10 Best Toning Workouts For Women

by Marixie Ann Obsioma, MT, undergrad MD on July 29, 2019
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Lifestyle changes in the past few years have led people to adopt a sedentary lifestyle. Most are spending their day doing activities that do not make their muscles work and require the body to burn calories. We all know that regular exercise is good for optimizing health. But with several options and limitless information available, it is easy to get overwhelmed with what works. But no worries, we’ve got your back!

By simply wanting to get a toned body, you’ll be presented with a lot of benefits. Incorporating a variety of toning workouts that best suit your level and interest will spice up your daily routine and help you reach your fitness goals. Read on to know more!

What is Muscle Toning?

Muscle toning is a form of movement that forces a muscle to travel its full range of motion or contract while under resistance. It will help increase lean muscle mass and density and improve muscular strength and endurance. Performing a toning workout that involves all primary muscle groups will also help promote a firm and well-sculpted physique. Typical muscle groups that are exercised include the biceps, triceps, deltoid, trapezius, chest, obliques, back, quadriceps, gluteals, hamstrings, and calves.

Other Health Benefits of Muscle Toning

Even if you only intend to enhance your physical look to get a toned body, regular toning exercises can bring a number of other health benefits:

1. It Can Help You Lose Weight

Studies show that inactivity is one of the major factors contributing to obesity and weight gain. While dieting can help you slim down, regular exercise has been shown to increase your metabolic rate to help burn more calories (1, 2, 3, 4).

Additionally, studies proved that combining aerobic workouts with resistance training can help maximize fat loss and muscle mass maintenance, which are very important to keep your weight off (2, 4, 5, 6, 7).

2. It Can Make You Feel Good and Happy

Exercises have been known to be effective in improving your mood and decreasing feelings of stress, pain, anxiety, and depression by increasing the levels of serotonin, norepinephrine, and endorphins in the body (8, 9).

Interestingly, it doesn’t really matter how intense your exercise is. This has been proven by a study involving more than 20 women who are suffering from depression (10). The effects of exercise on mood are very powerful. You’ll see a huge difference within just a short period of time. Another study asked 26 healthy people who exercised regularly to either stop or continue exercising for two weeks. Those who stopped experienced increases in negative feelings and mood (11).

3. It Is Healthy For Your Muscles and Bones

Exercise plays an important role in building and maintaining strong bones and muscles. It helps release hormones that can improve the absorption of amino acids. This, in turn, will increase muscle growth and decrease breakdown (12, 13).

As you age, you tend to lose muscle mass and function, which increases your risk of injuries and disabilities. Performing regular exercise can help keep your strength and decrease muscle loss even with aging (14).

Exercise can also help build bone density, which will help prevent osteoporosis later in life (15). High-impact exercises can help promote higher bone density as compared to non-impact workouts (16).

4. It Can Boost Your Energy Levels

Exercise is a real energy booster (17, 18). Evidence shows that six weeks of regular exercise can help reduce feelings of fatigue (19).

Exercise can help increase the energy levels of patients suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and other serious health conditions like AIDS, cancer, and multiple sclerosis. Exercise has been more effective at combating CFS as compared to other passive treatments like stretching and relaxation (20, 21).

5. It Can Decrease Your Risk of Chronic Illnesses

Lack of exercise is one of the primary causes of chronic diseases (22). Regular exercise can help improve insulin sensitivity, decrease blood pressure, lower fat levels, and boost cardiovascular health and body composition (23, 24, 25, 26). Lack of exercise, on the other hand, can cause significant increases in abdominal fat, which is a risk factor for heart disease, type 2 DM, and early death (23). Daily exercise is then highly recommended to decrease the risk of developing these illnesses (27, 28).

6. It is Good for Your Brain and Memory

Exercise can greatly improve brain function and protect thinking and memory skills. By increasing your heart rate, more blood and oxygen will be delivered to your brain. It can also produce more hormones that can enhance the growth of brain cells.

