How To Attain a toned Look, Like a Hollywood Leading Lady

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“Hi David,

I see you train a lot of actresses and I wondered what kind of training I need to do to look like my Hollywood idols. I don’t want to bulk up, so should I avoid weights or should I just do high rep weights?

Thanks,

Sam” 

This question from Sam is typical of so many emails that I get on a weekly basis. It’s not uncommon for people to aspire to get a body like the stars of the sliver screen.

Toned is a word often used, but what does it actually mean?

In order to get more toned you effectively need to increase your definition. To get more defined you need to reduce body fat. In order to get a toned shapely body you also need to have some muscle mass in the first place. 

We’ve made great progress, as an industry, when it comes to women’s health. The gym culture that we’ve readily adopted in recent years means that it’s cool for women to embrace health and fitness. It’s fantastic that they can look absolutely incredible whether they’re going for the slim, slender toned body or one with more muscle mass. More and more of us also understand that there’s more to body statistics than the number shown on the scales.

The good news for Sam and many others is that you don’t need to starve yourself to get the toned look made famous by people I have worked with for film roles. Let’s be clear, I’m not saying that one is better or more acceptable that the other. It is absolutely down to individual choice how you want to look. The value placed on body image should not come above how a person wants to look.

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For many people who prefer to look leaner, without being too ripped or muscular, they tend to opt for things like yoga, pilates or aerobics. They are great, but they are also a little limited in what they can do. Nothing beats a tailored workout to provide the physical enhancement that Sam is looking for here. For that, I would always recommend the addition of resistance training.

I will give the proviso that I haven’t had the chance to see what Sam looks like, or understand her lifestyle (as I would normally do to give an accurate plan), so this won’t be as tailored as I would normally like.

If Sam was overweight, then the first priority to get where she wants to go is obviously to lose some of that weight. For that I would recommend resistance training which will help to lose weight whilst retaining muscle. In the first instance, go for the classic three-pronged attack of diet, cardiovascular training and resistance (or weight) training. In order to drop body fat during this process it is important to be in a consistent calorie deficit. The deficit shouldn’t be too extreme however, go to harsh and it wont be maintainable and you will undoubtedly not be able to follow it long enough to see results. 

Should Sam be very slight with little muscle, then she’s going to need add shape to get that ‘Hollywood leading lady’ look she’s after. Start with some moderate to heavy strength training to build some extra lean muscle, but also eat diet suited to what your goals are. In this case the goals are to build some muscle, this will require you to be in calorie surplus. 

The usual advice when it comes to muscle building training is to focus on progressive overload, i.e. gradually increase your training on a handful of primary movements as you get stronger and lose body fat. This would normally add muscle to your body if you are in a calorie surplus.

If therefor muscle growth is not the goal then increased exercise variety can be useful. By increasing the exercise variety you will not achieve so much progressive overload and therefore will not build as much muscle.

So Sam, as I said earlier, it’s a little tricky to offer exacting advice without knowing more about you, but the look you’re going for is absolute doable for you. What I would say is to train and eat according to your own personal goals. They might change as you start to really get into health and fitness, and that’s absolutely fine. I’ve had many clients who start off just wanting to be one way, but then get bitten by the training bug and want to change it up and get serious about it. 

As with anything, the figure you want doesn’t happen overnight, but with a variety of techniques, many of which are adaptable enough so you don’t get bored with them you can get there. If you need to know more about creating a more personalised plan, I’d love to help you out.

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