The Toning Workout For Women (And The 10 Best Exercises)

Hello, ladies. I know exactly why you’re here.

You want a toning workout plan that is comprised of the best toning exercises and designed specifically for the two main goals most women have:

  1. To get toned, sculpted, and lean.
  2. To avoid getting big, bulky, and manly.

Does that sound about right? Cool, because I’ve created a completely FREE workout for this very purpose.

Let’s get down to it…

(By the way, be sure to read all of this. You may miss something important if you don’t.)

How To Get Toned (Without Getting Bulky)

Everyone knows that the typical woman doing some form of weight training is doing it for the purpose of building “lean muscle” that makes her body look slim, toned, sexy, and feminine.

The typical man, on the other hand, weight trains for the purpose of building “bulky muscle” that makes his body look big, powerful, and masculine.

The question is, what are the weight training differences that separate these two goals?

Well, there are a few. However, there’s one major difference that ranks above them all. It’s the key factor that matters the most, and you probably already know what it is…

Light Weight + High Reps + Toning Exercises = Tone

There it is. There’s the big “secret.” That’s the key to getting a toned body.

Basically, I can sum up it all up like this…

  • Lifting light weight for high reps on the right exercises builds the lean/toned muscle most women want.
  • Lifting heavy weight for low reps on the right exercises builds the big/bulky muscle most men want.

As long as you do what you’re supposed to be doing based on your goal, and you avoid what you need to be avoiding so you don’t cross over into the opposite goal… you’re going to get the results you seek.

With me so far? Good.

(By the way, none of this is actually true. What you’re reading is a parody. Keep going and you’ll see what I mean. 😉 )

The 4 Keys To An Effective Toning Workout

With all of that in mind, here are the 4 key components to designing the most effective toning workout possible…

  1. It needs to involve lifting light weight only.
    Anything too heavy will quickly build bulky muscle, which you don’t want. This is why heavy weight must be avoided completely, and light weight must be exclusively emphasized.
  2. It needs to involve high reps only.
    If your rep ranges get too low, it will negatively affect the type and texture of the muscle tissue you’re building. For this reason, low reps must be avoided.
  3. It needs to involve the right toning exercises.
    There are tons of different dumbbell, barbell, machine, and body weight exercises for different goals, but some of them are much more ideal than others when it comes to toning.
  4. It needs to target the right areas.
    While your workout will target your entire body, we definitely want to place more emphasis on the areas that matter most to women. For example, the backs of the arms (aka “bat wings”), legs/thighs, butt, stomach, and so on.

(Nope, this stuff isn’t true, either. Keep reading… it will all make sense in a minute.)

Now that you’ve learned what works, what doesn’t work, and the proven science behind it all, it’s time to finally show you the workout routine that puts it all together.

The Schedule

Week 1

  1. Monday: Workout A
  2. Tuesday: off
  3. Wednesday: Workout B
  4. Thursday: off
  5. Friday: Workout A
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

Week 2

  1. Monday: Workout B
  2. Tuesday: off
  3. Wednesday: Workout A
  4. Thursday: off
  5. Friday: Workout B
  6. Saturday: off
  7. Sunday: off

As you can see, this plan involves three total weight training days per week using a full body split, with two different full body workouts – “A” and “B” – which you simply alternate between.

Your “off” days can either be used to rest and recover, or for doing endless hours of cardio. Whichever you prefer.

Now let’s look at the workouts themselves…

The Toning Workout For Women

Workout “A”

  1. Pencil Bench Press
    3 sets of 50 reps.
    (This is just like a normal dumbbell or barbell bench press, except you will hold a pencil in each hand instead. Beginners can feel free to break a single pencil in half and use one half in each hand if a whole pencil feels too heavy.)
  2. Scarf Back Squats
    4 sets of 25 reps.
    (During traditional back squats, you place a heavy barbell on your back and then perform the exercise. However, that heavy barbell will only make your legs thick and bulky – practically overnight – even if there are no plates on the bar. To avoid this, we’re going to do our squats while wearing a nice lightweight scarf instead. This will provide all the resistance we need.)
  3. Empty-Handed Bent Over Rows
    3 sets of 42 reps.
    (Get into the same position you would for bent over dumbbell rows. However, leave those big scary dumbbells on the rack for the men who are trying to get bulky, and instead do your rows with nothing more than your own empty hands. If you happen to be wearing any large rings at the time, you may want to remove them first to avoid making your empty hands too heavy.)
  4. Pink Dumbbell Circuit
    5 sets of 20 reps.
    (For this one, you are to choose 3-5 dumbbell exercises at random and perform them in a circuit using pink dumbbells. Please note that your dumbbells must weigh no more than 2lbs each, and they MUST be pink. If your dumbbells are any other color (black, gray, silver, etc.), your muscles may be shocked into growing too much, too quickly.)
  5. 1000 Crunches
    1 set of 1000 reps.
    (Literally do 1000 crunches. This is going to be KEY to toning your tummy and getting a flat belly as fast as possible.)

