10 Best Toning Workouts for Women

by Dr. Ahmed Zayed
Published on October 16, 2019
women doing push-ups as a part of toning workout

If you’re one of the breakaways of the thin-is-in phenomena and now seeking to a better-toned body, this article is just the right read for you. For the past decade, women with thin physiques are considered the sexiest and most appealing. This has driven millions of women hitting the gym, and even up to the extent of depriving themselves even with healthy so as to stay thin and “be in.”

In fact, a 2011 study (1) conducted by Fitness Magazine, a United States-based fitness magazine for women covering health, exercise, and food, on whether women would give up sex for a full year (365 days to be exact) just to stay skinny showed a shocking result. Around 51 percent of the 2,400 respondents said they would agree to the proposition, and the rest practically said they would not give up sexual intercourse even if it meant they would stay over 30 pounds above their normal weight.

But that was a 2011 study. Facebook and Instagram trend was not yet a thing then. The social media giants, which business model is patterned to create ripples of attention, have yet to have a solid social influence, compared to what they have achieved in the past five years. A single trend on a certain topic could literally spread and reach a million in just a matter of hours. The interesting thing about the exponential power of social media is its ability to set a new norm, affecting thousands, if not millions, of stands, views, and perspectives. The classic example of this is the #Fitspiration trend on Instagram, where several users participate by posting their journeys to healthier and more toned bodies and shapes.

At the height of the #Fitspiration and #StrongNotSkinny trend, a study (2) conducted by a doctoral student at the University of Missouri in Kansas revealed that men now prefer a toned body shape of women that a skinny and thin one. This was a great leap from the “thin-is-in” trend, showing that ideals for a great body for women have changed.

Several experts have been pointing this out. The suppressive thinning programs have led many women to neglect the real value of being healthy. And this could probably be one of the reasons why such #Fitspiration trend has made it into the human system- being thin is not necessarily being healthy while being fit leads you more to being healthy. However, a study, although affirming the benefits of the #Fitspiration, pointed out that this trend has a negative impact (3) in the mental health of young adults, reporting psychological distress and eating disorders.

A toned body equals a healthy body

True enough, toning your body has more health than slimming down your body. A toned body increases your stamina, or your ability to sustain or endure a prolonged physical activity. And as a result, you got to do more workout activities to keep you up with your fitness program.

Other benefits of toning your body include preventing diseases related to overweight or the lack of proper exercises such as heart and skeletal diseases, improved muscle strength and immune system, and enriched mental health and self-confidence, better body posture, more productive performance at work, and a chance of a better and life-filled lifestyle.

That being said, let’s proceed on what workouts are best for toning women’s bodies that can deliver to your goal in a matter of weeks!

1. Push-ups

You don’t need to be gymaholic to perform push-ups, a type of exercise that specifically targets your chest, abdominal muscles, shoulders, triceps, back, and core. There are many types of push-ups, some require greater strength and endurance, while some require less. The bottom line, however, is you have to do the right position in order to achieve its benefits, from the proper angle of the body up to the frequency and time to carry out the exercise. One study (4) suggests that performing with hands in narrow base position can induce more muscle activation than a wide base position. Pretty hard, yet probably the most rewarding if you’re toning up those muscles. Here are two of the many types of push-ups that you can include in your toning program today.

A. Standard Push-up

  • Get started with a high plank with your wrists under your shoulder and your hands flat on the floor.
  • Your body must be in a straight position, with your abs tightened, as you move your upper body close to the floor by bending your elbows. Remember, your elbows must be about 90 degrees angle bent for greater results.
  • Straighten up your hands to move back and to restart.

B. Inclined Push-up

This type of push-up is very helpful if you’re just starting with the program, and could not perform the standard push-ups properly.

  • You should place your hands on a surface, like your chair, bed, or table.
  • Stand facing your bed, chair, or table and place your hands on the edge. The placement must be a little wider than the width of your shoulder, with your elbow straight, but not locked. Set your body straight by aligning your feet and your arms.
  • Bend your elbows to move closer to the edge while you inhale, and then push away, as you exhale, your body until your elbows straighten up.
  • Do and repeat this slowly.

