Many of us want what is often referred to as a "toned lean body" but despite trying every type of workout possible, it can seem like there's never any real change in your body (if any). The reason for that may be that you're making one of these common mistakes and it's preventing you from making progress.
Before we get too far, I want to point out that muscles don't technically get "toned"... they simply get bigger or smaller based on your diet and workouts. That in combination with a low body fat percentage will give you that "toned" look most people are looking for.
Avoid these few mistakes on your fitness journey to see success...
1. You Don't Eat the Right Amount
Workouts alone aren't enough to change the physique of your body. You need to eat an adequate amount of carbs, fats, and especially protein to be able to build muscle. It's crucial to eat at maintenance or even in a slight surplus most of the year to build the muscle required.
This includes undereating... when you don't eat enough, you don't have enough fuel for muscle adaptation. Also, you won't have enough energy to really feel like you can crush your workout. In fact, feeling really tired during a workout (or especially feeling like you might pass out) is a good sign you need to eat more than you currently are. And finally, if there's not enough usable food to break down, your body will start to break down your muscle to use as fuel instead... which is obviously not going to help you build more muscle.
Key takeaway: Spend most of your year eating enough to fuel your workouts and muscle... only go into a conservative deficit to lose fat when the time comes.
2. You OVER Exercise
More does not equal better results. Overexercising can lead to DOMS, delayed onset muscle soreness, which will keep you from being able to push yourself as hard as you otherwise would have the next day. You're also more likely to have less general movement the next day, get injured, or even burn out. Burning out is far too common and is one of the main reasons most people end up quitting their workout program altogether. And most importantly, too much exercise causes stress on the body and can negatively impact your results. I'll go into this more in point six below.
Key takeaway: Rest is equally important to recover and build muscle. This means intentionally taking a week off to "deload' as well as prioritizing quality sleep for seven to nine hours each night to give your body a chance to repair and grow the muscles you've been working so hard to build.
3. You Don't Use a Program that Works for YOU
If the program you choose is designed to be five days a week but half the time, you can only make it three days, you won't progress as quickly as you could. Choose a program you can be consistent with. For most of our clients, this is a full-body workout plan. Full body plans are a great option for many as you hit every muscle group during each workout so if life happens (you know it will), you won't be left without having worked on only your legs, for example, and completely ignoring your core. For more about why full-body workouts may be right for you, read this blog.
Key takeaway: Look closely at your schedule and your workout history. Choose a workout program that's realistic for your lifestyle and follow through with it (and not one that works for your friend.)
4. You Constantly Change Your Workout
Constantly switching it up won't allow your body to improve and get stronger. Most of us, (myself included!), tend to get pretty shiny object syndrome. As soon as we see something interesting, we switch to a new workout program. Or you get bored, (usually because you're not challenging yourself), and pivot your workouts to something entirely different. "Boring" workouts can actually be very helpful to build muscle. They allow you to become increasingly comfortable with the movement patterns which give you the opportunity to increase your weights, reps, or intensity to improve as you go through the program, and thereby you're more likely to break down muscle so that it can grow.
Key takeaway: Whatever program you choose, follow it consistently for at least 12-18 weeks to ensure you're able to get stronger. Getting bored and switching it up won't be enough to build strength and muscle.
5. You Rush Your Workout
Just going through the motions and not pushing yourself isn't necessarily going to build muscle (unless you're new to strength training). Your last couple of reps should feel extremely difficult and each set should be as much effort as your first. This may mean taking longer rests between your set so you're fully rested and give your next set your all.
Key takeaway: Make every rep count! Spend enough time between sets for your heart rate to come back down so you can push equally as hard for the next set without having to choose a lower weight.
6. You Choose the Wrong Type of Workout
One of the most common mistakes on this list is that you believe a certain (incorrect) type of workout will get you the body you want.
Cardio and HIIT are the most common offenders often believed by people that they're the key to that toned look. The problem with these types of workouts is twofold. For starters, your body simply adapts to become more efficient at whatever cardio you do. So even if you saw results early on, you'll likely plateau. And the catch? You have to continue that cardio in order to maintain any results you did see. The second problem with these types of workouts is they add a LOT of stress to your body. Chronic stress over a long period of time, regardless of the culprit, be it cardio, life, etc, is going to cause your body to feel as though it needs to store energy instead of burning it. This can result in not just a plateau, but in unwanted weight gain... despite continuing to keep your cardio and nutrition exactly the same.
Another common culprit is yoga, or more commonly, pilates. Many people believe these styles of training are what you need to achieve that "long and lean" look. Sure, it's possible to look toned with these types of workouts; however, many people will have a super low body fat percentage - which isn't healthy for most, women in particular. Additionally, we know that bodybuilding is actually better at lengthening your muscles, whereas workouts like yoga or pilates primarily train the nervous system and do almost nothing for the length of your muscles.
Key takeaway: Long and lean toned muscles are largely due to genetics but if any workout is going to help you get closer, it's strength training.
7. You Expect Results ASAP
Quick fixes are all anyone wants these days. And who can blame us? We can order almost anything we want and have it delivered straight to our doorstep in 48 hours or less. But muscle takes time to grow. If you're new to strength training, you'll likely see results quickly but as time goes on, results likely won't be as obvious. This is why progress photos are so essential. What you may not be able to see in the mirror, you'll be more likely to see in side-by-side photos a few months apart.
Key takeaway: Know that just because your friend's transformation happened in 3 months, it doesn't mean yours will. Patience and consistency over years are what builds muscle. Keep showing up.
A toned lean body is absolutely possible and is a very realistic goal. As long as you're honest with your expectations and are consistent with whatever program you choose (as well as your nutrition!), you'll see some seriously awesome long-term results.
If you're still not sure what workout is right for YOU or how much to eat to reach YOUR body goals to get long-term results, we do ALL of this for you when you work with us. And we empower you with the knowledge you need to manage your weight on your own. Learn more about how we can help you get started here.