How to Get Toned

Want a toned and lean body? Learn how.

Ben Greenfield
3-minute read
Episode #36

These days, lean is in. Looking like Brad Pitt in Fight Club or Demi Moore in GI Jan seems to be out. But being toned is always in. In this episode, you’ll learn what exactly a toned muscle is, the best exercise to get toned, and a step-by-step workout to get toned muscles.

What Is a Toned Muscle?

The word “toned” has a couple of definitions, but the one that most of us think of when we use the word typically implies a state of body leanness, a low body fat percentage, or noticeable muscle definition or shape. Cameron Diaz is considered toned, whereas a football linebacker would certainly be muscular, but not necessarily toned, or lean with a low body fat percentage.

How to Get Toned

The best way to get toned is with certain types of exercise. In order to have a toning effect, an exercise must accomplish two objectives:

  1. increase the size of muscle cells and

  2. decrease body fat percentage.

To increase the size of muscle cells and give you more tight and dense muscle fibers, an exercise must be what exercise scientists refer to as a “hypertrophy” exercise. That simply means that the exercise stimulates new muscle cells to grow.

To decrease body fat percentage, an exercise must either cause some type of hormonal response that puts your body into fat burning mode or burn up your storage fat calories, or both!

The Best Exercises to Get Toned

No matter how good your toning workout is, you won’t move fat off your body if you’re eating too many calories, or eating too much of the wrong foods.

Believe it or not, there actually are exercises that can both give you tight, dense muscle fibers and also cause a higher calorie burn. These exercises incorporate big muscle movements that use multiple joints, and are typically performed until you are breathing very hard.

Toning Exercise #1: Swing: One example of such a toning exercise is a swing. To perform a swing, you simply hold a heavy object, like a dumbbell or medicine ball, between your legs in a deep squat position. You can hold with one arm or two. Be sure to stick your butt out and avoid slouching your back. Then simply stand as fast as you can and use the momentum of standing to swing the weight overhead. For the growth of muscle cells and a fat burning effect, perform 10-20 swings.

Toning Exercise #2: Pull-up: Another good toning exercise is a jumping pull-up. Even if you can’t do a regular pull-up, you might be able to do a jumping pull-up. For this exercise, stand underneath a pull-up bar and jump, using the momentum of your jump to pull yourself as high as possible. Then lower yourself as slowly as possible. The jumping burns calories, and the lowering stimulates those muscle cells! Similar to swings, try 10-20 jumping pull-ups. If you can’t do one jumping pull-up, try a pull-down exercise, which will allow you to gradually build the strength necessary for harder toning exercises.

Toning Exercise #3: Lunge: Finally, for an especially good leg toning exercise, you could try a walking lunge, in which you step forward with one leg, drop into a lunge position, then take one big step forward and transition into a lunge with the opposite leg. As you lunge, you move across the room. Hold weights for extra difficult, and if you really want more bang for your buck, try curling, twisting or pressing as you do your lunges.

A Workout to Get Toned

So, let’s put this all together and look at a perfect sample workout for getting toned.

  1. Warm-up, using the Get-Fit Guy tips on How To Warm-Up

  2. Do 10-20 swings, then, with minimal rest continue to step 3.

  3. Do 10-20 jumping pull-ups or pull-downs, then with minimal rest, continue to step 4.

  4. Do 10-20 walking lunges, then with minimal rest ,continue to step 5.

  5. Pick a cardio machine, or grab a jump rope, and do one minute of cardio as hard as you can. Then recover 2-3 minutes, and go back to the beginning to start again with the swings. Attempt for 3-5 circuits of steps 2-5.

Finally, remember that no matter how good your toning workout is, you won’t move fat off your body if you’re eating too many calories, or eating too much of the wrong foods. So be sure to pair this toning education up with a steady diet of the Nutrition Diva.

Be sure to tune in next week, where you’ll learn all about Pilates, and whether or not it is worthy trying.

Muscle image courtesy of Shutterstock

All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own health provider. Please consult a licensed health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.