The idea behind “getting toned” is usually described as a lean body with defined musculature, and not too much “bulk”.  A successful toning exercise program should be made up of two major components: muscular endurance weight training, and cardio.  Muscular endurance is the ability of a muscle group to sustain repeated contractions against a resistance. A muscular endurance program will allow a person to improve strength and muscular definition, but in a manner that won’t stimulate significant muscle growth.  This kind of program should be outlined with 2-3 sets, at least 12 reps, and less than 30s of rest between sets. This should be done at a high tempo for a 20-40 minutes. See figure 1. 

The second component of this training program is everybody’s favorite: Cardio.  In order to tone muscles, we must first lose surrounding subcutaneous fat surrounding the muscle.  The only way to lose fat is to be in a caloric deficit, meaning to intake/consume less calories than you expend.  The best way to burn calories efficiently is through cardio. During cardio workouts, your body’s primary source of fuel is by burning stored body fat with our aerobic energy system. To ensure you are burning fat as your primary energy source we recommend your heart rate remaining between 110 – 140 bpm depending on your age and current fitness level. My recommendation is to start your workout with 15min of moderate cardio (jog, walk, elliptical, bike, etc) before starting your weight lifting routine. 


The desire for bigger muscles stems directly from the term hypertrophy.  Hypertrophy is defined as an increase in muscle cell size creating increased cross sectional area of a muscle! An increase in muscular size is accomplished through specific hypertrophy weight training that will cause tiny microtears within the muscle as you lift.  These tears stimulate a repair response within the body and are repaired by muscle proteins that then rebuild your muscle to be bigger, stronger, and more resilient. To stimulate your muscles to get bigger your hypertrophy weight training program should consist of 3-6 sets, 6-12 reps, and 30s-1.5min of rest between sets.  See figure1.

How do I know if I am using the correct amount of weight?

Use the 2-for-2 Rule! This rule states that within your last set of an exercise, if you are able to perform two or more reps than your program calls for, for two consecutive workouts than it is time to increase your resistance!  Within the two weight training programs discussed above, you should not be failing to get to the assigned number of sets and reps. The ideal weight is one that challenges you with 2-3 reps left, but not so much of a challenge that you are forced to lose good technique in order to complete it.

Kylie Gokie- Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, EXOS Performance Specialist

Figure 1.

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