5 Tips To Getting The Most Out Of Your Muscle Tone Workouts
Getting toned (in my opinion) comes greatly from having strong muscles and a low enough body fat percentage to see them. I really endorse strength training as the go-to type of workout for muscle tone. The stronger your muscles are, the harder they are and that creates a more dense and solid look. Another reason I recommend this type of training is because it teaches the muscle to stay partially contracted (when done often enough) which will obviously give you a more toned look. Keeping in mind that I feel the best muscle tone workouts are strength training routines … here is a list of 5 important tips to for getting the most out of these workouts.
When it comes to creating muscle tone, the main principles work for either men or women. Muscle tone workouts can obviously be tailor more specifically for how extreme you are going, but the general ideas are very similar.
These five tips apply to both men and women, but I do have a few other posts written that are specifically for women with recommendations on lifting weights to get toned, advice on how to get abs without looking manly, and a quite a few others.
For this article though, I’d like to briefly mention five tips that I’ve learned to help get the most out of your muscle toning workouts.
Tip #1: Don’t train to failure
One of my biggest pet peeves in the gym is when I ask for a spotter, I tell him that I am doing X amount of reps and he immediately says “oh no, you’re going to do twice that.” While I realize that he is just trying to help, it frustrates me that many still think more is better. If 5 reps is good 10 reps must be better, right? I really don’t think so! Yes, there are times when training to failure (and arguably beyond) is a good thing, but it’s not ALWAYS a good thing.
The good news is that once you have been lifting in a rep range long enough (it really doesn’t take that long either) you will learn how much weight to put on so you really don’t need a spotter … since you’re stopping before failure.
When strength training, it is important to know how much weight you can do for a given number of reps. Yes, you do want to progress and consistently increase the weight, but you also need to make sure that you are lifting each rep correctly.
As a good rule of thumb, try to do your strength training with 1 or even two reps left in the tank. That means that if you are doing sets of 3 reps then you should be able to do 4 or 5 reps, although you are stopping at 3.
Why? In short, lifting to failure teaches your muscles to fail. You can actually become weaker (over time) in a lift if you consistently train to failure. Instead, stop well short of failure and teach your muscle to complete the lift. Training to failure is good for really breaking down the muscle but it is quiet taxing on your nervous system and the consistent misses add up over time, with the possibility of making you weaker.
Tip #2: Lift heavier weights
Don’t forget the first tip but also … no slacking! The idea is to only have 2 reps left after your “final” rep. While it is possible to lift a little lighter and still generate good muscle tone, the idea is to create as strong of contractions in your muscle as possible.
This means that you want as much tension in the muscle as possible … without fatiguing it.
In order to ensure that you can lift as heavy of weights as possible and to truly create good muscle tone and strength … consider tips 3 & 4.
I believe that if you stay under about 5 reps lifting heavy will not add much size to your frame. This is actually a good thing when trying to get toed. You don’t want to gain size in the muscle because that will ultimately just create a bigger version of what you’ve already got. Stay low rep and heavy weights and you will build a dense (toned) muscle, not a large muscle.
Tip #3: Watch your warm up
What is the number one most common warmup for bench press? I bet you could guess…
Have you ever seen a guy hit the bench with 135 lbs on and bust out 10-12 reps as if the weight is as light as a feather? Probably. Now, this may be impressive to some … but even that probably isn’t his true intention. My guess is that he is simply trying to warm up for the heavy lifting he is about to do.
If you are planning on benching reps of 5 at 250 pounds or so, busting out 12 lightning quick reps of 135 pounds is NOT the way to go. Instead, grab the 135 pounds and do reps of 5 … warm up for the exact routine you’re about to do.
Now, I realize that the 135 pounds is fairly light for someone who is going to rep 250 pounds but it is still a good warm up even at only 5 reps. Instead of going for speed on your warm up, do the reps as if you were benching 250 pounds. Go nice and slow and focus on contracting your pecs. You don’t want to over do it and create fatigue in your pecs by flexing too hard, but that is a solid way to warm up.
Tip #4: Get your rest … even in the gym
It is easy to rush between sets. After all, not everybody enjoys spending hours in the gym. When it comes to a good muscle tone workout though, you need to allow yourself sufficient time between sets.
Unlike a mass building routine where you purposely rest for short periods of time in order to really break down and fatigue the muscle, creating muscle tone comes from approaching each set as it’s own phase. You should be resting for about 2-3 minutes between sets. This sounds short, but pay attention next time you’re in the gym. You’ll start to get antsy and feel like you’re resting too long if you are not used to this.
The good news about getting sufficient rest between sets like this is that you are going to be able to lift more and you may even feel stronger from set to set as your nervous system gets fully charged.
Tip #5: Don’t do too much
As you may have noticed, doing muscle tone workouts are quite a bit different than mass workouts. In fact, I wrote an entire article on how working out to get ripped is different than working out to build muscle mass that goes into this a little deeper. As far as a tip goes though, you actually want to avoid muscle soreness.
This may or may not be a new concept to you, but it really does make a difference. Whether you are lifting too heavy of weight or simply not resting long enough (usually this would be the case) you want to avoid this. Much like training to failure, muscle soreness can be an indication of the muscle being broke down and this is not what we’re shooting for when trying to tone a muscle .
Now don’t get me wrong, if you are a complete newbie it’s pretty hard to avoid the dreaded first 2-3 weeks of soreness that follows right after lifting. Other than that though, you really shouldn’t be sore after you workout if you are going for pure muscle tone and strength. You don’t want to break down the muscle much.