Hold the phone! Just what is "tone"?

  "I want to get lean and get some muscle tone."

     "I just wanna, you know, fit into my bikini again and tone my muscles."

     "I don't want to get bulky, but I want to get toned."

Most guys probably want to "get shredded" or "bulk-up," and most ladies probably want to "tone muscles" and "tighten the tummy." Those sentences above, "I don't want to get bulky but, I want to get toned," "I want to get lean and get some muscle tone," might even sound quite similar in your head. In my time during exercise science education I've heard some variation of the word "tone" in reference to one's fitness and/or appearance goals and I have consistently heard it for years. At some point I arrived at my own question: do you even know what 'toning' means?

I've asked myself, now I'm asking you, What is muscle-toning? Seriously! Take a few seconds and think about the definition. Don't use Google. Don't ask anyone to help you. Simply find out if you can define the word "tone" in an exercise context. Go for it.

I will wait. . .

Now if you're finding yourself stumped, if you don't know what it means, why do you want it? It's ok if you don't know what it is!  It's likely that you can define or give an example of fat-loss, strength, muscle-building, and improved fitness, so why not "toning?"  

I think most people hear someone illusively use tone and they adopt this phrase as a goal. Tone. It does have quite a ring to it. Tone. What is it really? Muscle tone involves a firmness. A toned muscle looks firm and thick, regardless of its size, remaining firm even when it's not actively being used - even during sleep - whereas a non-toned muscle appears floppy and loose.

Toned muscles are in a state of readiness, always tensed on some small level. For example, your postural muscles, responsible for keeping you upright when you stand, sit, and walk, are "toned" if your perform those activities on a daily basis. If you perform squats frequently, then your lower body will undergo toning. A properly toned muscle is a more efficient muscle; it augments the contractions of a muscle when you are intending to use it. When a muscle is more efficient, then it is working better, which makes you a better exerciser. When you exercise better your fitness level increases, you become stronger, faster, leaner, and more toned.   

- JL Fit 

Personal training and classes available with Trainer, Justin Lee, available for scheduling at jlfit.us or by email at jlfitme@gmail.com.