Exercises for toning

emmerson campbell logoIf I had a ‘Granger’ ($5000 bill) for every time I heard a woman say ‘I just want to get toned. I don’t want muscles,’ I would be a millionaire.

I’ve received countless emails and questions on the topic of ‘toning’. So let’s get right to discussing it.

When it comes to toning, there are two ways to go about it: build muscle or drop fat.

Note: In order to achieve a toned body with muscle tone and definition, you need to engage in some type of resistance training.

The basics

First things first – all forms of resistance training do not produce the same results. This is especially true if you perform the resistance training with low weights and high repetitions (>20 reps) as this places very little stress on the muscle.


Lots of people avoid resistance training because they think it will make them bulky or big. To achieve any form of muscle tone, you need to cause stress in the muscle to force it to change and grow. Simply doing hundreds of reps with two-pound dumbbells will not produce optimal results.

Resistance is needed for toning

In general, a weight that causes your muscles to fatigue, or go near failure in the 8-12 reps range is a good place to start.

Circuit training for toning

Using large, full-body movements combined with short rest periods will help you achieve that toned look. It provides muscle building benefits as well as calorie and/or fat burning benefits.

For circuit training, use the 10-15 reps range for most exercises. Ideally, rest times of 30 seconds should be used, but this may take some getting used to. If 30 seconds is too challenging, you may start with one-minute rest periods.

The exercises

Sometimes a compound movement is not enough. Combining isolation movements into one repetition is also a great way to burn more calories at once.


The bicep curl and shoulder press are both isolation movements, but when combined, they become more of a compound exercise which targets multiple joints and muscle groups.

Start with your arms at your side. Use dumbbells that fit your resistance level. Without moving your arms from your side, bend at the elbows and curl your hands upward until your hands are just in front of your biceps.

From this position, move your arms to the side until your elbows are perpendicular to the floor and your wrists are by your ears. Press up and straighten your arms before lowering back down. This counts as one rep.


Squatting is a total lower body exercise that will get your heart pumping in no time. Combine that with a high-powered jump and you’re sure to get in a great workout.

Start with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width. Use dumbbells that fit your resistance level or stick to bodyweight. Squat down, initiating the movement at the hips. From the bottom of the squat, jump as high as you can as fast as possible. Land softly and control your landing before repeating for the next rep.


Combining a push and pull movement helps to build a balanced physique both in symmetry and shape.

Start in a push-up position holding a dumbbell in each hand so that your weight is on the dumbbells on the floor. Lower yourself down and then push-up until your arms are fully extended again. From here, balance your weight on one arm and use the other arm to perform a dumbbell row. Lower back down and do another push-up, and perform a dumbbell row with the other arm. This counts as one rep.

Keep in mind that to achieve any form of muscle tone, you need to cause stress in the muscle to force it to change and grow.

Stay tuned, friends.

If you need help with building muscle or losing fat, shoot me an email: emmersoncampbell@gmail.com


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