I decided to write this blog following a recent post I uploaded after I received a variety of very confused questions, and rightly so. Tone is a very confusing subject and it took me a long time to get my head around, as it is not a word used commonly in the non-medical world.
So what is tone? Now, being toned and having tone are two completely different things. Everyone has tone but not everyone is “toned”. The word “toned” is actually just slang.
Tone is defined as the muscle’s resistance to a passive stretch during its resting state. <<< great definition that makes little sense to 99% of the world (myself included). Put simply, tone is always in your muscles, it is a readily available function of your muscles at rest so that when you want to move your leg/ swing off your trapeze, then it is able to contract on demand. It is always available and helps you to maintain your posture throughout the day.
Tone is recorded along a gradient from low to high. Athletes with high tone are not necessarily stronger than those with low tone. An athlete with high tone is usually one that will engage in explosive movements such as a sprinter, whilst an athlete with low tone is likely to be more flexible such as that of a dancer or yogi.
Now, lets look at tone from a stretching point of view.
When we stretch, we speak to our nervous system by telling it to reduce its excitability to allow us to sink deeper into positions. This relaxation of our nervous system will in theory reduce our muscle tone, which improves our flexibility.
Makes sense? Maybe not. This is a topic that is very complicated so don’t worry if this is difficult to get your head around, it takes most medical professions a while to understand too.
Each time we stretch we further decrease our muscle tone in this position, which is what allows us to see improvements in our flexibility after several sessions of repetitively targeting specific muscle groups.
Muscle tone differs from muscle length. Our muscle length never changes when we stretch. If it did after we stretched when we stood back up we would either fall over because our muscles would be very floppy, or contortionists would be the tallest people on the planet because their muscle length would be huge.