Okay, it's not actually impossible, but getting toned doesn't mean what you think it does. And it is impossible if you don't know what you're doing. 

Imagine a “toned” body. You might be picturing someone with visible muscle (but not too much) and minimal body fat. Unfortunately due to fad diets and viral exercise recommendations, the thought of “getting toned” is a popular goal. The truth is, it’s a bit of a misnomer. 

While there are plenty of programs out there citing specific ways to tone your body, they are feeding into the idea that you can follow a specific regimen (different than building muscle) to appear toned. The truth is, if you’re looking to get toned, the only way to achieve that goal is by building muscle and shedding fat. It’s as simple as that. 

Getting Muscle for Toning 

We know, your goal is to look toned, not “bulky.” Don’t fall victim to the misconception that strength training will cause you to look overly muscular. The goal of achieving and maintaining a toned body is realistically gaining muscle and getting rid of unwanted fat. You’re not going to “accidentally” gain massive amounts of muscle.

As we’ve discussed before, gaining muscle is a fitness goal you will see tons of benefits from. This includes achieving the toned physique you’re going for! Unfortunately, there is no way to change the anatomy of your muscles, you will not be able to pinpoint the exact look you’re hoping for with your muscles, but what you can do, is maximize muscle and minimize your fat through strength training and achieve a “toned” look that is natural and healthy for your body type! 

Gaining muscle mass will look different based on your ability, genetic structure, and exercise preferences. We recommend you keep in mind multi-joint exercises for muscle growth. These include: Swimming, Squats, Burpees, Step-ups, Push-ups, Deadlifts (1). These exercises will help you gain muscle and achieve the toned look you’re aiming for. 

Shedding Fat to Get Toned 

The other crucial component to getting the “toned look” is shedding fat. Shedding fat can be a symptom of your efforts in building muscle as well. That means you can kill two birds with one stone by using strength training for gaining muscle and shedding fat. 

Studies show strength training will improve energy burning at rest, and quicker fat loss (2). For even better results, studies point to combination workouts with cardio alongside strength training for fat loss (3).

Exercise is not the only aspect of fat loss. In order to shed fat, you’ll need to focus on nutrition and determine which diet works for you. Some studies point to a high protein diet for fat loss, and others recommend an emphasis on more healthy fats (4,5,6).

Don’t forget, a well-rounded diet is paramount. Carbs aren’t the enemy, you can still eat them and lose fat. The most important part of your dietary habits is that you don’t overeat.

Don’t Fall For These Myths

Now that you know what to do to attain your goal of “toning,” we want you to understand the myths that tend to run rampant around the fitness world. 

Muscles can be toned 

You’re going to achieve the look you’re going for though gaining muscle and losing fat, not be making your muscle “tone” itself. The truth is, that’s not a thing a muscle can do. When you’re toning your muscle, you’re getting leaner.

High Reps are the key to a toned body 

This is a common belief, but scientifically incorrect. Don’t be afraid of strength training with heavy weight, it won’t make you too “muscly!” You want to occasionally push your muscles to fatigue to get the results you’re looking for (7). 

You can spot-reduce 

Resist the attractive articles and social media posts that claim fat loss in specific areas. This is a myth (8,9). Your goal should be overall fat loss and health! 

Gain Muscle, Lose Fat, Get Toned  

If you’re looking to get toned, chances are you’re after the appearance. You’re going to attain this goal by the same strength training you would do for other goals. This is good news, because you can hit many fitness goals and improve your health at the same time through strength training and proper nutrition. Don’t worry if you don’t have a trainer, there are plenty of online guides to get you started (10)! Use this knowledge to hit the gym and achieve your goals! 


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4592763/ 
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18356845/ 
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3487794 
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22284338/ 
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23446962/ 
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19707219/
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28834797/ 
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21804427/
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25766455/ 
  10.  https://www.sport-fitness-advisor.com/abdominalexercises.html