How To Get Toned: The No-Nonsense Guide to Building Lean Muscle

Are you looking for the best information on how to get toned?

You’re in the right place.

Believe it or not – there are no special exercises or diets to help you get toned. All you have to do is decrease your body fat percentage and increase your lean muscle mass.

Let me show you how.

how-to-get-toned

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Okay, let’s get started.

How To Get Toned: The Truth

Achieving a toned body requires two things.

  1. Fat loss, and
  2. Muscle gain

That’s all there is to it. There aren’t any special exercises or special diets that will help you get toned.

In addition, there is no direct way to specifically tone any part of your body.

This has been demonstrated in several studies, (this study being one of the most cited).

All you can do is build muscle and decrease your overall body fat percentage.

That is the real definition of toning.

Now let’s go over some strategies:

Step 1: Develop Lean Muscle Tissue

Building lean muscle requires three things.

  1. stimulus
  2. recovery, and
  3. adaptation.

The stimulus is the most important of the three. It can be accomplished through any form of progressive resistance training such as:

  • weight lifting (dumbbells barbells),
  • bodyweight exercises (aka calisthenics), or
  • resistance bands

Now, although you can’t spot reduce fat from specific parts of your body, you can certainly develop lean muscle in those areas.

So it is important that you train the muscles that you want to develop on a regular basis.

Secondly:

Recovery refers to several aspects such as rest, nutrition, and adequate sleep. I go over all the proper ways to recover from a workout here.

Thirdly:

Muscular adaptation is the process in which your muscles undergo physical changes in response to the stimulus you are giving it.

In other words- your muscles get stronger and bigger.

The key is that the stimulus has to continuously change over time. This is the principle of progressive overload.

That’s the first part of the equation.

Step 2: Lower Your Body Fat Percentage

The second thing you need to do to have a toned look is to obtain a low body fat percentage.

You only need to lower it enough so that you can see your lean muscle development.

If your body fat percentage is too high, you will never have a “toned” look.

This is where dietary changes must come into play. Unfortunately, there is no way around nutrition.

If you struggle with excess fat, you will never be able to “out-exercise” a suboptimal diet.

Thankfully, the concepts are a lot easier than you’d expect.

I’ll go over a few strategies in a bit.

How long does it take to get a toned body?

If you have a very high body fat percentage (>25%) it can take 12 weeks or more to start seeing noticeable changes in muscle definition.

If you are already lean (<20% body fat), you can see noticeable improvements in muscle tone in as little as 6-8 weeks.

The more muscle you have, the faster your body will respond to exercise.

How can I get toned fast?

The best way to get toned fast is with a combination of resistance training, dietary changes, and constant movement.

Constant movement can be cardio, walking, or increased daily activity.

Let’s go over each one.

#1 Resistance Training Of The Desired Muscle Groups

To get started with resistance training, you need to select the exercises to target your desired muscle groups.

If you want to tone your arms:you need to focus on both pushing and pulling exercises
If you want to tone your chest:you need to focus on horizontal pushing exercises
If you want to tone your back:you need to focus on horizontal and vertical pulling movements
If you want to tone the front of your thighs:you need to focus on knee dominant exercises such as squats and lunges
If you want to tone the back of your legs and buttocks:you need to focus on hip dominant exercises such as deadlifts and any other hip extension pattern.

If you don’t know what any of this means- check out How To Build Your Own Strength Training Workout Routine.

#2 Optimizing Fat Loss

As you are building up your muscle mass, it’s time for the second step: lowering your body fat percentage so that your muscles can be seen!

There are three main things you can do to lower your body fat percentage.

The first is to eat a varied diet that consists of lean protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats.

This will ensure that you are giving your body all the nutrients it needs to function at its best.

You can go low carb, low fat, keto, intermittent fasting, or plant-based if you desire.

The actual diet doesn’t matter so much.

What’s more important is that you are eating in a way that is sustainable for you – and allows you to get all the nutrients you actually need to thrive.

The second thing you need to do is decrease your caloric intake.

If you are eating too many calories, your body will store the extra energy as fat!

This is where you have to strategically decrease your calorie intake, while still eating a sufficient amount of food to keep you satisfied.

I go over the top 10 ways to lose fat without starving here.

The third and most important component is adherence.

You will never sustain your weight loss if your diet is unsustainable.

how-to-lower-body-fat

#3 Increase Movement

The third thing you can do is increase your daily activity level.

This does not refer to traditional exercise. That should only take 20-45 minutes of your day.

Instead, you can simply do more daily activities such as walking, cleaning, or even low-intensity cardio.

This is known as NEAT – or non-exercise activity thermogenesis. In essence, your body burns a substantial amount of calories just moving around throughout the day.

If you prefer to do cardio that’s fine too.

Cardio can be done in a variety of ways:

  • running on the treadmill or outside;
  • using an elliptical machine,
  • using a stationary bike,
  • a rowing machine, or
  • High-Intensity Interval Training

No matter what you decide, consistency is key.


