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How to ‘Tone Up’

Being someone who spends a fair amount of time in the gym, and around people who like to talk about the gym, I hear a lot of this:

‘I want to get toned’


‘I want to tone up’


‘I don’t want to get too big, I just want to tone’

All these quotes are totally meaningless, what most people are getting at when they say this, is that they want to have defined muscles. Now, in order to do this, you need some degree of appreciable muscular development, AND low levels of body fat. This is essentially the holy grail for most gym users, muscle mass coupled with low body fat creates a power looking and highly detailed physique that kicks ass.

I guess my real problem with this phrase is the implicit simplicity that most people bestow upon the process when they say;


‘I JUST want to tone’


Oh. So you JUST want a well developed, asymmetrical musculature combined with a low enough level of body fat for it all to show? Well let me tell you sonny jim, that ain’t easy.

Of course it’s EASIER if you’re already muscular and are prepared to diet aggressively to melt away fat, OR if your body fat is already low enough for you to build some muscle that will show by sticking to a strict diet and training plan for a number of months; but still, neither of these tasks is easy by any means.

The issue is, people that want to ‘tone up’ (read; lose fat and gain muscle) are usually ‘skinny fat’  (a small frame, little muscular development, pot belly) guys a few weeks away from their beach holiday who want to somehow turn their soft, pale stomachs and man boobs into dense, rippling muscle that shows. Well good luck chumps.

Whatever happens, a few weeks is no where near long enough to transform a flabby, pear shaped torso into an impressive inverted triangle. For these people, the best thing to do is plan ahead and aim to create and maintain the physique they want, rather desperately clawing at it for the purpose of one holiday. So how can you hope to begin this long, grueling process you call ‘toning up’?

Phase One: Shed Fat

Look, there’s no point having tones of muscle if it’s concealed underneath the by-product of all that KFC you’ve eaten in the last 4 years, so lose it. Adjust your nutrition so you’re only eating carbs when absolutely necessary (before prolonged periods of physical exertion), the rest of the time stick to lean protein and vegetables. Don’t eat ANY shit.

Workout intensely 6 days a week, 3 resistance workouts, 3 cardiovascular, make sure you’re sweating and gasping for breath at the end of each workout. Add in some more low intensity work throughout the day. Lots of walking will do the trick. Do all this consistently and you’ll be lean.

lose fat

Phase Two: Build Muscle

Eat enough carbs to fuel your workouts, eat tones of protein to rebuild and recover, eat stacks of veggies and a moderate amount of fruit so you don’t get Ill.

Do 4 resistance workouts a week, prioritising compound lifts and heavy weights, gradually get stronger and focus on improving your poundage for squats, deadlifts, bench presses, cleans and shoulder presses. Include isolation exercises if you can, but never to the detriment of those five main lifts. Keep walking everyday to ensure the fat stays off.

build muscle

Do this for a period of many months and you will be what you call ‘toned’. Told you it wasn’t easy.

Oh, by the way; start now.

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