Chronic diseases may alter brain function. Preventing them through exercise can help protect your brain health (29). Regular exercise is more important in older people since aging, along with inflammation and oxidative stress, can cause alterations in brain structure and function. Exercise can increase the size of the hippocampus, a part of the brain that is responsible for learning and memory. This may help increase mental function among the elderly (30, 31, 32). Evidence also shows that exercise can reduce brain changes that may cause Schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease (33).

7. It Can Get You Quality Rest and Sleep

Regular exercise can help you sleep better and relax (34, 35). In regards to quality, the energy depletion caused by the exercise can stimulate the rehabilitation processes during sleep (35). More so, the increase in body temperature during a workout is thought to enhance sleep quality by dropping it off during sleep (36).

Several studies on the effects of exercise on sleep have the same results. One study found that 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per week can improve sleep quality by as much as 65% (37). Another revealed that 16 weeks of exercise can increase sleep quality and help people with insomnia sleep longer and more deeply (38). Engaging in regular workouts seem to be very beneficial for older people too, who often suffer from sleeping disorders (38, 39, 40).

You can be very flexible with the type of exercise you choose. Performing aerobic exercise alone or combining it with resistance training will equally help improve sleep quality (41).

8. It Will Help Lessen Your Pain

Chronic pain can be debilitating, but you can relieve it by exercising. For many years, experts recommend rest and inactivity to treat chronic pain. However, new evidence shows that exercise is the key. Exercise can help improve people’s quality of life (42).

Other studies show that workouts can help control pain that is associated with different health conditions like pain in your lower back, soft tissue shoulder disorder, and fibromyalgia (43). Also, exercise can increase pain tolerance and decrease pain perception (44, 45).

9. It Can Give You A Good Looking Skin

Your skin is greatly affected by the presence of oxidative stress in your body. It happens when the body’s defenses cannot fully repair the cell damages caused by free radicals. This can deteriorate your skin.

Regular moderate exercise can help your body produce more antioxidants, which will protect your cells (46, 47). Also, physical activity can increase blood flow and promote skin cell adaptations that may delay skin aging (48).

10 Best Exercises to Tone Your Body

The best way to succeed with your fitness regime is to keep the fuss at a minimum and just stick with the basics!

1. Lunges

Working on your balance should always be part of a well-rounded toning exercise. Lunges can give you that! It will help promote easy movements while strengthening your legs and glutes. This is very easy to do!

  • Stand with your feet slightly apart and place your arms down at your sides.
  • Step forward using your right leg and bend your right knee as you do so. Stop once your thigh becomes parallel to the ground. Do not extend your knee past your right foot.
  • Push up off your right foot to return to your starting position. Do the same steps using your left leg. Count this as one rep.
  • Do 10 reps for 3 sets.

2. Squats

Squats are good for increasing core and lower body strength. They can help improve your flexibility because of the involvement of large muscles. They can also pack a big punch in terms of calories burned.

  • Stand straight with your feet slightly apart. Place your arms at your sides.
  • Support your core while keeping your chest and chin up. Shove your hips back and bend your knees just like when you are about to sit in a chair.
  • Make sure that your knees won’t bow inward or outward. Go low until your thighs become parallel to the ground. Bring your arms up in front of you in a comfortable position. Pause for one or two seconds, then extend your legs and return to your starting position.
  • Do 3 sets of 20 repetitions.

3. Pushups

Drop and give me 20! I am sure you have heard of this several times. Pushups are among the most basic yet effective bodyweight routines that you can do just about anywhere.

  • Begin in a plank position. Keep your core tight, your neck neutral, and your shoulders pulled down and back.
  • Bend your elbows and start lowering your body down to the floor. As soon as your chest grazes the floor, extend your elbows and start from the beginning. Try to keep your elbows close to your body at all times.
  • Finish 3 sets of as many reps as you can.

If you cannot do a pushup with a good form, bend your knees to create a modified stance. You can still benefit from this workout while improving strength.

4. Burpees

Not everyone loves burpees, but they are really effective because they give a big bang for your buck for muscle strength and cardiovascular endurance.

  • Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart and place your arms down at your sides.
  • Raise your hands in front of you and start squatting down. As soon as your hand reaches the ground, put your legs straight back into a pushup position.
  • Do a pushup.
  • Come back up to the starting position and jump your feet up to your palms by hinging at your waist. Try to get your feet as close to your hands, landing them outside if necessary.
  • Stand straight, bringing your arms above your head and jump.

