Top Ten Toning Exercises For Women

Top Ten Toning Exercises For Women

If you are someone who thinks you need to do countless hours of mind-numbing cardio to acquire a ‘toned’ or ‘lean’ look , think again! Whilst performing cardio CAN help with achieving a lean look, it may not be the most effective way to achieve the toned look that many women dream of. Fear not, below we have devised 10 of the best exercises that everyone should include in their training program. In conjunction with an appropriate diet and supplementation program, performing these exercises can help you get one step closer to your desired aesthetic look.

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Related Article: What NOT To Do For Fat Loss

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Legs and Booty

 

1. Squats

Primary Muscles Involved: Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings and Calves. Different Squat variations will alter the involvement of individual muscle groups, but all are still involved nonetheless.

Benefits: Because there are multiple muscle groups being used at the same time, the squat is considered a compound movement. By recruiting more muscle groups during leg exercises, this movement will:

  • Burn more calories in the same time frame than when targeting one muscle group
  • Improve intramuscular coordination
  • Elevate the heart rate more and in turn improve cardiovascular health

 

Variations:

  • Barbell or Dumbbell Squat
  • Sumo Squat
  • One Legged Squat
  • Box Squat
  • Front Squat

 

Tips for Performing a Barbell Squat:

  • Maintain neutral spine
  • Push through your heels
  • Sit back into the squat
  • Allow for a controlled eccentric (downward) movement
  • Avoid 'bouncing' at the bottom
  • Achieving ‘Ass to grass’ (or ATG) depth is not a necessity. In fact, depending on your form, capabilities and experience with weight lifting, squatting until thighs are parallel to the ground may be safer

 

2. Deadlifts

Primary Muscles Involved: Glutes, Quads and Hamstrings. The variation of the deadlift performed can change the level of involvement of certain muscle groups, but all are still involved nonetheless.

Benefits: Performing the deadlift has the highest amount of muscle fibre recruitment compared with any other exercise and thus is the most taxing on the body. The amount of volume that can be performed with this exercise will burn a significant amount of calories both during the movement and for up to 48 hours post exercise!

Variations:

  • Deficit Deadlifts
  • Stiff Legged Deadlift
  • Sumo Deadlift
  • Arabesque (Single legged Deadlift)

 

Tips for Performing a Barbell Deadlift:

  • Maintain a neutral spine throughout the lift
  • Push the hips back
  • Maintain a tall chest and keep the shoulders back
  • Tuck the chin
  • Avoid over-extension of the lower back
  • Avoid 'squatting' the deadlift upward and push the hips back to aid in the pulling of the movement


3. Lunges

Primary Muscles Involved: Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings and Calves. The variation of the Lunge will alter the involvement of different muscle groups, but all are still involved nonetheless.

Benefit: Lunges are highly beneficial for improving neuromuscular co-ordination unilaterally. They improve body awareness that will transferred into and improve bi-lateral movements such as the Squat.

Variations:

  • Stationary Lunges
  • Walking Lunges
  • Backwards/Reverse Lunges
  • Dumbbells/Barbells or Body Weight

 

Tips for Performing a Walking Lunge with Dumbbells:

  • Maintain a neutral spine
  • Avoid holding your breath!
  • Only go as far down as comfortable. If form begins to break, reduce the load.
  • Make sure knee is in-line with middle toe
  • Knee must stay in-line with the hips
  • Avoid collapsing forward


4. Hip Extensions (Glute Bridges)

Primary Muscles Involved: Glutes, Hamstrings, Adductors, Spinal Erectors (isometric contractions). Once again, depending on the variation, load can be placed differently on the muscles.

Benefits: The Glute bridge can help with stabilising core muscles and strengthening the lower back as well as gluteals, which can be beneficial to those who have to sit at a desk for work at for longer hours.

Variations:

  • One legged Hip Extensions
  • Banded Hip Extensions
  • Weighted Hip Extensions
  • Lying Hip Extension
  • Standing Hip Extension with Resistance Bands

 

Tips for Performing a Lying Hip Extension:

  • Lie on the floor, bent knees and feet flat on the floor
  • Keep a neutral spine
  • Feet in-line with knees, knees in-line with hips, hips in-line with shoulders
  • Push through the heels of your feet
  • Squeeze the glutes and lift hips towards the ceilings
  • Avoid over extension of the lower back

 

Shoulders


1. Shoulder Press

Primary Muscles Involved: Anterior Deltoids (all heads of the deltoid but mostly Anterior/Medial), Triceps

Benefit: Shoulder exercises are beneficial as they aid in everyday activities. They can also help strengthen the muscles around the joint, which can be considered a problem area for some. Shoulder exercises can help with stabilisation as well as mobilising the shoulder joint overhead through strengthening end range of motion.

