With swimwear-and-shorts season just around the corner, you might be thinking it’s too late to tone up your muscles in time for summer. Think again! The key to getting a lean physique is simpler than you think, especially if you use a targeted approach. Here’s how to tone up in a trice.
Want a toned body? Follow these three simple steps:
DITCH THE BODY FAT
Perhaps the single biggest thing you can do to increase your level of visible muscle tone is to drop any excess body fat. Reducing subcutaneous body fat, which is the fat stored under your skin, will pull the skin tighter to your muscles and make you appear more toned. Both training and nutrition will play a part, but cutting down on excess calories will have the biggest impact here. Follow a balanced diet and eat within your calorie requirements.
LIFT SOME WEIGHTS
A structured resistance-training programme combined with good nutrition is vital for developing a toned look. While eating right will help you lose excess body fat, the key to looking lean is resistance training, as it will help you maintain or maybe even gain muscle. Two to three full-body sessions a week is all you need. And don’t worry about bulking up! If you’re not eating too many calories, you won’t end up looking like a body builder.
DEVELOP THE MIND-MUSCLE CONNECTION
Don’t train hard, train smart. If you want to increase the tone in certain muscles, focus on these when deciding on your workout. Gaining strength is important, but make sure you’re using good form and that you can feel the right muscles doing their job. For maximum results, squeeze your muscles for two seconds at the end range of each movement.
BALANCE YOUR BODY
When your body is in balance, all your muscles are recruiting to ensure your posture is at its optimum. Active muscles have a good level of resting tone, which is why good posture and muscle balance are crucial for that well-toned look. If you know you slump your shoulders, for example, make sure your programme incorporates specific exercises for your back muscles, so you can bring your body into balance. And remember to squeeze!
COMBINE COMPOUND AND ISOLATION EXERCISES
Multi-joint or compound exercises, such as lunges and chin-ups, should be the cornerstone of your resistance training programme, as they are hugely effective as well as time-efficient. However, isolation exercises that target specific muscles are also worth doing. Isolation exercises get a bad rap, but once you’re lean enough, they offer a perfect way to develop tone in specific areas, such as your abdominals for a toned tum, and triceps to combat bingo wings.
THREE TONING MOVES
With a dumbbell in each hand, bend forward at the waist so your upper body is almost parallel to the floor. Keeping a neutral spine, row the dumbbells up and in to your sides, squeezing shoulder blades together. Hold for five secs; do five to 10 reps.
Taking a dumbbell in each hand, repeat these exercises in order, without rest or pause: Romanian deadlift; bent-over row; alternate lunge; biceps curl; shoulder press; front squat. Start with 10 reps of each and aim for five to 10 rounds.
In a plank position on your elbows, bring hands under your shoulders and straighten each arm in turn into a full press-up. Lower each side back to the plank position and repeat. Do three sets of 10 on each side.
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