According to Webster's dictionary, the word "tone" means firmness of muscle tissue but "firmness" is open to many interpretations. Usually when clients (mostly females) are asked what their fitness training goals are, many reply that they'd like to get toned muscles. When I inquire as to what "toned" muscles mean to them, they may describe muscles that are not big but rather having a defined appearance. I have to ask what "toning" means to clients because the term is ambiguous and virtually meaningless. Nevertheless, most clients know what they'd like to look like. To avoid any confusion from the get-go, a good personal trainer would be wise in having the client locate a picture of a physique that appeals to him or her. Any sense of ambiguity can be removed and specific fitness goals can be recommended based on a picture. If "toned", but not big, muscles is the goal, then endurance training in which at least 12 repetitions are performed for each exercise with minimal rest in between sets (e.g., less than 30 seconds) is recommended. Training in this way for one to three sets at least two times per week is adequate for weight training. Cardio is also important and should consist of relatively low-intensity (e.g., 40-60% HRR) exercise performed for at least 20 minutes. Lifting weights with high reps and performing low-intensity cardio in conjunction with a reduced-calorie diet is what's needed to achieve a "toned" physique. Emphasis needs to be on cardio and diet in order to obtain a leaner and defined look.
Brian Danley, CFT
"Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going."
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I'm a personal trainer who loves to help others fulfill their health and fitness goals. I consider myself a bodybuilder in that I live the lifestyle of eating healthy food, working out regularly, and sculpting my body.