Variations:

  • Dumbbell Shoulder Press
  • Barbell Overhead Press
  • Military Press
  • Arnold Dumbbell Press

 

Tips for Performing a Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press:

  • If you're a beginner, perform this movement seated. Once comfortable, standing actually has less compressive force on the spine
  • Hold the dumbbells (use knees to support the weight when lifting into initial position).
  • Despite some literature, we recommend bringing the dumbbells slightly below 90 degrees to allow for greater stretch reflex and put less stress through the shoulder


2. Flyes, Raises and Face-Pulls

Primary Muscles Involved: Posterior Deltoids, Anterior Deltoids and Lateral Deltoids.

Benefits: These types of exercises are considered to be ‘isolation’ movements, whereby one single muscle group is the driver of the movement. Some benefits of isolated exercises include:

  • Ability to perform more volume to these ‘secondary’ muscles
  • Ability to target certain muscles that may need more attention without recruiting others ie for Rehabilitation purposes
  • Less taxing on the central nervous system versus compound exercises.

 

Variations:

  • Rear Delt Flyes (Posterior Delts)
  • Front Delt Raises (Anterior Delts)
  • Side Lateral Raises (Lateral Delts)
  • Cable Face Pulls (Posterior Delts)

 

Tips for Performing a Side Lateral Raise:

  • You can both stand or sit when performing these exercises (standing will require more stability through the core).
  • Ensure the palm of your hand is turned downwards before lifting the weight
  • Avoid turning your thumbs DOWN at the top of the movement 
  • Elbows should be slightly bent
  • Ensure a neutral spine during both standing or sitting variations

Back


1. Rows

Primary Muscles Involved: Latissimus Dorsi, Rhomboids, Posterior Deltoids and Biceps

Benefits: Rowing movements have been shown to help increase strength in the upper, lower and middle sections of the back. This in turn, can help strengthen spinal positioning and alignment. A stronger back can also help alleviate lower back pain

Variations:

  • Barbell Row
  • Cable Row
  • One Arm Dumbbell Row
  • Hammer Strength Row Machine
  • Seated Row
  • One Arm Cable Row

 

Tips for performing a Seated Row:

  • Squeeze the upper back and keep the scapula retracted and tight, avoiding hitching at the shoulders.
  • Remember to breathe out as the weight is being lowered
  • Maintain a neutral spine
  • Try not to let shoulders round when arms are extended
  • Do not swing to  build momentum; feel the 'squeeze' in the desired back muscles 


2. Lat Pull Down

Primary Muscles Involved: Latissimus Dorsi, Rhomboids, Posterior Deltoids and Biceps

Benefit: This back exercise is a great way to gain strength and mobility that will help build up to the famous ‘pull up’ or ‘chin up’ movement. This exercise can also increase flexibility, range of motion and positioning of the spine.

Variations:

  • Wide Grip Lat Pull Down
  • Narrow Grip Lat Pull Down
  • Reverse Grip Pull Down
  • Parallel Grip Pull Down

 

Tips for Performing a Lat Pull Down:

  • Maintain a neutral spine throughout the movement. If the weight is too heavy, the spine will begin to hyper-extend; lower the weight to improve form for a better result
  • Complete the movement when the bar reaches the chin, not the chest
  • Ensure the weight is transferred evenly throughout the movement
  • Relax the shoulders to avoid ‘hitching’ or 'shrugging'


Chest


1. Chest Press

Primary Muscles Involved: Pectorals, Triceps and Anterior Deltoids

Benefit: These exercises will help balance body strength, especially if a person may be more ‘leg dominant.’ Muscular imbalances can lead to injury. Once again, Chest Presses are considered a compound movement has a world of benefits that can help in everyday activities as well.

Variations:

  • Barbell Chest Press
  • Incline/Flat Dumbbell Chest Press
  • Wide Grip Barbell Chest Press
  • Narrow Grip Barbell Chest Press

 

Tips for Performing a Barbell Chest Press:

  • Maintain a neutral spine (assuming this is not for Powerlifting)
  • Keep feet firmly on the ground
  • Ensure the bar travels evenly on both left and right sides (no dipping)


2. Push Ups

Primary Muscles Involved: Pectorals, Triceps and Anterior Deltoids

Benefit: Similar to the Chest Press

Variations:

  • Standing Push Ups
  • Push Ups on Knees/Toes
  • One Arm Push Ups
  • Medicine Balls Push Ups
  • Wide Grip Push Ups
  • Narrow Grip Push Ups

 

Tips for Performing a Push Up (Toes):

  • Maintain a neutral spine (no dipping through the lower back)
  • Avoid ‘flaring’ of the elbows
  • Achieve a 90-degree bend at the elbow at the bottom of the movement for ideal depth
  • Keep elbows soft
  • Inhale as the elbows bend, exhale as the elbow extend

 

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