Toning up and losing weight aren’t quite the same. Weight loss is straightforward as it simply involves lowering your body weight, which can be done by dieting alone.
Toning however is a different matter. For a toned physique, you need tight, defined muscles, which means hitting the gym for some resistance training and strength training.
Cardio may be the way many choose to lose weight, but including strength training for weight loss program a mainstay in your gym routine can complement your cardio routine and will lead to faster results both in terms of weight loss and toning.
Bottom Line: Your training program for weight loss and toning must include both strength training and cardio.
On Your Schedule
For all you busy busy bees, just find three days to hit the gym. You want to dedicate these three weekly sessions to strength training. Make these total-body workouts, in which you work every major muscle group in a single session. This burns more calories and fat than training just one or two muscle groups each workout.
Leave at least one day of rest between each weights workout. For your cardio, three 20- to 60-minute sessions of vigorous activity each week is recommended. If you can get to the gym six times per week, then perform weights and cardio on different days; if not, then do both in each workout. What I found useful is to do short spurts of cardio in between weight lifting sets.
On Weight Training
The best method for weight training is to choose multi-joint exercises that hit lots of different muscle groups. Moves such as squats, lunges, deadlifts, pushups and rows should make up the majority of your program.
Perform two lower-body and three or four upper-body exercises each session, each for three to four sets of six to 10 repetitions.
This goes against the traditional recommendation of using light weights for higher reps for toning, but lifting heavier provides a greater anabolic response, which actually leads to faster fat burning and fat continues to burn long after your gym session has ended.
For weight loss and toning cardio, you can’t beat interval training. Increasing your cardio intensity by doing intervals not only saves you time, but also means you keep burning fat long after you finish your session. Interval training involves alternating between all-out bursts of maximum effort and slightly longer, slightly easier bouts of cardio.
After a warmup, work at maximum intensity for 10 seconds, then ease back into a steady speed for one minute and 20 seconds. Repeat this protocol for 20 minutes.
The beauty of interval training is that you can use any gym cardio machine, or try something a little different such as sprinting outside.
You need to maintain a healthy diet
Diet is key too — you won’t lose weight and tone up unless you also reduce your food intake. Get rid of the junk food from your diet, focus on unprocessed foods that keep you feeling full, such as vegetables and fruits, lean meats, dairy and whole grains. If you need a guide to eating clean and healthy, check out the Cruise Control Diet, a whole-foods approach to weight loss and overall health.
Aim to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week; you’ll need to cut 3,500 calories to lose 1 pound of fat. Reducing your daily calorie intake by 500 will yield a 1-pound loss each week; adding exercise should take you closer to the 2-pounds per week mark. If you hit a weight loss plateau, add 10 to 40 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio after each interval workout.