Toning Isn't Real: Here's Why

fat burning lean body mass strength toning Jun 08, 2022

Muscle Physiology 101

Muscle is just a bunch of tiny proteins organized into a structure that can shorten when a nerve tells it to. If you pump blood into a muscle by using it, then it will be firmer because it is holding the pressure of blood.
 
 
This is called transient hypertrophy, and once it goes away in 15 minutes your muscle will be back to its resting tone.
 
 

Over time though, the muscle can adapt to the exercise you do.

Some changes that occur are muscle size and capillarization.
 
The muscle can increase the size of the myofibrils which are tiny proteins (myofibrillar hypertrophy), or to some extent it can change the sarcoplasmic properties (sarcoplasmic hypertrophy).
 

"Building muscle” will give you a bigger muscle, however there will be the same resting tone or firmness, unless it is accompanied by a decrease in body fat. Through aerobic training, capillarization of a muscle will increase. This makes it much easier to get oxygen to a muscle and CO2 out, and it makes it easier to run. It does not, however, make a meaningful change to the resting tone of the muscle. 

 

The muscle itself has no way to physiologically adapt to increase its tone (unless you are talking about a contracture, which is not your goal).
 
 

If your goal is “toned arms” then the actual physiological adaptations you are looking for is a combination of increased muscle size and decreased body fat.

 
The combination of the two WILL change the firmness of your arms.
 
This is a real, physiologic goal and you can program strength exercises, modify your nutrition, etc. based on this goal!
 
This is not just semantics! Understanding this bit of muscle physiology will help direct your training choices toward optimizing physiologic adaptation rather than blindly chasing an imaginary idea one sideways step on the stairmaster at a time.

 

 

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