Workout “B”

  1. Ziploc Bag Deadlifts
    5 sets of 15 reps.
    (Get yourself a Ziploc bag or any similar resealable plastic bag – sandwich size should be perfect – and fill it with air by blowing into the bag and then quickly zipping it up. From there, place the bag on the floor in front of you and proceed to deadlift it for the specified number of sets and reps. If preferred, other variations such as the Sumo Ziploc Bag Deadlift or Romanian Ziploc Bag Deadlift can be done instead.)
  2. Overhead Hair Presses
    3 sets of 20 reps.
    (If you have long hair, pull out one single strand of it and press it overhead like you would during a barbell shoulder press. If you have short hair or perhaps really thick eyebrows, you can pull out two strands and use one in each hand. Never more than that though, as an additional piece of hair would be too heavy for toning and would greatly increase your risk of instantly becoming bulky.)
  3. Paper Kickbacks
    5 sets of 38 reps.
    (These are just like normal tricep kickbacks, only instead of holding a light weight dumbbell, you will hold a piece of paper that says “light weight dumbbell” on it. The weight of the ink will make the paper just right for building toned muscles.)
  4. Soup Can Curls
    3 sets of 25 reps.
    (Yup, bicep curls with soup cans. But please remember to eat the soup first, as we need these cans to be empty! Curling a full can of soup has the potential to give you man-arms for sure.)
  5. Endless Hours Of Cardio
    Literally that.
    (Everyone knows the key to getting a sexy feminine body is doing endless hours of cardio. So… at the end of this workout, get on a treadmill and do moderate steady state cardio for as long as you possibly can.)

There you have it! Those are the full details of the most effective toning workout you will ever find!

Put it into action, work hard, be patient and consistent, and you will build the toned, sexy, slim, defined, lean, sculpted, feminine body you want. I guarantee it!*

(*I don’t actually guarantee it.)

This Is All Bullshit.

Um… so… yeah. About everything you just read…

It’s a joke. Complete bullshit from beginning to end.

And while many people surely caught on to this fact from the start, I’d bet that quite a few people are now wondering “Wait… what joke? This advice seems accurate to me and is very much in line with the type of toning workouts for women I see all the time.”

Yeah, so, about all of that… it’s complete bullshit, too.

Let me explain…

The Truth About “Toning” And “Getting Bulky”

Here are the ways in which we can change how our bodies look. We can:

  1. Build muscle.
  2. Lose muscle.
  3. Gain fat.
  4. Lose fat.

And… that’s it.

But what about getting toned, you ask?

Well, here’s what “tone” is.

It’s building some degree of muscle (#1 on the list above) and losing enough fat (#4 on the list) so that the muscle you’ve built becomes more visible.

This, in a nutshell, is all “tone” is. Muscle – fat = tone.

But what about getting too bulky, you ask?

Well, here’s what “bulkiness” is.

It’s when you either:

  • A) Unintentionally build more muscle (#1) than you’d prefer to have… something that is pretty rare considering how frustratingly slow the realistic rate of muscle growth is (yes, even under the best possible circumstances where a person is purposely trying to get as big and bulky as possible, as fast as possible). For example, the average intermediate man might gain a whopping 1lb of muscle *per month* while the average intermediate woman – who has significantly less testosterone than a man – might gain about half that (details here: How Much Muscle Can You Gain?).
  • B) Gain more fat (#3) than you’d prefer to have, which covers your muscles and prevents you from looking “toned” while simultaneously making you look bigger and thicker because layers of fat on top of layers of muscle tends to have that effect. This, by the way, is the most common reason why women think they look too “bulky.” It’s not because there’s too much muscle. It’s because there’s too much body fat on top of that muscle.
  • C) A combination of both.

But then you may wonder…

Aren’t There Different “Types” And “Textures” Of Muscle?


You can’t build muscle that is bulky, or lean, or toned, or sculpted, or feminine, or manly, or anything else.

Muscle is muscle. You’re either building it, or you’re not.

Now, sure, muscle can certainly appear differently on different people based on their genetics, body type, the amount of it they’ve built, and how much fat they do or do not have on top of it.

And while this may create an illusion of there being different types of muscle, the reality is that there aren’t. It’s all the same damn muscle tissue.

Additional details here: Lean vs Bulky vs Toned

But then you may wonder…

What About Weight Training?


Doesn’t Certain Weight Training Make You Toned?

As in… don’t light weights, high reps, and special toning exercises make people toned, sculpted, defined, slim, and feminine?

No, they don’t.

Will light weights make me toned?

In fact, the silly “toning workouts” many women do – which involve doing magical “toning exercises” with not-even-remotely-challenging weights (e.g. 2lb pink dumbbells) for a seemingly infinite number of reps that may sometimes make you “feel” like you’re doing something productive – will neither build muscle nor directly burn fat… therefore serving no real beneficial purpose to the goal of getting toned.

And so, in the end, these silly myths about “toning” and unwarranted fears about getting “too bulky” prevent women from doing what they actually need to be doing to build the body they want. (More about what that is in a minute.)