That’s basically how to get toned in a nutshell!

Can I get a toned body at home?

It is possible to get toned at home as long as you are following a consistent workout routine that uses the principle of progressive overload.

The key is consistency over a long time. You will never build muscle from doing just a handful of very difficult workouts on an irregular basis.

Instead, it is always better to start with an easy workout routine to help you build the habit of regular exercise.

The best training program is the one you will follow.

That’s why our Home Strength Training Program is designed to be:

  • effective (only the best science-based exercises are included),
  • simple to implement (you need very little equipment), and
  • easy to follow (it only takes a maximum of 20- 30 min. per day)

Is 20 minutes of exercise a day enough?

20 minutes of exercise per day can be sufficient for toning provided you are training with sufficient intensity.

This means that you should focus on the most efficient exercises that train multiple muscle groups at once while challenging you in the 8-15 repetition range.

This can be done with weights, bodyweight exercises or a combination of both.

I explain how to get complete, full-body workouts done in 30 minutes or less in my post: How long should a workout last?

Other Related Questions

What is the hardest body part to tone?

The hardest body part to tone is the abdomen. For most people, achieving a six-pack can only happen at body fat levels of 12-15% or lower.

The abdomen also just so happens to be the place where most people store their fat, and the last place it tends to get lost from.

The worst part is, doing endless crunches and sit-ups won’t help you get a six-pack if your body fat levels are too high.

Can you tone up in 2 weeks?

It is possible to increase your muscle tone in two weeks, but it is unlikely that you will achieve any noticeable fat loss during that time.

With that said, getting toned should be a long-term goal for you if want it to be sustainable, not a short-term gimmick.

Can you tone up without weights?

The best way to tone up without weights is through calisthenics.

Calisthenics is the practice of using your own body weight as resistance to build muscle and strength. Remember, building muscle simply requires a progressive stimulus from resistance.

As a result, calisthenics is perfect for improving your body composition as long as you know how to progress each exercise.

If you’d like to get started check out my post- Calisthenics For Beginners: How To Get Started With Bodyweight Exercises.

What exercise tones your whole body?

One of the best exercises to tone your whole body is the barbell squat.

Squats are a compound movement that works out several muscles in the lower body including:

  • quadriceps,
  • hamstrings,
  • adductors, and
  • glutes

It also trains stabilizing core muscle groups like the rectus abdominis, obliques and transverse abdominis.

The best exercise for toning the upper body is the pull-up as it trains several muscle groups in the upper body.

How do I get toned arms?

The best way to get toned arms is to do pushing and pulling exercises.

One of the best pushing exercises is the push-up.

Push-ups are a compound movement that works out:

  • the triceps,
  • the pectoralis (chest) muscle,
  • the deltoids (shoulder)
  • and the stabilizing core muscle groups

As an added bonus you can change your grip to target the tricep muscles even further.

The best pulling exercise is the pull-up because of its ability to work out your back and bicep muscles simultaneously.

In addition, it can help strengthen your grip and thus your forearms.

How do I get toned legs?

The best way to get toned legs is by doing a combination of knee dominant exercises, hip dominant exercises, and single leg movements.

The best knee dominant exercises are squatting variations.

The best hip dominant exercises are hip extension movements like romanian deadlifts.

The best single leg movements are lunges and step-up variations.

Together, these work out all the major muscle groups of the upper leg and glutes.

Is there a difference between getting toned for men and women?

The main difference between getting toned for men and women is in the desired look you are trying to achieve.

In general, men tend to have more muscle mass than women and are often interested in increasing muscular size.

In contrast, women often desire to slim down and increase the size of the glute muscles.

As such, women should focus on their lower body more than men, while men should focus primarily on the muscles of the upper body that they want to develop.

Either way, the goal is muscular growth (just to a different extent).

The dietary component is the same for both men and women.

It’s important to remember that the more muscle mass you have (regardless of gender), the higher your metabolism, and the more calories you burn at rest and during exercise.

This means a leaner physique with less fat storage!

Final Words On How To Get Toned Muscle

The only way to get toned is through increasing your lean muscle mass percentage and decreasing your body fat levels to a point where muscle definition can be seen.

That’s all there is to it.

The best way to do this? Strength training and caloric restriction.

Now we want to hear from you.

Which part of toning do you need to focus on more?

Comment below and let us know!

References:

  1. Ramírez-Campillo R, Andrade DC, Campos-Jara C, Henríquez-Olguín C, Alvarez-Lepín C, Izquierdo M. Regional fat changes induced by localized muscle endurance resistance training. J Strength Cond Res. 2013 Aug;27(8):2219-24. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31827e8681. PMID: 23222084.
  2. Levine JA. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT). Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2002 Dec;16(4):679-702. doi: 10.1053/beem.2002.0227. PMID: 12468415.
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