Muscle TONE or muscle DEFINITION?

Posted by on Mar 13, 2014 in Know | No Comments

Why you don’t want to tone up

Okay, so every woman wants to develop TONE, don’t they?  Well maybe not everyone.  Much of the media directed at women encourage the achievement of ‘muscle tone’.  In response to the question from a personal trainer at the gym “What do you want to achieve through exercise?” one of the most common responses is “I want to tone-up”.

I’m going to tell you what TONE actually means and why you don’t really want to tone-up.


Why does anyone want to be ‘toned’?  Probably because that means good-riddance to those flabby arms, having a flat stomach or more shapely shoulders.

Now, I’m guessing I’m not the first to tell you that it’s not possible to spot-reduce.  This means you can’t get rid of fat in a specific area of the body by exercising that area alone.

For example, performing triceps exercises or sit-ups, even for your whole gym routine will not get rid of flabby arms of give you that flat stomach. You’ll probably end-up getting injured before you achieve your goal and you can certainly invest all that time and hard effort for better gains.  So we know we need to drop body fat, but then what…?

Let’s get some terminology straight.


Muscle TONE:

refers to “…the amount of tension or resistance to movement in a muscle…”

and it

“enables us to maintain our bodies in a certain position…”

For example muscle tone is one of the reasons why you’re managing to sit in front of the computer right now without collapsing in to a heap.   Your muscles are in a constant state of partial contraction, ready for action and this is how they appear firm and healthy.



What you want is DEFINITION. Of course, a firm muscle tone is preferable, for many reasons including health and injury prevention, to flaccid, flabby muscles.  However, a change in shape and achievement of a more visible outline of a muscle or group of muscles will come through achieving muscle DEFINITION.  Sounds rather masculine doesn’t it?  Maybe that’s why so many women struggle.  But look at the picture below, this is a defined bicep -on a woman!

toned womans biceps

Don’t be afraid.  You’ve just found a key to unlocking you success.


Resistance training (AKA weight training; strength training), and with heavy weights!  Again, a fairly masculine concept.  Resistance training does have a firming effect on the muscles, but it also enables you to change shape and once you lose the fat, ‘sculpt’ your body!

Weights class

So, don’t shy away from the weights section in the gym.  Engage in resistance training and try your hardest to achieve DEFINITION; you’ll love the results!

I’ve written several posts on this topic.  For example, for a fantastic total body resistance training exercise for practiced trainers see my post on the deadlift.

Happy training!


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