What does having a tone body in Pilates mean? How do we get you there?

One of the main requests we receive from clients is Can you tone me up?  Or, I want to increase the tone of my body.

So we started talking about it in the studio in the past few weeks, asking each other “What does this really even mean?  How do we define toning?”

I think you’re going to like what we came up with!

Defining Tone

In many athletic disciplines, tone equals less body fat covering the muscles, so less fat which means more muscle definition thereby tone.

In Pilates terms, when our body has balanced tone we are able to support movement evenly. We want to move as big as we can while supporting our body, not getting the wiggles. We also listen and learn to identify the signals when we find ourselves moving out of supporting our balanced tone which then strains our bodies. For example, taking your legs too low in an abdominal exercise without proper balanced tone may cause your back to pop up, or your arms to swing out in order to support the weight of our legs. That’s not our goal in Pilates.

Tone allows for a healthy full-range of motion.

To increase the tone of our body we need to balance movement through the whole or all parts and support increasing the balance in finite areas.

On the inverse, Tension, which can come from the no pain-no gain mentality, prevents movement from going through our joints smoothly and evenly. Working towards tension is not effective because you are simply grabbing and gripping the muscles on the surface in order to get something to happen.

Think about having an instructor ask you to to squeeze your buttocks (tension) versus wrap the hip and press into the legs (tone). Yes, we realize it’s a lot to think about. We also realize it doesn’t come the first, second or third time at the studio. But with practice and repeatedly working your body in Pilates, you can come to actually guide your muscles and achieve knowledge of developing balanced tone.

If you are having trouble engaging that area, give yourself a pass! If you start with tensing to feel things, that’s okay! Remember it takes practice to learn something new, our bodies like repetition and this is even more true when we are waking up of areas of our bodies that may have been asleep for a while.

A Pilates practice provides you with daily tools on how to respond to any type of tension.

How great is that!

The cues to breathe low and deep, find your abdominals, press evenly into your hips if seated or feet if standing – these are tools to come into and also balance your body in any situation.  When we apply these simple actions, tone is increased. And that healthy tone you are developing? It’s there when the body is at rest too!

How to be an Observer

Ever step away from your health routines because of injury, illness or life changes? Can you feel the tone of your body change?

Try observing your body’s need for movement- not your mind’s. Use the feedback you receive to make good choices with it.


Tone = action within our body, healthy range of joints, supported, balanced movement

Tension = overkill, squeezy, grippy, disconnected movement

Here’s to upping our tone!

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