21-Day Tone Up Workouts for Women

21-Day Tone Up Workouts for Women

Maybe it’s the beginning of swimsuit season, or maybe it’s the dead of winter. Either way, ladies, if you’re looking for a toning plan that will whip your problem areas into shape fast, then a 21-day program with both cardio and strength training exercises can work for you. Using exercises that target the areas that so many women worry about -- the stomach, thighs and rear -- these places and others will become more sculpted in just a few weeks. There’s no need to spend hours every day at the gym, either. With some basic toning exercises and minimal equipment, you will be well on your way to looking and feeling better with a healthier and fitter body in just a few weeks.

Equipment
There’s no need for a gym membership or a huge investment in lots of exercise equipment. For basic toning workouts, all you really need are a few items to use in your strength training exercises. A medicine ball is used for added weight, as are dumbbells. Try a light set with weights ranging from three to five pounds and a medium set with eight to ten pound weights so you can increase the weight as time passes. You can also use resistance bands, if you do not have dumbbells on hand. A stability ball is the final piece of strength training equipment, and this can be used for a variety of exercises. For cardio, you can use a treadmill if you have one, but another option is to simply hit the pavement or trail.

Schedule
The premise of a 21-day toning workout is for you to burn fat and tone up quickly – but you have to be committed to exercising six days per week. If you don’t love to work out, you’ll appreciate the fact that each workout is under an hour, so there’s not a huge daily time commitment. A 21-day plan relies on a mix of cardio and strength training, to work different muscle groups and keep boredom at bay. For example, you could do 35 to 45 minutes of cardio on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and strength train on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, allowing Sunday as a day to rest and recover. Or if you would like to do more intense cardio, walk or jog every workout day for 25 minutes. Then strength train every day, alternating days for upper body and lower body exercises.

Strength Training
Strength training exercises that rely on weighted equipment or your own body weight are at the core of any toning workout. For your upper body, exercises such as push-ups and planks will tone your triceps, while chest flies and bicep curls with the dumbbells will also work your arms, shoulders and chest. When holding a medicine ball, the sit and touch exercise, which is a variation of a traditional crunch, will work your abs. Planks and side reaches will also build strength in your core, exercising your abs and obliques. Lower body workouts to tone your thighs and butt include lunges and squats, add small hand weights to increase intensity. The stability ball can be used on squats, crunches, push-ups and other exercises to keep your routine fresh. Perform eight to ten reps of each exercise for two sets in the first week. Over the course of the 21 days, you can increase weights and reps as you build strength.

Cardio
Cardio exercise burns calories and melts away fat, resulting in a more toned look. During the first week of the 21-day program, plan on spending around 40 minutes walking and jogging two days per week. During weeks two and three, add more time, with about 45 and 50 minute cardio totals, respectively. A more intense option is to decrease your cardio time to about 25 or 30 minutes the first week, but do it four or five days out of the week, again adding time during weeks two and three. Throughout the plan, you should be using an interval approach to cardio, alternating high and low intensity movement, which will burn more calories and improve your performance.

Tips
Remember to always warm-up and cool down for at least five minutes before and after your workout. To warm-up, perform your cardio activity at a lower intensity. If you are going to jog, warm-up with a light walk. This allows the blood to start flowing through your body and wakes up you muscles. To cool down, end your jog with another light walk. To tone up in 21 days, try and increase your cardio and strength intensity every week, as your fitness level improves. During week two, add five minutes to your cardio routine and add another set of reps to your strength training exercises. In week three, add another five to ten minutes of cardio and increase the strength training reps to 15 to 20 and perform them for three sets.