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The 10 Commandments For Achieving A Lean, Toned Physique

So one of the most popular responses I get (in fact, the response I get 95% of the time) when I ask my female clients about their health and fitness goals is, “I want to lose weight and tone up”

But what exactly does “toning” mean?…

Well, contrary to what many might think, what most women actually mean by this (even if they don’t yet realise it themselves) is that they want to build a significant amount of muscle and burn away the body fat that covers it so that they have visible muscle definition and a lean, “toned” physique.

“But no, I don’t want to bulk up!!!!” I hear you cry…

Don’t worry, I’m not here to suggest you put on one of those tiny, brightly-coloured thong bikinis, transform yourself into a veiny, bronzed Hulk bride and get up onto a stage to tense your chiselled muscles so hard you nearly have an accident…

What I am here to tell you, is that to achieve that sought-after “toned” look that so many women strive for, you will have to first throw away any misconceptions about lifting heavy weights making you look bulky, and follow the ten commandments listed in this article…

1. Thou Shalt Start Weight Training

Weight training is not only crucial for building the muscle required to achieve a lean, toned physique, but is also one of the most effective tools you can have in your arsenal when it comes to burning that stubborn fat so that you can see the muscle that you have built (or “toned”, can you tell yet that I don’t like to use that word?)

2. Thou Shalt Focus On Compound Lifts

Squats, Deadlifts, Overhead Presses, Rows, Chest Presses and Pull-Downs. These multi-joint, compound exercises should always be the first point of call when designing any free-weights programme. They are by far the most effective exercises for building an even amount of muscle all over the body and will give you the most “bang for your buck”.

3. Thou Shalt Lift Heavy

It’s all well and good working through hundreds of reps for each exercise in that Body Pump Class, you’ll build up your muscular endurance and burn through some calories in the process, but if you want to see visible changes in your body shape and muscle definition, you will need to start lifting weights that really challenge your muscles, ie. Weights that you can only perform 6-15 reps with, depending on what type of training phase you are working through, before reaching the point of failure at the end of the set.

4. Thou Shalt Replace Cardio With HIIT

Sprint interval training has been shown in many studies to be far more effective at not only burning fat, but protecting and even helping to build muscle in the process, than long-duration, constant pace cardio workouts.

5. Thou Shalt Update Your Training Programme Every 4-6 Weeks

Sprint interval training has been shown in many studies to be far more effective at not only burning fat, but protecting and even helping to build muscle in the process, than long-duration, constant pace cardio workouts.

6. Thou Shalt Not Cut Calories Too Low

In order to lose weight, you have to burn more calories than you put in. However, if you cut your calories too low, your body will respond by slowing down your metabolic rate and protecting fat stores. Make sure you are taking in enough calories to prevent this from happening and always factor in the amount of calories burnt through training.

7. Thou Shalt Eat Enough Protein

Protein is the most important macro-nutrient when it comes to preserving and building muscle, and it also reduces insulin which helps the body to burn fat. Try and make sure that you eat good quality, lean protein with every meal and up your protein intake post-workout for maximal results.

8. Thou Shalt Replace Refined Carbs With Complex Carbs

Refined carbohydrates such as white bread, white pasta and cereal in high doses can be seriously detrimental to your fat loss results, so favour complex carbs found in fruit, vegetables and whole grains. Eating carbohydrates post-workout means that they are less likely to be stored in the body as fat, and more likely to be stored as fuel (glycogen) in the muscle tissue.

9. Thou Shalt Avoid ``Low Fat`` Products

Dietary fat has unfairly been given a bad reputation over the years when it comes to weight management. For this reason, many people understandably choose low-fat options when doing their weekly food shop. Unfortunately many of these “low fat” products contain hydrogenated vegetable oils, which increase the levels of dangerous trans-fats in the body, which are bad for both the heart and cholesterol levels. Fat is actually a very important macronutrient to include in your diet to avoid hormone imbalances and aid in fat burning.

10. Thou Shalt Get Plenty Of Sleep And Manage Stress Levels

Both lack of sleep and stress increase cortisol, which leads to fat storage and muscle wastage. Both also make you crave junk food (we’ve all had one of those days when you just feel far too tired to cook and all you want is a big, dirty pizza and some chocolate, right?) Try to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night to reduce tiredness and stress levels and you will reap the rewards!