Muscles can get bigger and they can get smaller. If muscles can ONLY get bigger and smaller, then what do we mean when we say we want to “tone up” our muscles? The Oxford Dictionary defines “muscle tone” as “The normal level of firmness or slight contraction in a resting muscle.”
I find this definition difficult to digest. Muscles are by their very nature more firm than fat but you can’t increase the firmness of a muscle. If you increase the size of muscles then you may increase the firmness of the body in that area (because muscles are harder than fat). However, if someone still has large amounts of body fat, it will not be a visible change and therefore will not appear to be “toned up” as perhaps intended. As for “slight contraction in a resting muscle”?! If a muscle is contracted, then it is not resting and vice versa. I’m pretty damn certain that when people say they want to “tone up” they do not mean that they want to contract their muscles all the time in order to look a certain way!
A more sensible definition in my mind is that people that want to “tone up” want to look more athletic and less fat. In response to this there is one sounding alarm in my head. This person needs MORE MUSCLE. And then I hear this frequent phrase…
“I don’t want to increase my muscle size, I just want to look more toned”
Let me now explain why this is problematic.
When you lose fat, you lose muscle. This is just a fact of life. Sometimes you lose a lot of muscle, sometimes just a little, but you will lose some. If you lose fat without strength training then you are likely to lose a significant amount of muscle. If you lose lots of fat AND significant muscle then you will not look more toned. You will just be smaller! Less muscle means a lower metabolic rate (your body needs then LESS calories every day) and thus you are more likely to gain fat following the weight loss (hence why yo yo dieters are often over weight).
Why can’t I just do light weights to maintain my muscle mass? Muscle tissue, is hard to maintain. If you don’t work HARD, you will reduce the amount of muscle mass you have. If you work MEGA hard, you MIGHT gain some muscle. There should never be any danger of working TOO HARD or getting TOO big. Body builders dedicate (and donate) their life to the cause of growing the amount of muscle that they do, using and abusing substances, because they CANNOT achieve that size through natural diet and exercise.
What you must remember is that muscle is your fat-burning engine! How can you increase your chances of losing body fat? INCREASE the amount of muscle in your body!!!
So please, men and women alike…see the importance in being STRONG. The more your body can DO, the better it is likely to look. The better your body is at DOING those things, the more muscle you are likely to have and the easier achieving a healthy weight is.
The body never wants to change! SMALL change requires BIG work so what are you waiting for?! Push yourself to become stronger, fitter and healthier than ever before. Don’t stick a toe in the sea and then sit back on the sand for 4 months.
BE BRAVE, GET SOAKED, JUMP IN.