So yes this absolutely is a clickbait title, and those who’ve been in the fitness industry a while are well aware that ’Toning’ is something of a nothing word – and that there is no such thing as a ‘toning’ program. However, it is the sort of word that those new to exercise use, and it’s also the sort of word that is often misused in the marketing of certain programs or gadgets especially when it comes to leg training. Rather than roll our eyes at the word toning, we do know what people mean when they say it, so instead of dismissing them we should in fact look to understand what is actually required to create this outcome.
Toning any area of the body is really a case of reducing body fat whilst retaining the lean tissue. We achieve this with a combination of a mild and sustainable calorie deficit to reduce the body fat, and training against resistance whilst consuming adequate protein to preserve the lean tissue – we need to include all parts of this equation to create the ‘toned’ look.
When we simply cut calories without the training we will reduce our lean tissue, not necessarily our body fat, this can result in an overall loss in size, but not an improvement in composition.
If we strength train without looking at diet we can absolutely get stronger, but any kind of aesthetic change in our composition will be negligible. If we cut calories too severely again we are at risk of losing our hard-earned lean tissue, and similarly, if we’re not consuming adequate protein.
ONCE WE UNDERSTAND THAT WE NEED TO LOOK AT CALORIES, PROTEIN AND TRAINING, WE THEN NEED TO THINK ABOUT HOW WE TRAIN!
The major muscles of the thigh area are the quadriceps (at the front), the hamstrings (at the back ) and the adductors (the inner thigh). An effective and efficient lower body workout plan should consider all of these – meaning it needs to consist of movements in multiple directions.
When it comes to leg training, one of the most common mistakes I see when looking at a clients training history is focussing just on what they can see in the mirror. This means in general the front of the thighs (quadriceps). Whilst squats and lunges are fantastic movements and a staple in most plans – they can’t be all that we do for our lower body plan
Overworking the quadriceps (or becoming ‘quad dominant’) not only creates an unbalanced aesthetic but also can lead to issues at the knee and lower back. I therefore tend to include roughly twice as much work for the posterior chain of muscles (those at the back) than those at the front.
An example workout would be:
- Goblet squat (quad dominant) 3 sets of 6-8 reps
- TRX (or slider) hamstring curls. (Hamstring dominant) 4 sets of 10-12 reps
- Slider lateral lunge (adductor dominant) 3 sets of 8 reps per leg
- Step up (glute dominant) 3 sets of 8 per leg
- Hamstring bridge (hamstring dominant). 3 sets of 12 reps
So next time the conversation comes up around how to tone the legs (or any other body part for that matter) we can answer with some kindness by understanding what the person means, and helping them to achieve their goal safely and effectively and without attaching themselves to any electrodes.