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Tom’s Fitness & Paris Martial Arts

Toning Up

Posted: May 14, 2015

As a gym owner, I have a lot of people ask me how to get toned up. The answer really depends on what they mean when they say toned up. Toning means different things to different people, and there are lots of ways to do it.

I see people of all ages working out on a regular basis. They range from children as young as 3 and 4 in classes, to seniors in their 70’s and 80’s.

Different age groups usually need to be focused on different things. While they’re all using their muscles, their needs and goals change as they age and mature.

Our young Tigers and Karate Kids simply just their body weight with pushups, sit-ups, body squats, and activities like hopping and climbing. We also use some very light dumbbells in our Kids Boot Camps, but the weights are easy for them to control.

As they become teenagers, kids transition into more traditional weight lifting movements. The goal is usually to get stronger and improve their overall sports performance.

Adults typically have one of two goals. They usually want to lose weight, or they want to reshape their body. Sometimes they want to do both.

Finally, our seniors are just trying to keep moving. They’re not trying to get bigger or stronger. They just want to keep what strength they have and keep their mobility.

For people just starting out, I usually recommend a full body workout that hits all the major muscle groups, three times a week, like on a Mon, Wed, and Fri. This gives you 48 hours to recover between workouts.

You can get a good, basic, full body workout by using the machine circuit that most gyms have. Or, you can do it at home with just a few inexpensive pieces of equipment, like a pair of dumbbells and an exercise ball.

Make sure you get with someone who can show you how to use the equipment correctly. If you don’t have access to a coach or trainer, get with a knowledgeable friend.

If you have to, you can always ask someone who looks like they know what they’re doing in the gym. Most people you’ll encounter will be more than happy to take a few minutes to help you out.

Magazines like Men’s Fitness, and Oxygen (for women) have lots of workout tips and plans, with lots of pictures. The Internet is a great resource too, complete with videos. is a good place to start. Or Google beginning full body workouts.

Once you’ve picked out a workout, start with a light comfortable weight. Do 2-3 sets of 10-12 repetitions with 30-60 seconds rest between. As you learn what to do, you can start increasing the weights later.

A full body workout like this will be invigorating, burn lots of calories, and still promote muscle toning and growth. Perhaps most importantly, it won’t leave you too sore afterwards. Most people will like this.

The exception is the person doing advanced powerlifting or bodybuilding. They often focus on just one or two body parts per workout. For example, you might do Chest and Triceps one day, Back and Biceps the next, Legs and Abs the next day, and then Shoulders the next, before taking a day off.

These are called split-routines, since you’re splitting up the body parts over 3 or 4 days. In these workouts, the exercise volume is much greater per body part. That means you’ll need more time to fully recover.

Workouts like these often produce a great deal of muscle soreness later. I’ve even seen it turn into “bragging rights” in the gym. The more sore the better. That means you really broke the muscle down, to promote new growth and size.

Once you have a good base to go on, you can step it up with lots of programs. You can use the same resources to find different ways of doing it.

You might even try a DVD program like T25, or P90X3 if you really want to get “ripped.” For people wanting a challenge and a workout community, there’s CrossFit, and local Boot Camps.

For me personally, I’ve learned that Boot Camp style workouts work best for me right now. I can push pretty hard during the workout, but I don’t have much soreness later. This lets me do all the other things I like to do, like martial arts and some running.

Either way, once you know what your objectives are, the two most important things are to show up, and keep showing up. It takes a dedicated, consistent effort to get results, whatever your pursuit. It’s no different when you’re toning up. See you in the gym!

Tom Dolan
M.A Exercise Physiology

Note: Tom is the owner of Tom’s Fitness in Paris, IL and has been training people since 1987. For questions or comments, visit