Our winter here in Virginia has been VERY mild this year. In fact, we had out first snow of the season yesterday and February 19th is the latest 1st snow I can recall. Anyway, as my girlfriend and I were enjoying our morning in the kitchen I saw something out the window that sparked my creative juices.

Check out the 2 photos below. One photo show some train track in the shade, while the other photo show the same track in the sunshine. Notice how much clearer the wooden cross-ties are when the track are in the sun.

What does this have to do with muscle gain, fat loss, and “toning”?? Everything! Let me explain.

First of all, I hate the word “toning” because that doesn’t exist. People who want to to “tone-up” really want to lose fat and gain some muscle. But speaking the truth actually involves admitting you have fat to lose. And we all know how sensitive people are about that!

When it comes to explaining the process, I have always used the analogy of mountains and river valleys to explain the relationship between muscle size, definition, and body fat levels. Imagine for a moment that your muscles are mountains and your body fat is the rivers that run between those mountains. If you want the mountains to be more visible or appear bigger, then you simply lower the water levels of those rivers (lose fat)! Another option is to make the mountains bigger or get bigger muscles! That analogy and explanation seems to help many people, but today I have another one.

Think about a fresh snow covering the ground and leaving nothing but a white blanket with a few bumps and contours on the ground. It’s very hard to distinguish where a sidewalk begins or where the road is. Check out the train tracks in the shady picture and imagine your coveted 6-pack. When our body fat levels are elevated our abs appear like a fresh snow…soft, smooth and undefined. Now look at the tracks that have had some snow melted by the sun. Like a shredded stomach, these tracks show depth, detail, and definition.

So here’s the rub – The more defined and detailed you want your body to look, the leaner you need to be. If you look softer or smoother than you want to be, then it’s time to lose some body fat. But don’t forget, those cross-ties and the mountains in the first analogy have all been built up already. As the great Shelby Starnes says, “Abs on a skinny guy are like boobs on a fat chick – they don’t count.” So don’t be so quick to write off the fact that you need more strength and muscle size. Click here for a a great explanation on how strength affects explosiveness, power output and vertical jumping.