What's the most popular goal for most non-athletes in a fitness training program? It usually starts with, "I don't want big muscles; I want to tone."
Intuitively the person knows what they want, but what does it actually mean?
For the most part, I believe people separate training to "tone" from strength training. In their mind, a strength training program is going to create on them an excessive amount of muscle.
The creator of Training For Warriors and longtime trainer in the industry, Martin Rooney says, " Most people are asking to harden their body. How do you do that? Your burn fat and build muscle."
Toning programs are usually high rep strength training with light weights. This supposedly helps you increase the aerobic effect of the program while preserving and not "building muscle."
This is rubbish.
Recall Rooney's definition of getting your body harder; burn fat and build muscle . The way you build muscle is through a smart resistance training program. That's not the same as a bodybuilding program where you do chest on one day, back on the other, and legs and shoulders on the third.
You can accomplish building muscle with full-body strength training, two times per week at an intensity of 70-80% of your max with two sets of 10-20 reps.
Add a couple of days of 30-45 minutes of high-intensity training and most importantly, improve the quality of food you're eating and in 8-12 weeks your body hardens.
If you want your body to be soft; your arms, hips, glutes, to be flat as a board, continue the "toning" program.
If you want your body to be hard and curvy in your arms, glutes, legs etc, add the strength training component (at the above intensity) to your life.
Before you say you want to "tone,' make sure you understand what it is exactly you are trying to accomplish. What you think you should do may not get your results you're looking for.