Toning and cutting refer to losing body fat and gaining muscle definition and are both common goals for people starting out at the gym. Your training routine plays a huge role in how you as a beginner change your body. While there is no single best approach to a toning and cutting routine, several aspects are worth considering when you construct your plan.
Training with weights not only burns calories, it also boosts your metabolism and helps to build and preserve muscle mass, giving you a defined look. The idea that to tone you need light weights for high repetitions is a common misconception. Light training is not superior to heavy training for toning -- your results are far more to do with the intensity you work at. Stick to sets of eight to 12 reps, using a weight that's tough but manageable.
Full-body weight workouts, where you train each major muscle group -- your chest, back, legs, shoulders and arms -- in every session work best for fat loss, as overall calorie burn is higher, claims exercise physiologist and trainer Chad Waterbury. Perform three total-body weight sessions per week, with at least one day of rest between each one. Perform one multijoint exercise for each muscle group, such as bench presses, deadlifts, squats, overhead presses, chinups and dips. On another three days of the week, perform cardiovascular work.
Cardio helps with burning calories, shedding body fat and increasing fitness. The two types of cardio are interval training, which involves short bursts of high-intensity exercise interspersed with periods of rest, and steady-state training, where you work at a moderate intensity for a sustained period. Interval training is superior for fat loss and muscle preservation, claims sports nutritionist Dr Layne Norton in an interview with SimplyShredded.com; however, it is highly demanding, especially for beginners, so you need to alternate it with steady-state work. Switch between interval sessions consisting of 30 seconds of maximum effort followed by 90 seconds at a moderate pace repeated eight to 12 times, and moderate-intensity sessions of cardio lasting 30 to 45 minutes. Use any piece of cardio equipment in the gym, or choose an outdoor cardio activity such as running or swimming.
Your diet is just as important as your training routine when toning and cutting. Reduce your calorie intake slightly and aim to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week at a weekly weigh-in. When starting out in the gym, ask a qualified trainer to take you through the correct form on your weights exercises and start gradually in both your resistance training and cardio sessions before you attempt to increase the intensity. Consult your health care provider before starting any training plan.
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.