Muscular toning usually refers to some muscle definition with low body fat without big, bulky muscles. Often people train for "toning" by performing muscular endurance training, using high repetitions with low resistance. While training with high reps and low weight will burn calories and aid weight loss, training with heavier weights and fewer reps will increase fat loss.
Weight Training for Fat Loss
All exercise is going to burn calories and contribute to weight loss. Most people, especially women, stay away from heavy weights because they believe they will get bigger. The truth is that training for muscle size takes weeks to months of training and most people do not get really big. In general, you will get a smaller, tighter physique with heavier weight training due to an increased metabolism and lower body fat. The most important thigh to remember when weight training for weight loss is that your intensity needs to be high to burn calories and create a caloric deficit to lose fat.
Strength Training Recommendations
For general muscular fitness and moderate changes to your physique, perform resistance training exercises two or three times per week on non-consecutive days, recommends the American College of Sports Medicine. Choose one exercise for each major muscle group and do one set of eight to 12 repetitions for each one. Choose a weight that is challenging but allows you to complete your reps with proper form. When a specific weight becomes too easy, increase it slightly. Change your exercises every four to six weeks for continual weight loss.
Methods of Training
You have options. You can do your exercises as sets and repetitions with rest between each set and/or exercise or you can do a circuit to increase your calorie burning for weight loss. A circuit is when you choose eight to 12 different exercises and move from one to the next with little to no rest between them. You can do eight to 12 reps of each exercise, or time the exercises and perform each one for 30 to 60 seconds. Rest two to three minutes between each circuit, and repeat it a total of two or three times through.
Importance of Cardio
To see a toned physique and weight loss, you need cardio as well as resistance exercises. Perform cardio three to five days per week for moderate weight loss. Increase up to seven days a week if you want or need to lose a significant amount of weight. Sessions should last 30 to 60 minutes, and your intensity should be moderate to high for the most effective weight loss. To really seal the deal, consume less calories. Give up the empty calories and eat smaller portions during dinner.
- ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription; American College of Sports Medicine
- Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning; National Strength and Conditioning Association
- ExRx.net: Fat Loss and Weight Training Myths
- Harvard Health Publications: Calorie Counting Made Easy