"I don't want to get big and muscular, I just want to tone up".
"I don't really need to lose much weight but I want to get cut."
"That person looks so ripped, I wonder what they did."
Having been in the fitness industry for over a decade now between personal training, teaching group fitness classes, and being a gym rat in my own right, I have heard these sentences and many others like them more times than I can possibly count. When I first started, all bright eyed and bushy tailed, I was so excited to jump in on these conversations and, in my mind, shed the magical light on what these curious folks seemed to be confused over. However, as fast as those eyes shoot to your speedometer when you pass a police officer with a radar gun, I quickly figured out that the cold hard facts that were drilled into my head after listening to lecture upon lecture in college were not what these people wanted to hear. I found I was repeatedly met with skepticism, disbelief, and just well, denial. It's so hard to change a thought that you have heard over and over again and believe to be true. Did you know that bulls actually don't hate the color red?? Bulls are actually colorblind and the motion of the matadors flag is what elicits their attack. But hey, even knowing that I bet you still think twice about wearing red and going out to feed some bulls, am I right? It's the same way with any information we have been conditioned to believe is true. Even though compelling, thoroughly researched, legitimate information may show that something we hold close as truth is incorrect, we still have a hard time letting go.
So why have we been conditioned to the words "toned", "ripped", or "cut"? Well, "building muscle" and "losing weight" just doesn't have the same ring to it. And to be honest, it doesn't sound near as fun either! Women don't typically want to "build muscle" and nobody thinks "weight loss" is fun or easy. So the media and society have come up with other terms that "sound better". When was the last time you saw a magazine that said "Work hard and lose weight in 60 days?". And if you did, it's probably the last thing you would want to read. Getting "toned" abs is right on up there with "Simple Belly Shrinking Methods" when it comes to making those magazines fly off the shelf. So what is being "toned", "ripped", or "cut"? I'm going to give it to you straight, you may not like it, but just like taking your medicine when you had a cold as a kid wasn't fun but was good for you, so is this! Simply put, being "toned", "ripped", or "cut" is having low enough body fat and high enough muscle mass to be able to see all those muscles without having them hidden under a layer of fat. Yes, that's right, if you're not ripped you either don't have very much muscle or you have too much fat, often times both.
So what can you do to get more ripped?? Well, you can either work on building up your muscle or you can lose some body fat. And when I say lose some "body fat" I mean lose some weight while maintaining a strength training routine to at least keep what muscle mass you have. If you haven't in the past, and don't currently, incorporate any strength training into your routine then I hate to tell ya but no matter how many hours on the stair stepper you spend you aren't going to get that "toned" look you see on the magazine cover. You may get skinny, but since you don't have that foundation of muscle built up you still won't see those lines and curves that you have sought after. So what's the lowdown on getting "toned", "ripped", or "cut"? Simply put, get yourself in a small caloric deficit (eating just a little less calories than your body is burning), keep up with your cardio, and make sure (and this is the key) that you are incorporating a strength training program into your routine a few days a week.