I want to get toned!

I want to get toned!

“How do I get toned?”


This is probably the most common thing that I hear from my clients. Whether you are a guy or a girl it is the same. Everyone wants a lean and toned body. So I have decided to dedicate this post to this very topic.

I find that there are a lot of misunderstandings that people have on how to get toned, so I will attempt to correct those misunderstandings in this post.


By far the biggest misunderstanding is when people are a little flabby in a certain area of their body and they come to me and ask, “how to I tone this area?” Or they will ask, “what is the best exercise to tone this area?”

I am going to start this post by answering these two questions hopefully for the last time (wishful thinking, I know). You cannot focus your fat loss or “toning” in one specific area of your body. Your body doesn’t work that way.

Your body works more like a swimming pool. If you want to drain a certain area of a swimming pool then you have to drain the whole pool. You can’t just drain one little area of the pool. The water comes from all areas and equally drops down together.

So it is with our bodies. We lose fat from everywhere. We can’t choose where it is coming from. So if we have a particular area that seems to have more fat then another, you can just go ahead and name it your deep end of your pool. You can lose that fat, but in order to lose it you need to drop to a very low body fat level.

Just like you would need to pretty much drain the whole pool in order to drain the deep end, you will need to burn almost all of your fat and get to a very low body fat percentage overall in order to lose the fat in your “deep end” spot/s.


An exercise will strengthen the muscle underneath, but if you don’t do anything to burn the fat that is on top of the muscle then you will never see it. It will always look flabby as long as there is fat there.

Anybody that tells you something other than this is trying to sell you something or they are just flat out uninformed with the way that our body actually works.


Ok, now lets go a little more in depth into what must be done in order to achieve that toned look. In order to get the toned look it is absolutely critical that you understand the two tissues that are involved with the process and what must be done in order to achieve the desired result with both.


The two tissues that we are dealing with are muscle and fat.


As already explained above you need to build the muscle that is underneath and then burn the fat on top so that the shaped muscle can show. In order to do that you need to employ different methods. Both tissues respond to different methods.

It is essential that you understand what methods they respond best to and how to employ those methods in order to attain the “toned” look.



Big Players can get results in those areas by themselves.

Underlying players are just aides in achieving results in those areas. They just support.


As you can see from the diagram above, the two most important things you can do in order to get a lean and toned look is to:

  1. Change nutrition (eat a little less)
  2. Engage in a proper strength training program (lift heavy weights)


Whenever you try to get toned but don’t employ both of these methods together you will get less than stellar results. Let me explain:

I would say that 80% of people that want to burn fat and get lean go to two methods. They change nutrition by going on some type of diet and then they try to do as much cardio as possible. This is by far the most common method used to lose weight, but it will not get you a toned body.

You will lose weight and will more than likely get thinner; however, you will not be more toned because you will not have the built, firm, and shaped muscle underneath. Your body will attain what is commonly referred to in the fitness industry as being “skinny fat.”

Skinny fat is when your body looks thin to others, but when you actually grab your arms or thighs you are met with a squish instead of firm, tight muscle.

Most of these men and women will have very high percentages of body fat. So much that they will usually be referred to as being in the high risk or obese category for body fat. They will also have tiny overlaps (muffin tops) anywhere that their clothing is a little tight.

The reason that they won’t have much muscle tone underneath their skin is because they have broken a whole lot of it down. As explained in my free report “Fat Loss Simplified,” muscle is very metabolically active or in other words it takes a lot of energy to maintain muscle.

When someone goes on a low calorie diet and performs a lot of cardio their body will be in a caloric or energy deficit and will be forced to make up those calories by burning from itself. This is how weight loss happens.

Now, how does your body decide what to breakdown and burn in your body? Well, if we’re not careful the answer to that can become heavy with scientific jargon. To keep it simple, your body will break down what makes most sense to break down. It will break down whatever is most expendable.

If we have muscle that requires a lot of energy to maintain and we aren’t really using it for strenuous activities like strength training because all we are doing is a bunch of low intensity cardio then what do you think your body will break down?

It definitely won’t break down essential organs. It will have two main options, fat and muscle. One is very expensive to maintain and the other requires hardly any energy to maintain and is easily kept.

Because you aren’t engaging in strenuous strength training your muscle becomes unnecessary and expendable. It is what your body can break down first with the smallest consequences (your body likes to hold onto fat for survival purposes). So instead of breaking down and burning lost of fat your body breaks down lean muscle. Fun, huh?

If you don’t start strength training at a fairly high intensity and continue to eat less and perform lots of cardio then your body will continue to break down muscle until it gets to the “runway model” or “chronic marathoner” level.



Not only is this not a flattering look, but breaking down lean muscle tissue will leave your metabolism in shambles. Your metabolism will be much lower due to having less “fat burning muscle tissue” and therefore your capacity to burn fat will have greatly decreased. I sure hope you enjoy the skinny fat look.

Because you have burned a ton of your lean muscle into oblivion you can no longer benefit from the fat burning effect of those muscles. In other words, your metabolism just dropped big time. So now you can’t eat as much as you used to w/o gaining weight.

In order to burn fat you will have to drop the amount of calories you are eating even more. This pattern will continue and you will have to keep dropping the amount you eat in order to lose weight until you are completely undernourished and look like our friends above.

Say “Hello” to boney features, a sunken look, undernourishment, early osteoporosis, extremely low energy, and advanced aging. Just what every woman and man wants, right?


Now you might be thinking that this example is exaggerated and ridiculous and that rarely does someone get that extreme. Well, I would agree with you that people rarely get to the extreme shown in the pictures, but 80% or more of fat loss hopefuls follow this pattern. It’s just that most of them stop before they get to that extreme.

So they won’t get to the “runway model” or “chronic marathoner” look, but they will still have broken down a fair amount of lean, shaped muscle and by so doing lowered their metabolisms, making it that much harder to attain the desired toned body.

So if you want to get a lean and toned body you must be on a challenging strength training program. If you aren’t then the toned body will always evade you.


Now the other mistake that isn’t near as common with women, but rampant among men is the exact opposite situation. It isn’t as prevalent so I won’t take a ton of time on it, but it is worthy of mention.

Too often guys that enjoy strength training and want to get toned will lift heavy and build muscle, but they won’t cut back on the amount of food that they eat in fear of losing that muscle. This fear will forever keep them from being toned.

In order to be toned or frankly, in order to even be able to see muscle you need to burn the fat that is on top of the muscle. A lot of consistent exercisers have sweet looking six-packs, but the problem is you can’t see their six-packs due to the fat that is hiding them.

You have to cut back on the amount of food that you are eating in order to be in an energy deficit and to burn fat. So cut back on the amount of food you are eating. Don’t worry about losing your muscle.

When you engage in strenuous and consistent strength training your body realizes that it can’t break down all of your muscle because it is greatly needed for your strength training sessions. This then forces your body to take the next option on the list and that is to burn your fat.


This is how you get toned. Eat a little less and perform consistent strenuous strength training workouts.


It is that simple. You can get extremely lean and toned just from nutrition and strength training.

Cardio should just be looked at as an additional support tool. It is just something that you can do if you have extra time. It is a “cherry on top.” (if you are an endurance athlete then you will still want to train in your sport, but it shouldn’t be your main method for fat loss. It is just a supporting method.)


So if your goal is to get toned, eat a little less and lift with intensity.


-Seth Bigelow