Some people aren't interested in developing large muscles or bulking up, but are looking to tone their muscles and appear fit. Gaining muscle tone takes an overall fitness program; one that consists of consistent cardiovascular and weight-training exercise.
While strength training is what directly causes muscles to develop and become toned, it's necessary that you have a healthy body fat percentage to receive the full benefits. If you have too high of a body-fat percentage, your newly toned muscles won't show to their best advantage.
Strength Train Twice a Week
Getting muscle tone means engaging in strength training at least twice a week. Complete a battery of exercises that work the entire body, consisting of the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, back, chest, shoulders, biceps, triceps and core. Each exercise should be completed for two sets of 10 to 12 repetitions, though increasing your volume to three sets once you establish a strength base will yield better results. Choose weights that cause the final three repetitions in each set to be difficult to complete.
Body weight exercises can be substituted for variety or if you don't have access to gym machines or weights like dumbbells, barbells or kettlebells. Push-ups, pull-ups, squats, Supermans, burpees and lunges can be done at home says ACE Fitness.
Read more: How to Get Started With Weightlifting
Do Cardio Exercises Every Day
Participate in consistent cardiovascular toning exercises. Lowering your body-fat percentage to a healthy level facilitates the appearance of your muscle tone. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends doing 150 to 300 minutes a week of cardio activity. If you want to up your game, complete 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous cardio activities. Add variety to what types of exercise you do, mixing in running, elliptical, biking, jumping rope and swimming.
Warm up before your cardio activity for five to 10 minutes advises the American Heart Association by running or marching on the spot, arm swings and side-to-side twists at a fast pace.
Read more: Gym Routine for Weight Loss and Toning Up
Watch What You Eat
Reduce calories and fat. Eating better facilitates a healthy body-fat percentage, which allows your muscle tone to show. Consume lean proteins, such as chicken, fish and non- or low-fat dairy products, as they help provide the nutrients necessary for your lean muscle to develop. Limit or eliminate your fatty and empty-calorie foods, such as fast food, sodas and sweets.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that protein make up 10 to 35 percent of your calories if you're working to gain muscle.
Have an outlook that gaining muscle tone is a long-term process. Instead of trying to improve your muscle tone as quickly as possible, instead concentrate on one day at a time. If you're consistent with your workouts and eat healthy, you will see significant changes in your muscle tone.
Although the presence of protein is necessary for muscle to grow, it's unnecessary to supplement your healthy diet with additional protein shakes or bars. They are typically very high in calories and are unnecessary unless you're interested in developing significant muscle mass.
Consult a medical professional and receive a medical physical before you embark on a new exercise program.