2. Standing Lunges

This type of toning workout works best in improving your lower body’s agility, strength, and endurance. It also may help you shape your lower body muscles and can make your hips more flexible. So if you’re trying to even out your lower muscles, then this is the right exercise for you. Here’s how you do it:

  • Stand straight with your feet flat on the floor, aligned to your hips. Relax your shoulders and take your chin up.
  • Take a wide step forward with your right foot, with your knees bent, and your thigh parallel to the floor. You have to keep your hips even as you bend forward. Do this by stepping your heels first on the floor so you can properly lift your weight forward.
  • Use your right heel again to light your weight upward and back to your original position.
  • Do this reciprocally with the other foot.

3. Plank Taps (Shoulder and Knee)

Plank is one of the strongest workouts that target your core. However, you can incorporate another technique that will target another part of your body while your core muscles are burning out, such as the Plank Shoulder Tap and the Plank Knee Tap. Your core muscles include muscles on your abs, back, and around your pelvis. With this, the muscles in your glutes, wrists, arms, and shoulders are also targeted. Here’s how to properly execute your plank taps:

  • Get started in a plank position. Your wrists should be under your shoulder, and your feet wide apart. Straighten up your body.
  • To incorporate shoulder taps, tap your right shoulder with left hands, and vice versa.
  • For knee taps, make sure hands are placed below your shoulder, with your palms laid flat on the floor. With a straight and stretched body, slowly control your left knee to tap the floor, and bring it up upward immediately to its original position. Do the same with the right knee.
  • While doing the plank, your abs, or your core, must be tightened, and your head, neck, and spine must be aligned with each other.

4. Squats

Squats target your lower body muscles, such as your thighs, its quadriceps and hamstrings, and glutes. When performing this exercise, your back muscles, core strengths, and ankle mobility are tested and improved. How do you do this correctly?

  • Stand straight with your head facing forward and your breast out. Place your feet apart as parallel to your shoulder, or maybe slightly wider. Choose the best foot stance you’re comfortable with.
  • You may also extend your hands straight out in front of you to balance your position.
  • To do the squats, push your hips back and down as if you have an imaginary chair to sit on. While doing this, your body must bend a bit forward and your head to its original position.
  • To get the most out of this exercise, your thighs must be parallel with the floor when you are bending down your knees.
  • Use your heels, with your body and core tight, as you push through your original position.

5. Boot Camp

Boot camp is a perfect way to enjoy your journey to becoming fit and toned. This is actually not a type of exercise; rather it’s an organized group of adults, with professional trainers, who perform several types of exercises at the parks or your local gym. So this is actually more of a program. The workouts employed for this program are almost similar for the circuit training workouts, so it’s not advised for beginners. This type of exercise could be done in high frequency or in low frequency, depending on the goal of the group.

A study (5) conducted in 2000 revealed that although the effect of either high-frequency training (HFT) or low-frequency training (LFT) is similarly effective in improving lean mass and strength, the effect of HFT in muscle strength is higher. Improved strength could lead to performing circuit training workouts. Examples of exercises for boot camp are standing lunges, push-ups, crunches, and burpees. One advantage of this is it can be motivational since you can pull in your circle of friends and enjoy the program together. A research (8) involving medical students also suggested that group fitness classes such as boot camp can improve mental health better than doing exercise alone.

6. Single-Leg Deadlift (Kettlebells)

If we tell you that this kind of exercise is also known as “non-surgical butt lift,” you would probably know what this is for. This exercise is one of the many exercises you can do using a kettlebell. It enhances your core, hamstrings, glutes, quads, hips, back, and your shoulder.

