The fitness industry (like all industries) is driven by its marketing. The result of this has been decades of made-up words and false information designed to get people to buy exercise products, gym memberships, and supplements. Although both men and women are routinely lied to, the fitness industry takes special aim at the female market. This is likely due to the fact that women make up the majority of consumers in almost any market, and this is especially true of the fitness market.
For example, the word “toned” was invented to get women to buy gym memberships and workout videos. Muscles don’t “tone.” They either build or they shrink. As a muscle builds, it begins to feel harder—and it’s this adaptation what we typically refer to as “toning.” Nonetheless, if your goal is to get a “toned” body, your goal should be to build muscle. In other words, the best “toning” workouts are the best muscle building workouts.
When I look at the fitness programs directed at women, I cringe. All of them promise to sculpt and tone without building huge muscles. The workouts typically use light weights or bands, short ranges of motion to promote a muscle burn, and very high reps. This approach is TERRIBLE for building muscle. This also means they are terrible for toning.
Although muscles respond to any resistance, they VISIBLY respond best to heavy resistance. Your muscles are made up of muscle fibers. We can split your muscle fibers into two general categories, type 1 (slow-twitch) and type 2 (fast-twitch). Slow-twitch muscle fibers do well with endurance type muscular activity. When you are running for long periods of time, it’s your slow-twitch muscle fibers that are affected the most. Fast-twitch muscle fibers, however, do well with explosive or short and heavy type activity. A short, all-out sprint works and develops your fast-twitch muscle fibers; and it’s the fast-twitch fibers that have the greatest capacity for growth. This is why long-distance runners have much less muscle in comparison to sprinters.
Train your slow-twitch muscle fibers with light weight and high rep workouts all you want. Your slow-twitch muscle fibers will get more fit, but they won’t visibly change much. On the flip side, if you lift heavy, like a bodybuilder would, you would be working those fast-twitch muscle fibers, and it’s training these fibers that leads to the most muscle growth; and remember, it’s a growing muscle that gives the illusion of toned muscle. If you want to efficiently build muscle and improve your physique, your best bet is to LIFT HEAVY and avoid the dumb workouts that tend to be marketed to women.