned muscles
Changes in lifestyle over recent decades have led people to adopt a sedentary lifestyle. More people spend most of the day doing activities that don’t use the muscles much and burn off only minimal calories.
Even if you only want to get a toned body, exercising regularly can give you a host of benefits. Already, after a few weeks you’ll be able to notice significant changes, such as improvement in cardio-respiratory fitness and strength.
If you have well-trained muscles you’ll be able to react promptly and effectively when you lose balance. Plus, toned muscles are important in supporting and protecting joints from excessive movements and biomechanical loads. A joint supported by strong, toned muscles, will experience less injuries than one supported by weak muscles.
Muscles need to be stimulated
Not using muscles enough is bad for you: The muscle system needs to be stimulated systematically in order to be kept healthy and efficient. To stimulate muscles, you need to force them to overcome 'external resistance forces'. Whether these are the weight of your body or external loads such as dumbbells and barbells.
The benefits range from the improvement of the most important metabolic functions to increased overall functionality. And training muscles helps change the appearance of your body, which becomes more toned.
Diet tips for toning
Contrary to what you might think, what you need to concentrate on is your lean body mass, rather than your body fat, as your metabolism is primarily linked to the latter. It’s your lean body mass that contributes most significantly to your calorie consumption, rather than body fat.
So, for a toned body you need to eat healthily, certainly do some aerobic activity, which has numerous positive effects on the cardiovascular system and your overall health, but don’t forget to do some strength training to work on your muscles.
Here are some simple guidelines for getting the best out of your toning sessions.
Don’t focus on working on your small muscles (e.g. your triceps or adductors). Choose exercises that involve several muscles at the same time by performing basic movements such as:
Exercises to do at home or in the gym
Many people would not think of going to the gym, but science tells us that muscles develop better if they’re subjected to a certain load, for a certain amount of time, with certain exercises. And the gym is the ideal place in which to find the appropriate equipment and expertise.
But if it’s impossible for you to go to a fitness/wellness centre, don’t worry; you can also achieve the same results at home.
If being part of a group would help motivate you, try joining some classes offering a combination of high-intensity aerobic and strength training. The enthusiasm of a group will help you to work to an intensity that’s harder to maintain by yourself.
What a toned muscle is like
Muscle tone is the result of a sophisticated mechanism. This allows a continuous exchange of information between the central nervous system and muscles.
The tone is nothing more than the feeling of muscle firmness when you touch it. The neurological hypertonic response of a workout increases the stimuli from the brain to the muscles. So a trained muscle maintains a basal tone better than an untrained muscle. Skin is important - it covers the muscle and under the skin there is a thick layer called the hypodermis. It is a tissue that contains fat, and it plays an important role in protecting against the dispersion of heat. A thick layer of hypodermis that is not firm as the muscle does not let you feel the tone of a muscle.
A firm, muscular gluteus, typical of professional dancers, is defined 'very tonic'.