  • Stand straight as you hold and hang a kettlebell in one hand.
  • You should execute a one-leg stand on the same side that you’re holding the kettlebell.
  • Never lock your knees when you try to bend at the hip. It must be soft so it can be slightly bent.
  • As you lower the kettlebell to the ground, extend your free leg behind. Maintain a flat back, parallel to your free leg behind.
  • Make sure you maintain a good grip to the kettlebell throughout the process to calm your muscles.

7. Triceps Extension

Your triceps are one of the most revealing parts of your body. So it’s really important to keep it shaped up. Your triceps are practically functioning every time you move your hands; like when you bend, push, or pull using your upper limbs. A strong and toned triceps aid you in performing several tasks every as it improves your blood circulation, muscle strength, and flexibility. And one way to do your triceps a favor is performing the overhead triceps extension.

  • Get a set of dumbbell (choose your weight depending on your ability) and hold it with both hands.
  • Your head must face forward.
  • Maintain a straight position from your head up to your toes as you lift the dumbbells facing the roof with your hands straightened up, and the elbows facing the front.
  • Then bend your elbows to squeeze the triceps as you slowly lower the dumbbell behind your head. Return to the original position and repeat.

8. Shoulder Stand

Also known as a supported shoulder stand, this exercise is taught for yoga beginners and requires many balance and strength. When doing this exercise, it is very important to follow instructions strictly as it may pose risks when done inappropriately.

  • Fold two blankets to support your back and your shoulders, with your head on the floor, and then form the Plow Pose.
  • From that pose, bend your elbows and extend your hands on your back. Your fingertips must be facing upward to support your hips. Always keep your elbows wide as your shoulder.
  • Now you’re ready to lift your feet up, facing the ceiling, or whatever it is above you. Lift up using the balls of your feet. While you’re doing this, it’s important that you keep your head faced up and not facing sidewards to prevent neck injuries.
  • Maintain the pose after breathing out ten times.

9. Pilates

This type of toning workout is specifically designed to improve the body’s flexibility, core muscle strength and endurance, balance, and posture, all at the same time. It also has beneficial effects (6) sleep quality, anxiety, depression, and fatigue among elderly women. It was developed by exercise pioneer Joseph Pilates while he was in forced internment during World War 1. Pilates is anchored on quality, not quantity, to produce the best outcomes, so it’s advised to make each rep as strong as possible. Pilates workouts include Pilates Curl, Roll Up, Single, and Double Leg Stretch, and Crisscross. Although there are not enough empirical research to support the effectiveness of this type of exercise, the theoretical mechanisms on how and why Pilates is effective to seem to be well-established, thus, the need for more research (7).

10. Two-Arm Dumbbell Rows

If you’re aiming to have that body perfect in a killer dress, then this one ‘s for you. Dumbbell Row exercise is a simple yet demanding type of toning workout that targets your upper body, especially in your back muscles. With two dumbbells, you can shape the muscles in your back, glutes, shoulders and arms, and neck because it thickens the muscle fibers in the said areas. Here’s how you can do it:

  • Get two light or medium-weight dumbbells and hold it with both hands. Your thumb fingers should point one another so your palm could face your body.
  • Slightly bend your knees, and your waist forward. Your chest should be leaning forward over your feet. Your feet stance should be at least shoulder-wide.
  • While holding the dumbbells down in full arms, lift the equipment up to the stomach level in strong force, and then slowly bring it back to the original position. Repeat.
  • When doing this exercise, your back should constantly be moving, so always keep your head up


The workouts mentioned above are just some of the dozens of toning workouts available for you. If you’re doing this on your own, without the supervision of a professional fitness trainer, you have to consult first your physician if you can physically be able to perform these. If you’re given the green light, what’s next is to set up your program, and add a spice of your determination and willingness to suffer the pain and to reap the gain.


(1) https://nypost.com/2011/02/17/women-are-sex-starved/
(2) https://info.umkc.edu/news/thin-is-in-think-again/
(3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6086030/
(4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16095413
(5) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4836564/
(6) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31097181
(7) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3666467/
(8) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29084328

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