How to get a toned body for women – Part 1, Introduction

by Hara Hagikalfa on October 1, 2012 · 1 comment

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I would say that the only thing I do remember from last year’s royal wedding in the UK is Pipa Middleton in that white dress. Indeed she very nicely carried the dress and no doubt she showed off a nice, ‘toned’ body which is still talked about.

Getting ‘toned’ tends to have different meanings for different people, and to be honest there is no right or wrong with this. In its core it usually refers to getting a firm body and defined muscles and it is often connected with that perfect, thin, muscle defined beach body. Well it’s not a scientific term per se and there is no particular definition to it so to be honest in which ever meaning you want to get toned is fine.

Getting ‘toned’ and the battle of the sex’s

Tradition has it that women are usually led to believe that they need a different workout from men. Although that has been a good selling point for many fitness establishments it is not really true.

One of the misconceptions is that women tend to store weight in different than men, parts of the body, such as the hips. True but there is no such thing as spot weight loss or spot fat burning.  However, if those areas are the ones which you want to work on and firm up then any exercise which targets and works sufficiently those areas will be good whether you are a man or a woman.

The second most common concern is that women don’t want to ‘bulk up’ through their training. I heard that many of times and is the usual reason why women tend to stay at the ‘aerobic’ exercise corner. Well body shape and genetics do matter and some people tend to get more ‘bulky’ than others but as a rule for the average person it takes a lot to get ‘bulky’. Plus men and women who are into body building and size is the aim, they tend to do specific weight training.

Muscles mass increases if you work the muscle sufficiently regardless of the type of exercise. The different types of exercise work different fibres and components of a muscle. This is a very simplified explanation to be honest as it took me a whole university degree to cover the details of exercise physiology.

In conclusion, weight and resistance training can offer a great way to get your body toned and you don’t have to worry that you may look like Arnold Schwarzenegger in the old days.

Diet

Do you have to be thin to be toned and can you get a toned body with diet? First diet alone will not give you a ‘toned’ body. In other words you will not get your muscles worked out and defined with only diet. That makes sense right?

Second, in my own simplified conception of having ‘a toned body’ there is no relevance to the weight of the person and it refers more to the muscles. Basically you could be overweight but there are worked muscles there and every part of your body sits to where it is meant to. I call this a ‘toned body’.

On the other hand you could be a size 6 and your buttocks are wrapped around your ankles then I would say that ‘needs toning’. Be aware that the extreme of each side in the weight scale may not be very helpful for having a toned body.

Think about it this way, the more fat you have stored in a belly the harder it will be to see the nicely formed six pack underneath for example, or if in an anorexic state the body is probably burning its own muscle so toning may not go very well.

Now why is diet important in getting toned muscles? Well your body still needs protein and nutrients to sustain and build those muscles; and you don’t have to be a body builder to think about diet for your muscles.

What you eat and when can influence the results of your workout in a way. In addition, some foods may improve or worsen fat deposition in specific areas such as the tummy. Also let’s not forget that for someone getting toned could mean getting in an ideal weight as well so diet will play a role in weight loss and management.

You can follow a specific to your workout and to your needs diet, but in simple words any balanced, healthy diet can be as good. Do consume a variety of nutrients and do consume enough calories to fuel your workout, but don’t excessively under or overdo it.

Exercise

Quite obviously, if you want to tone your muscles you need to exercise. As I already mentioned women don’t need a special exercise program. As boring as it sounds there is not one best way so I will more likely say a great way to get toned is through weight training.

No you will not get big bulky muscles unless you do mix extreme workouts with drugs, or unless genetics and body type is involved. There is not one best exercise no matter what some people may have said to you before.

Everybody is different and different things will work for different people. There are some good exercises which tend to be effective for specific areas and I have tried to summarise a few for you bellow; however there are also numerous other exercises which may be as good and for someone they may be the best for them.

However, there are some elements which can help maximise your workout. Bellow I have listed some of them. Again you may find some more tips, or you could add this to the existing ones you have.

What you need to remember for your workout is:

Consistency

Don’t concentrate on training everyday or for 2 hour sessions and all that. Training consistently will take you far enough. Keep your workouts simple and feasible for your lifestyle and weekly schedule rather than having inconsistent ambitious workouts.

If what you can do is 30min a day 3 times a week but every week stick with that rather than 2 hour session one week nothing next week 3 sessions the following week etc. It doesn’t have to be everyday as I already mentioned but do consider that just once a week may not be as sufficient either. If that’s all you can do however, don’t knock it and something is better than nothing.

Introduce weight and resistance training to your routine

Like I already said do go for the weights and resistance exercises.  Resistance and weight exercises can provide greater muscle strength size and endurance and increase metabolic rate amongst others. It can provide an efficient way to increase fat burning and provide with muscle definition.

I am a strong believer of having everything in a workout so don’t desert cardio exercise all together. I would say introduce resistance and mix it with some good cardio exercises.

Challenge

You do need to provide your muscles with challenge if you want them to get anywhere at all. Forget about the ‘females lift low weights to avoid the muscle bulk and do loads of reps’ rule. Do lift weights which are within your level and ability don’t jump from nothing to 20 kg because someone said that you need to lift heavy. The difference is that the exercise has to provide some challenge to your muscles not kill them or be a waste of your time.

Personally I would say that you can even start from weight bearing exercises, especially if you are not a big fan of the gym. Functional exercises which use the body’s own weight and resistance can provide a great workout, adequate challenge and work a large number of your muscles.

It doesn’t have to be in the gym

You can get toned with following some exercise classes, or a workout in the living room, joining a team etc or go swimming. Running for hours alone it may not be the best on its own. It can be stressful for your body in the long run, it can affect joints, and it doesn’t quite provide a full body workout. Combined with other things and in short bursts it can be fine.

The point is just do what you like best as you are more likely to enjoy it and keep on it. I very rarely step foot in the gym as I get bored easily. I instead follow classes and they work for me!

Go for full body workouts

I am a firm supporter of the functional full body workouts rather than the static machines. First you can do those anywhere you want and in my opinion they are less boring. Second I believe in working all muscles in the body and in a way which corresponds to real life activities.

Working all muscles of the body is a major for minimising the risk of injuries. If you predominately concentrate on one area or one muscle, it can eventually lead to muscle imbalances which can lead to back problems, joint and ligament strains and sprains and so on.

Short and intense

Science tends to support that short and intense workouts are as good as long medium intensity ones and sometimes even better. Some studies have gone as far to suggest that 10min workouts are as good however, the general consensus is 30-45min high intensity workouts. (See also: How long should a workout last)

Well think the logistics, if you can get the same results (and sometimes maybe better) in 45 min then why spend 2 hrs? On a simple term like this it makes sense. There are other added benefits like during long workouts it’s easy to forget what you doing and spend most of your time chatting, watching tv, or the intensity is far too low for anything. Also scientists tend to suggest that high intensity workouts increase the calories you burn post workout.

Stay tuned for the actual exercises to help you tone your body, in a couple of days. Click here to read the second part.

How to get a toned body for women – Part 1, Introduction by
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Hara Hagikalfa
About the author

Hara is a certified personal trainer and Pilates instructor. She is currently in the process of becoming a certified Physiotherapist. You can connect with her on Facebook and Google+

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