When someone who's very new to fitness and working out answers the question of their personal trainer with regards to what they are looking for, the common statement is to "tone". They don't want to become overly huge and bulky yet they want to be stronger and have some attractive curves to their body.
In some cases the beginner doesn't quite understand exactly what 'tone' means though and winds up approaching this goal with very wrong strategies. Here is what you need to know to get started on a correct toning program that will deliver results.
Who You Are And What Goals You Have
This program is best suited towards someone who is new to fitness and hasn't participated in any type of formal gym activities before. You're also someone who isn't extremely dissatisfied with their body, but feels they would just like to tighten up slightly, adding curves and showing off more muscle definition.
You're not looking to be the next bodybuilder, nor are you looking to become stick thin like a runway model. Instead, you want to put forth a reasonable amount of effort and time towards taking your body up to the next level of fitness.
Your Source Of Motivation
There are many different sources of motivation for wanting to 'tone'. Some individuals will primarily be looking to increase their strength levels slightly, while others will feel as though even though they are fairly happy with their weight, they still feel 'soft' to the touch. They idealize a body type that's firm and shapely and that is the look they are going for.
In some other cases, the primary source of motivation could be that you have trouble sticking to a workout program that's entirely focused on weight lifting or cardio training, thus you're looking for something that offers flexibility and variation.
A toning program will do this since it will include both strength and cardio aspects to it. With toning in general, that is muscle building and fat loss, it is appropriate for someone who is a beginner due to the fact that their body isn't used to the stresses of training, thus it reacts in a very favorable way.
Couple this with the fact that often when they start removing the less healthy food from their diet and replace it with healthier foods they can simultaneously lose body fat while building muscle and you've got a great recipe for toning.
Remember though that these simultaneous benefits will only last for so long before it's going to be time for you to focus on one single goal - either building muscle or losing body fat as they are opposite metabolic processes.
Typically anyone who has done 3-6 or more months of training will be better advised to tailor their program slightly more towards one goal, being sure that their daily calorie balance matches their primary goal at that point.
Your Nutrition Program
In order to tone, you want to eat a calorie intake that puts you pretty much right around maintenance calories or slightly under. Since the body hasn't performed regular strength training before, it's going to react by building muscle, even if you are in a slight calorie deficit.
You do not want to be using a very low calorie approach at this point however as that will just not support energy levels necessary to complete your workout and develop that new muscle tissue.
Not eating over maintenance on the other hand will ensure that you are able to effectively lose body fat well, providing that additional muscle definition that you're looking for at this point.
To set your calorie intake, multiply fifteen by your total body weight. If you're more active (have an active job or participate in regular sports in addition to your workouts), you may need to bring these calories even higher, but this will be a good starting point to use.
Aim to take in slightly more than one gram of protein per pound of body weight; somewhere between 1.1-1.3 grams per pound. This will help speed your metabolism up slightly, increasing the chances that you lose body fat while eating a higher calorie intake.
The remainder of your calories after that should come from a mix of carbohydrates and healthy dietary fat, being sure to maximize carbohydrate intake right around when you are being most active.
Fat is going to be the primary nutrient that provides a higher amount of satiety, helping keeping you feeling full between meals and preventing you from overeating. Carbohydrates on the other hand will be responsible for providing the energy that the muscles require in order to contract properly as you go about your workout sessions.
Focus on as many natural sources as possible, meaning plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, potatoes, oatmeal, barley, and brown rice. These are going to have the lowest impact on your insulin and blood glucose levels, preventing an energy high followed by a crash.
Aim to have a solid food source of protein with each meal you eat, especially before and after your strength training workouts. Good options here include fish, chicken, eggs and egg whites, low-fat cheese, milk, and lean red meat.
By making small changes to your everyday choices as far as meal planning is concerned you will likely start to see the weight dropping off and yourself feeling leaner.
Your Supplement Protocol
Looking at the supplement side of things, all individuals should be using a high quality multivitamin and some fish oil capsules as mentioned above, so unless you are very regularly including fatty fish and flax in your daily diet make sure you've got this covered.
On top of that, protein powder and protein bars can help make meeting your protein needs easier and satisfy your cravings for chocolate bars that you might otherwise eat. These protein products are also great for right around the workout period when you need to consume fast acting protein along with carbohydrates.
It would also be a smart plan to look at some of the other health food supplements out there that will help replace some of the traditional less healthy options you might be snacking on.
For example, if you're someone who really has a hard time giving up chips, you might really enjoy the Kay's Naturals Protein Chips, which offers up much less fat than traditional chips and also provides you with 10 grams of protein per serving.
Likewise, rather than using high-fat cream and sugar to flavor your coffee, consider using one of the flavored sugar-free syrups made by Da Vinci.
It's the small changes like this that will really add up over time, so don't overlook all the finer details with dietary improvement.
Your Workout Program
Finally, we come to your workout program. Since you have the goal of adding a small amount of muscle mass, it will be important to focus on lifting a heavy enough weight to provide these benefits, therefore you'll be lifting for the most part within the rep range of 6-8.
You will focus on lifts that will work the greatest number of muscle fibers so that you build muscle most effectively as well burn the highest number of calories during your workout, helping you towards the goal of fat loss as well.
By removing many of the isolation exercises you will also prevent having to take a number of days off between your lifting workouts enabling you to perform some cardio training as well.
Complete the following workout for a four to eight week period and then assess where you are and which direction you want to go with your goals. Be sure to also perform a warm-up before each weight lifting workout as well as some stretching post-workout to help reduce muscle soreness and increase your range of motion.
Monday: Upper-Body Workout
- Bench Press: 4 sets of 6 reps
- Seated Cable Row: 4 sets of 6 reps
- Shoulder Press: 3 sets of 8 reps
- Barbell Curls: 2 sets of 8 reps
- Triceps Push-downs: 2 sets of 8 reps
- Lateral Raises: 2 sets of 8 reps
Tuesday: Sprint Cardio Training
This cardio session will last between fifteen and twenty five minutes (5 minute warm-up and cool down). Aim to perform a sprint interval (effort level of 8 or 9) for 20-30 seconds, supplemented with an active rest (effort level two or three) for 40-60 seconds, repeated 5-10 times.
Wednesday: Moderate Intensity Cardio
Perform 20-45 minutes of continuous paced cardio training at an effort level of between six or seven on a scale of ten.
Thursday: Lower Body Workout
- Leg Press: 4 sets of 6 reps
- Dumbbell Lunges: 3 sets of 8 reps
- Hamstring Curl: 3 sets of 8 reps
- Leg Extensions: 3 sets of 8 reps
- Seated Calf Raise: 2 sets of 10 reps
- Standing Calf Raises: 2 sets of 12 reps
- Hanging Leg Raises: 2 sets of 15 reps
- Plank Exercise: 2 sets of 30-60 second holds
Friday: Light Cardio Workout Or Off
Perform 20-30 minutes of light cardio activity or take this day off to rest.
Saturday: Full-Body Workout
- Machine Chest Press: 3 sets of 8 reps
- Squat/Leg Press: 3 sets of 8 reps
- Incline Bench Press: 3 sets of 10 reps
- Lateral Pull-down: 3 sets of 8 reps
- Dumbbell Step-Ups: 2 sets of 10 reps
- Incline Dumbbell Curls: 2 sets of 10 reps
- Triceps Dips: 2 sets of 10-12 reps
- Standing Calf Raise: 2 sets of 10 reps
- Exercise Ball Crunches: 2 sets of 15 reps
By putting forth some consistent efforts on both the workout and diet side of the equation, you should be able to see some noticeable toning benefits within two to three weeks.