Additional details here: How To Get A Toned Body

But wait…

Doesn’t Certain Weight Training Make You Bulky?

As in… don’t heavy weights, low reps, free weights, and compound exercises make people bulky and manly looking?

No, they don’t.

The only things that lead to getting “bulky” are excessive amounts of muscle (which, as I explained earlier, is quite rare and something that is virtually impossible to unintentionally happen… details here: I Don’t Want To Get Too Big) and/or excessive amounts of body fat (which easily happens all the time).

And the only thing that makes a woman look “manly” (at least, by my definition) are steroids and various other performance enhancing drugs. Which, by the way, are frequently used by the female bodybuilders and female athletes most women point to as examples of the “too big and bulky” body they are scared to death of getting.

Well… fear not!

As long as you don’t use the same drugs those women did, you’re not going to look anything like that. Hell, many men can’t get those results naturally (despite trying as hard as possible to make it happen).

Additional details here: Weight Training For Women

The Big Point

So, the next time you’re thinking about lifting “light weights for high reps” and doing the best “toning exercises” and the most effective “toning workouts” in your quest to “get toned” while avoiding getting “too bulky,” please take a moment to realize that…

  1. Your logic is fundamentally flawed.
  2. You’re unlikely to be doing anything that will result in building the muscle you need to build and/or losing the fat you need to lose in order to achieve the “toned” appearance you seek.

And that brings us to one final question…

How Do You Actually Get Toned?

Simple. You just need to build more muscle and/or lose more fat.

How do you actually do those things? Here are the basics…

How To Build Muscle

  1. Create A Sufficient Muscle Building Stimulus
    Use an intelligent weight training program built around the same fundamental principles that EVERYONE (man or woman) needs to put into action to build ANY amount of muscle (5lbs, 10lbs, 50lbs… whatever). Because, regardless of whether you want to build so much muscle that you look “big and bulky,” or you want to build just enough to look “lean and toned,” the weight training stimulus that makes it happen is exactly the same. And while there are many factors involved here (frequency, schedule, volume, intensity, and so on), the most important factor of all is progressive overload. Which means, the biggest key to building muscle is lifting weight that is legitimately heavy and challenging for you on each exercise, and then gradually getting stronger over time. You know… the complete opposite of the “toning workout” nonsense most women are doing. Full details here: How To Build Muscle: The 15 Step Guide
  2. Eat A Sufficient Amount Of Calories
    Once that muscle building stimulus is in place, you need to supply your body with everything it needs to actually build that new muscle. This includes eating enough total calories to support growth. For some (most notably beginners or people regaining lost muscle), it is possible to build muscle while in a deficit or at maintenance (at least, for some amount of time). For everyone else, however, a small caloric surplus will be optimal (source). 100 calories above maintenance per day is a good starting point for most women. Details here: How Many Calories A Day?
  3. Eat A Sufficient Amount Of Protein (And Carbs/Fat)
    From there, also be sure to eat a sufficient amount of protein each day. 0.8-1g per pound of your current body weight (use goal weight if you’re very overweight) will be a good place to start for most. In addition, you want to make sure that you’re not going detrimentally low when it comes to carbs or fat, either. Full details here: How To Calculate Your Macros

(By the way, if you’d like to have all of this stuff put together for you, my Superior Muscle Growth program will be worth checking out.)

How To Lose Fat

  1. Create A Consistent Caloric Deficit
    A caloric deficit is the sole cause and requirement of fat loss, and a moderate deficit of about 20% below your maintenance level is a good place to start for most. This can be accomplished by eating less, burning more, or some combination of the two. Details here: How To Lose Weight Fast And Keep It Off and How Many Calories A Day?
  2. Eat A Sufficient Amount Of Protein (And Carbs/Fat)
    Just like before, you still want to ensure you’re eating enough protein each day (the same recommendation applies: 0.8-1g per pound of your current body weight, or goal weight if you’re very overweight), as it will play important roles in the fat loss process (everything from controlling hunger to preserving lean muscle). And once again, you also want to avoid going detrimentally low in carbs or fat. Full details here: How To Calculate Your Macros
  3. Create A Sufficient Muscle Building/Maintaining Stimulus
    As I mentioned a minute ago, some people will be able to build muscle while losing fat. The weight training guidelines mentioned/linked above apply here, too. For everyone else, you’re going want to put similar weight training guidelines into action more so for the purpose of maintaining muscle while losing fat, this way the weight you end up losing is body fat rather than muscle tissue. Full details here: How To Lose Fat Without Losing Muscle

(If you’d like to have all of this stuff put together for you, my Superior Fat Loss program will be worth checking out.)

The End

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About Jay
Jay is the science-based writer and researcher behind everything you've seen here. He has 15+ years of experience helping thousands of men and women lose fat, gain muscle, and build their "goal body." His work has been featured by the likes of Time, The Huffington Post, CNET, Business Week and more, referenced in studies, used in textbooks, quoted in publications, and adapted by coaches, trainers, and diet professionals at every level.