“I just want to tone.”

“I don’t want to get bulky”

“How do I tone my arms/legs/belly?”

These questions grate on the souls of most trainers. The beauty industry made this term, and it’s had disastrous effects on people’s expectations of what exercise can do for the body. Whenever someone asks me how to “tone” something, I asked them what they think toning is. Usually the response is something like “well… it’s like exercises to make a body part look better….?” Umm ok….. Here’s what toning is and what it is not.

Toning is losing fat and building muscle. You want Michelle Obama arms? You need to lose fat and build some muscle. No one gets bulky on accident. Women who you think are “too big” have earned that shit with hours and hours of specialized exercise and very careful diet. They tried to get too big. Hell, I am trying to get too big. It’s hard! You have to want it!

“Yeah, but I just want to tone my abs. What exercises do you recommend?”

I feel like Michael Scott in these instances. “NOOOOO!! NO!! NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!”

Exercise doesn’t work like that. You want abs? Awesome! Let’s dial in your diet and make sure you’re burning enough calories and revving up your metabolic engine through exercise. That’s the answer. No amount of tricep kick backs are going to get rid of that under arm jiggle you’re so worried about. Sorry to crush your dreams, but that’s how the body works. You will have to lift weights if you want your muscles to show through your skin. But sorry, that 5# dumbbell has got to go. Nothing changes without challenge. If you’re never sore, you’re not improving. If you never push yourself, you’ll never get any better. In the words of the wise Britney: “You betta work, bitch.”

So, if you want a toned (aka lean) appearance, here’s what you do:

Eat well every damn day. Exercise 5 days a week. Lift moderate to heavy weights 3 times a week.


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