What you need to know if you’re trying to “tone” your muscles (it ain’t pretty…)

Want to change your body composition? Look better naked? Then there are only two things you can do.

  • You can lose fat.
  • You can build muscle.

That's all.

Some of you are reading this and thinking, “I don't really want to build muscle, I just want to be more toned and defined.”



That makes about as much sense as saying, “I don't really want smell like garbage, I just want to live in a dumpster.”

Because you can't “tone” a muscle.

And you can't train for “definition.”

Bone, steak, jelly and plastic


Imagine holding a bone in your hand. Now imagine securing a steak around the bone using plastic wrap. Now imagine injecting jelly in between the plastic wrap and the steak.

What you're holding in your hands is a model of skin (plastic wrap), body fat (jelly), muscle (steak), and bone (bone).

  • Bone: bone
  • Steak: muscle
  • Jelly: fat
  • Plastic wrap: skin

muscle fat bone model

The thing often referred to as “definition” is a product of (a) steak-muscle and (b) jelly-fat.

A big steak-muscle with a lot of jelly-fat makes for a massive structure, but it won’t be “defined” because there’s too much jelly-fat covering the steak-muscle. Think: chubby powerlifter.

A small steak-muscle with a little bit of jelly-fat makes for a lean appearance, but it (probably) won’t be all that “defined” because there’s not enough steak-muscle to pop through the jelly-fat. Think: emaciated supermodel.

If you want more definition, you can either

  1. Gain more steak-muscle.
  2. Lose some jelly-fat.

Most people scouring the Internet for tips on how to get more defined probably need to do both.

(For reference, the bone in each sketch below is the same size. Just thought that'd be useful to know.)

tone defined muscle fat

Muscle tone


Muscle definition doesn't differ much from “muscle tone” (in spirit). But if you're talking about “toning” as a form of training, then, well…

“Toning” as a form of training insinuates that you can encourage both muscle growth and fat loss to a specific area.


First, you can't spot reduce fat loss. Doing one million crunches won't melt your Buddha belly. Your body (not you) decides where it burns fat. Click here for more on this.

Second, the type of training often recommended as a mechanism for “toning” (low low low weight, high high high reps) isn't going to build muscle. You need to scale load. Click here for more on this.

Third, the type of training often recommended as a mechanism for “toning” (low low low weight, high high high reps) probably won't do much in the fat burning department, either.

You don't believe me


You believe the things you're consistently taught, even if they don't make any sense.

A girl got impregnated without having sexual intercourse and then gave birth to a super human life form (alien?). Makes sense. Live your life according to this tall tale.

You're constantly told that “toning” and “defining” are possible, which is the first reason why you don't believe me.

And what makes things worse: “toning” and “defining” can appear to make sense because you can feel something going on inside of you when you train. There's immediate feedback for your brain to latch onto. The burn.


If I smash your head with a hammer, you'll feel something. This doesn't mean that your brain is toning itself. This doesn't mean that your brain is getting smarter.

There's cause and effect, but you're misinterpreting the effect. Don't worry. It's not the first time in human history this has happened.

What's that? Your head hurts because I hit it with a hammer? No worries. Let me get my trepanning tool and drill some holes into your skull to relieve the pressure.


If you want to learn how change your body composition, you can find your way by enrolling for this free course.

Trying to lose fat, build muscle, and build a body you’re proud of?

Maybe you’re a little lost right now.

Maybe you don’t have much motivation.

Maybe you don’t what program or diet to use.

I don’t know…

But what I do know is this:

Everything you need is inside of you.

You’re capable of more than know.

You just have to open your eyes.

My weekly column can help.

Just a small little honest note from me sent every Sunday.

Unless I’m hungover.

And then it comes Monday.

What I’m trying to say is that it’ll come Monday.

(These weekly columns don’t get posted to the site.)

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