Cardio & Toning Exercises Not Working?

There is so much confusion in fitness these days that many women are under the impression that cardio toning exercises and workouts are quick circuits with super light dumbbells (2-5 lb) or basic body weight exercises that are intended to "firm up" your "trouble zones" without building bulky muscle.

Well this couldn't be further from the truth and if you're one of the many women who's been trying to "tone up" with toning exercises and workout routines for toning and you're not getting very good results then this article will provide ALL the answers to the question trainers hear all the time "but I'm exercising and eating healthy so why am I not getting toned?".

How The Bulking Up Myth Scares Women Into Lame Toning Exercises Workouts That Don't Work

Regardless of all the "strong is the new sexy" propaganda put out there by figure chics and athletic hardcore trainers, so many women are still under the impression that lifting anything heavier than a 5 pound weight will build big bulky muscles.

The truth is that building some muscle is easy but building a lot of muscle is difficult.   It's so difficult that there are literally thousands of bodybuilding sites, products, blogs, and supplements designed for men/women having trouble putting on muscle. 

Men spend tons on this stuff and so do younger women (it's what keeps magazines in business). 

But the reality is there is a clear line between too little and too much weight.  I can tell you from my own experience that lifting 8-25 lb dumbbells NEVER bulked up my body but squatting and pulling 100+ pounds and leg pressing 360 pounds of weight did so there IS such a thing as too much weight.

But generally a majority of women need something in between the two extremes in order to improve their bodies and their fitness level and health.


These girls curl 50 lb dumbbells, press at least their own bodyweight and leg press 3-4 times their bodyweight. That is a lot of weight!  12-25 lb is not a lot of weight.

If you lift too much you WILL bulk up but if you stick with light weight circuits on all your trouble zones two things will happen 1.  you will improve your overall fitness level and muscular endurance (that's why you feel the burn) which is great.  2.  you will maintain your current body which is probably not what you want. 

Remember that lifting light weight does not trigger any of those fatloss hormones you need to burn off all the fat that's covering up any lean toned muscle you may have.  It also doesn't build lean muscle in areas of your body that may need lean muscle to look better.

So even though you might be fit and feeling the burn you will never ever ever look toned and lean or the shape you want because of that excess layer of fat or because you don't have enough lean muscle in the areas of your body that need it.

How to Ditch The Lame Cardio & Toning Exercises & Get On A Real Toned Body Plan That Works

The secret to getting lean and toned is to customize your workouts to your unique needs and body type by combining the right type/amount of fat burning workouts that burn off that excess layer of fat with the right type/amount of strength training workouts that either maintain the lean muscle you have or build lean muscle in areas that need it.  

Here's two examples taken directly from my own personal training clients.  Real women over 50 (so not your typical 20 year olds who can lose weight easily) with real busy lives and who were already exercising and frustrated with not getting the results they wanted from their workout. 

Example of How to Ditch The "Toning Exercises" & Get Busy with A Custom Workout Plan that Gets You A Lean Toned Body Fast!

Client 1:  Is a woman in her early 50's who is tall and naturally thin but has excess fat on the stomach and no lean muscle on the legs or arms.  Her main complaint is flabby arms, back fat, muffin top, saggy butt, and flabby legs.  She's been walking several times a week and eats a lowfat, low calorie, no red meat diet. 

Workout Plan:  A  client like this needs to build strength, muscular endurance, and plenty of lean muscle in various body parts and the best way to do that is with mini-circuits using heavier weights (not with toning exercises even though she is naturally skinny).  The demand of using heavier weights combined with some cardio intervals throughout the workout is enough to burn off her fat stores simply because this person is naturally thin and doesn't eat much.  A typical workout for this type of client would look like this: 

  • 5 min. cardio warmup 
  • db chest press
  • pullup w/assist
  • db curl to overhead press
  • *3 sets of 10-12 using moderate to heavy weight for her level of strength (i.e. 8 lb. 15 lb. 12 lb. 17.5 lb.) 
  • 4 min. of tabata intervals on recumbent bike or incline treadmill 
  • db squat
  • db lunge
  • db step up
  • *2 sets of 12-15 using moderate to heavy weight 
  • 4 min. random cardio intervals (on bike w/high resistance to build up legs)
  • stability ball leg curls
  • stability ball backbend to full situp (add db or medicine ball as coordination improves)
  • pushup plank knee in to leg lifts (from kneeling progress to regular)
  • *1 set of 10-15 
  • 7  min. of stretching 

A client like this would typically lose the excess flab and look leaner super toned in 3-4 weeks IF eating a clean diet (more veggies less lowfat diet foods) and doing any other type of activity for 30 min. 2-4 other days per week in addition to circuit like the one above about 2 times per week.  

Get more workouts and tips for the 4 female body types. You don't need to be a personal trainer to be able to modify workouts to your body type so you can get the body you want.

Example 2 of How to Replace Lame "Toning Exercises" That Don't Work with Custom Workouts That Get Results

Client 2:  Is a woman in her late 50's with a natural hourglass figure who has excess fat on on the stomach, butt, and thighs.  Her main complain is her waist, flabby thighs and big butt, and wants desperatly to lose 20 lb. (has not been able to do so with tons of aerobics, toning moves, and low carb dieting). 

Workout Plan:  A client like this already has a great level of endurance from all the cardio and toning exercises but she has zero strength or lean muscle anywhere and her low carb dieting is actually making that worst.  She needs to build muscle but also burn fat and also needs to continue doing some cardio but needs to introduce 1 portion of healthy carbs back into her daily eating plan for muscle building, fat burning and strength/endurance.  Contrary to what you hear from diet gurus carbs in moderation are key to fatloss and lean muscle.  A typical workout for this client would look like this: 

  • 5 min. cardio intervals to warmup 
  • db rows
  • db squat to curl to overhead press
  • suspension trainer inverted rows
  • gliding disc db lunges
  • stability ball plank to knee tuck
  • stability ball pushup
  • stability ball leg curls 
  • 8-15 reps of each exercise back to back using bodyweight and 8-12 lb dumbells followed by 2 min. sprint on treadmill or elliptical or bodyweight cardio intervals (jumping jacks, step up hops, jump rope, lateral leaps, bosu hops, etc.  moving quickly and NON-stop for 2 min.) 
  • Repeat that 1 more time and cool down with 10 min. of yoga stretches 

A client like this would lose 20 lb. of fat in 4-8 weeks IF eating a clean healthy diet (some starchy carbs allowed, more veggies and less fats which is a HUGE shift that many no carbers need to make) and also doing cardio 4-5 other days per week in addition to circuit like the one above 2-3 times a week.


Want to Get Your Best Body Faster?

Tired of wasting your time with random toning exercises and toning workout routines that don't get you the body you want?

Get your best female figure faster by learning how to customize your workout plan to your body type, goals, and lifestyle.