Muscle tone is a highly misunderstood part of a fit body. Many females people stated that they want to “tone up” and lose weight, but what does muscle tone mean, and how is it different from muscle definition? How do we achieve them?
Muscle tone is the continuous and passive contraction of a muscle in a non used state. So muscle tone is the amount of “tension” in a muscle while it is not in use. A brief lesson in the anatomy of a muscle teaches us that muscles contract and relax based off input received from the brain and central nervous system. The central nervous system or “CNS” is what determines how much signal is being sent to a muscle at rest in order for it to stay “tense” at rest.
Muscle definition is determined by a combination of muscle tone, muscle size, and body fat percentage. The more muscle tone your muscles possess, the tighter those muscles are, and the less body fat you possess the more muscle definition will be present. The only ways to increase muscle definition are to increase muscle tone, increase muscle size, and to decrease body fat.
Spot reduction is an old myth that we can target single areas of the body and reduce fat in these specific area. Ever heard someone say, “I wish I could just tighten up my belly and flatten it out.”? Spot reduction does not exist, we can develop more muscle tone and size in specific areas, and we can lose body fat throughout our bodies, but there is no way to target fat in one specific area unless we use liposuction.
Muscle size is mainly increased through hypertrophy (your bodies response to increased workload). Doing sets of somewhere between 6-12 reps are best at stimulating muscle growth. Muscle tone is mainly increased through CNS and strength training, using sets of 1-6, or using isometrics. Body fat can be lowered by decreasing food intake, weight training, making better food choices, and cardio vascular training.
So muscle tone comes from heavy weights, hard muscle contraction, or high intensity exercise. Muscle size comes from high workload, high reps, high burn exercise. Body fat is decreased through a variety of different methods. If we want bigger biceps or a bigger butt then we should focus on higher reps with higher volumes and lower weight. If we are happy with our size but want to increase muscle definition then we should use heavy weights or isometric contraction exercises along with dietary modifications and increased exercise to attain that level of desired definition. It is generally very hard to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time, therefore, if we desire to get bigger and more defined it makes more sense to work on muscle size first, then later focus on muscle tone and lowering body fat.
Now that you know the terminology and what to do…GET GOING!