Toning up. What does that mean?

I'll try and keep this brief and simple. To have "tone" means that something is tight. Like toned skin. 

In physiology it means residual muscle tension...or tonus. So when we ask to be "toned up" what does that mean? Well, it means nothing unless you define what you actually want? Do you want to lose the out of control skin from under your triceps? Great, that skin is in fact skin and body fat. You can "tone" the muscle underneath until you're blue in the face but you're not going to look "toned" because you need to burn off that fat and tighten up the skin. And I hate to be a realist here, but that's hard work folks. 

Some skin is pretty well stretched and may never spring back to hug the muscle. Ok, so that's one definition of "toning" - burn fat and tighten skin. Do you already have good levels of body fat but just want to see a muscle poke through a bit more? Great, well this type of "toning" may just be either reduction further or body fat OR hypertrophy of the muscle underneath. 

Go and lay a blanket over a marble, then lay the same blanket over a tennis ball.  The blanket is body fat and the marble is the muscle before hypertrophy and the tennis ball is the muscle after hypertrophy. So toning can also be building a bigger muscle. Oh and BTW for all you ladies out there that have just had a heart attack over the analogy, you are NOT going to get BULKY. I absolutely promise you. If you do want to get big and bulky I will be happy to explain how to do that, but for now just know that you will get more "toned" with lifting weights, not bulky.

Provided you have also shed a little body fat. Perhaps you just want the muscle to 'feel' tighter. Well any number of styles of training will do that. In fact simply going from no carbs to carbs will pump up a muscle. Certain supplements will pump a muscle and make it feel tighter. Perhaps your idea of toning is simply to fit into your skinny jeans. If you already have big calf muscles, you may need a program that slims them down to fit the dimensions of your jeans. Again, just another concept of what toning may mean to someone.

Are you trying to 'tone up' your stomach? Well, have you addressed your nutrition and digestion? A bloated stomach will never "tone up" unless you've addressed the bloating issue and I'm afraid wasting time in the gym doing crunches will NOT do this. So in summary, when you ask for a toning program you may get a trainer who gives you 3 sets of 12 of everything, and that's perfectly fine if you are getting the results you want, but I encourage you to think about what you really want and get your program designed accordingly. Happy toning!