Do I need to be skinny to look toned? - IMAGE - Women's Health and Fitness

Want to achieve that 'shredded' look? It usually requires an increase in muscle mass and a descrease in body fat.

Increased muscle mass (i.e. size, width and volume of your muscle fibres) will help your muscles become more visible beneath body fat; however, significant mass is not always necessary for improved tone.

According to exercise scientist Johann Ruys, “Muscle mass increase is generally associated with an increase in tone, but an increase in tone is not necessarily associated with a major increase in size."

How to achieve that 'shredded' look

To achieve the 'shredded' look of a figure model, increased muscle mass is generally required – more so than for the taut, slender lines of a bikini model. However, the acquisition of either body would usually require a decrease in body fat.

"Less body fat will increase the 'visible effect' of tone," says Ruys. "But tone can improve your shape, even with body fat."

Figure competitors sport around five to 10 per cent body fat for a competition, but it's certainly not kept that low all year round. This means that even for the most muscled individual, sculpted abs (or indeed a sculpted aesthetic) is not always a reality.

Alexa Towersey, personal trainer and co-founder of the Creating Curves program – a program based on her experience training models and Miss Universe competitors – says "The training you do in the gym creates the muscle tone or muscle mass, and the correct nutrition allows you to get lean enough to show it off at its full potential.

If you're looking for clear muscle definition, you need to lose the subcutaneous, or surface, fat. It's true when they say, 'abs are made in the gym and revealed in the kitchen'."

NEXT: Check out our Body transformations section or read about How to improve muscle definition