This is one rep. Finish 3 sets of 10 reps as a newbie.

5. Side Planks

Everybody needs a strong core as its foundation, so never neglect core-specific exercises like a side plank. Concentrate on the mind-muscle connection and controlled movements to make sure you’ll complete this exercise effectively.

  • Lay down on your right side while your left leg and foot are stacked over your right extremities.
  • Hold up your upper body by securing your right forearm on the ground, elbow directly under your shoulder.
  • Contract your core to strengthen your spine and raise your hips and knees off the ground to form a straight line with your body.
  • Go back to the beginning in a controlled manner. Repeat 2 sets of 10-15 reps on each side.

6. Situps

Although these may appear too basic, situps can target your belly muscles well. If you are suffering from back pain, stick with a crunch that would only ask you to lift your upper back and shoulders off the ground.

  • Lay flat on the ground with your knees bent, feet flat, and your hands behind your head.
  • Keep your feet on the ground, start to roll up from your head, engaging your core throughout. Avoid straining your neck while moving upward.
  • As soon as your chest comes in contact with your legs, start the controlled phase back down to the starting position.
  • Finish 3 sets of 15 repetitions as a newbie.

7. Glute Bridge

This toning exercise effectively works your whole posterior chain. This is not only good for your health, but it can also make your butt look perkier too.

  • Lay flat on the floor. Bend your knees and keep your feet flat on the ground. Extend your arms at your sides with your palms facing downwards.
  • Push through your heels and raise your hips off the ground by squeezing your core, glutes, and hamstrings. Your shoulders and upper back should reach the ground, and your core down to your knees forming a straight line.
  • Keep your position for a second or two and then go back to your starting pose.

Finish 10-12 repetitions for 3 sets.

8. Dumbbell Rows

With the help of 10-pound dumbbells, you’ll surely strengthen several muscles in your upper body by performing this compound exercise.

  • Hold a dumbbell not exceeding 10 pounds for beginners in each hand.
  • Bend forward at your waist to get your back at a 45-degree angle in reference to the ground. Do not arch your back. Keep your arms hanging straight down. Your neck should also stay in line with your back and your core is engaged.
  • Begin with your right arm. Curve your elbow and pull the dumbbell straight up to your chest. Engage the broad flat muscles on the sides of your back and stop just below your chest.
  • Return to your original position and repeat with your left arm. This completes one rep.

Do 10 reps for 3 sets.

9. Overhead Dumbbell Presses

This is another compound exercise effective at working several parts of your body. A standing overhead press is not just good for your shoulders, it will also engage your upper back and core.

  • With a 10-pound dumbbell in each of your hands, stand with your feet staggered or slightly apart. Move the weights overhead to make your upper arms parallel with the floor.
  • Bracing your core, push up until your arms are completely extended over your head. Be sure to keep your head and neck stationary.
  • After a short pause, bend your elbows and lower the weight back down until your triceps become parallel to the ground again.

Finish 3 sets of 12 repetitions.

10. One-leg Deadlifts

This toning exercise will challenge your balance as it requires leg strength and stability.

  • Stand with a 10-pound dumbbell in your right hand with your knees slightly bent.
  • Hinging at the hips, start to kick your left leg straight back behind you, lowering the dumbbell towards the floor.
  • After reaching a good height with your left leg, slowly go back to your original position, squeezing your right glute. Make sure that your pelvis will stay square to the floor during movement.

Do 10-12 repetitions before moving the weight to your left hand and repeating the steps all over again.

Key Takeaway

Exercise truly offers incredible benefits that can improve nearly every aspect of your health. These fundamental toning exercises will do you good, but there’s always room for improvement. If you are breezing through these routines and barely breaking a sweat, make each move more challenging by adding more repetitions and weight or tacking on a jump to routines like lunges and squats. You can also switch up by doing your routines under time-pressure. Complete a number of repetitions or sets within a limited amount of time.

References:

(1) //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27190483
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