As soon as the sun’s got its hat on, you know bikini season is right around the corner. And those two little words are enough to trigger worries about toning, or rather the lack of it. But it’s not about setting yourself a punishing regime of stomach crunches at dawn and dusk.
Instead, take a more holistic approach by getting enough nutrients from your diet, switching cardiovascular for resistance training and practicing good posture. By the time the beach beckons, you’ll be shouting ‘hip, hip, hooray!’
1. Lose any excess body fat
Perhaps the single biggest thing that we can do to increase our level of visible muscle tone is to drop any excess body fat. Reducing subcutaneous body fat, which is the more ‘visible’ fat stored under the skin, will pull the skin tighter to our muscles, making us appear more toned and athletic looking.
Both exercise and nutrition will play a part in helping in developing a toned look, but getting things right with our nutrition will have the biggest impact. What this means in practical terms is that we need to eat within our personal calorie requirements, choosing primarily foods from good quality sources.
2. Do some resistance training
The cornerstone of a lean and toned look is the combination of a structured resistance training programme and solid nutrition. Of course some cardiovascular training will also help, but it should be viewed as the icing on the cake. Our nutritional modifications will help us lose any excess body fat, whilst the resistance training will help us maintain – or maybe even gain – a little bit of muscle, which is essential.
And don’t worry about bulking up. If your diet is where it should be and you are not eating too many calories, this simply will not happen. And we don’t need to overdo it; two or three full body weight training sessions per week should do it initially.
3. Develop the mind-muscle connection
Resistance training is an essential part of developing the oned look, but we need to make sure that we are training effectively, rather than just aimlessly building up a sweat. If you want to increase the tone in certain areas for example, you need to focus on these specific muscles when you are doing your exercises, rather than mindlessly moving the weight. Increasing our overall strength, particularly in certain movements, is also important, as it will stimulate more muscle fibres, but we need to make sure that our form is good and that we are working the right muscles. Move the weight in a controlled manner and actively squeeze your muscles at the end of each movement.
4. Work on your posture
When the body is structurally balanced it means that all of our muscles are working synergistically as we hold a good posture. And a good posture generally means that we have a good level of resting muscular tone throughout the body, which is important, as this means that all of our muscles are active and doing their bit.
Good posture and structural balance are therefore hugely important if we are after a lean and toned looking physique. If you sit all day and you know that your pelvis rolls forward for example, which can make your stomach protrude, be sure include some stretches for the hips and some specific strengthening exercises for the hamstrings, glutes and lower abdominals.
5. Mix up your exercises
Compound exercises, lunges and press ups, that challenge the body and involve lots of muscles, should make up a large part of most exercise programmes, as they are both hugely effective and time efficient, but that does not mean that we should completely discount isolation exercises, such as certain shoulder exercises and biceps curls, that target specific muscles.
With a move towards a more ‘functional’ approach to fitness, these smaller isolation exercises have fallen out of favour in recent times, but they can play an important role in balancing the body and, once body fat is low enough, help us to emphasise tone in a specific area. Typical areas of focus for many of use are the arms, abdominals and shoulders.
Contact us on 0203 489 5428 or drop us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org to find out about training and nutritional advice at W10 Performance.