We all know *those people*—the ones who go to SoulCycle once and somehow seemingly emerge into the light with sculpted biceps. Many of us refer to this as muscle tone—biceps peeking out, a sculpted back, a carved core. But ‘muscle tone’ has no specific definition, says Dr. Wayne Westcott, director of exercise science at Quincy College in Quincy, MA. It’s just, more or less, muscles that appear to stand out, he says.
And it’s not always an indication of strength. After all, someone with very little body fat might have much more visible musculature even if they don’t have the strength gains to match it. Same goes for if you lose weight (and thus the fat on top of the muscles), but don’t necessarily gain muscle. “You will become smaller and the muscles, regardless of how developed they are, will show more,” notes Dr. Michele Olson, an exercise physiologist and adjunct professor at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, AL.
So if it’s that toned look you’re really after (you know, the one that looks good but also powers you through your day-to-day and your workouts)? It involves a mix of genetics, lifestyle choices, and exercise, experts agree. Here, the deets on why some people look more sculpted than others, and what you can do to firm up—no matter your body type.