The Best Full Body Toning Workout Plan For Women

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There are many reasons to work out, but a common reason cited by women is to ‘tone up’. In this blog, PureGym Denton Gym Manager and Personal Trainer Laura Melia looks at what toning actually is, the best way to get toned, and shares a full body toning workout plan for females to try.

Jump straight to the women’s full body toning workout plan.

What Does Being ‘Toned’ Mean?

Being ‘toned’ usually refers to a physique that is lean with firm, defined muscles. This look is achieved by building muscle mass and attaining low body fat. As such, a workout plan for women to tone up should involve some kind of strength training to build muscle – we touch on this more below.  

What Is Skinny Fat?

A common mistake beginners make is attempting to achieve a toned physique by losing weight through cardio and dieting, and neglecting building muscle. This can lead to what is commonly known as a ‘skinny fat’ appearance. This refers to when a person has a low weight or BMI, but with a high body fat percentage due to low muscle mass.

Being skinny fat can be associated with poor metabolic health, increasing risk of diseases like type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, and circulatory disorders.

How To Tone Up

There are two parts to achieving a toned look: building muscle and having a low body fat. This can be done by:



  • Challenging the muscles with resistance training at least twice a week per muscle group. This can be with free weights, resistance machines, resistance bands, or even bodyweight workouts. They key is to sufficiently challenge the muscles so that the body repairs and rebuilds them.

  • Eating enough protein. The amino acids in protein are used by the body to repair the muscles. If you are strength training without eating enough protein, you may struggle to grow your muscles.

  • Getting enough calories. It can be tempting to cut calories when you want to look leaner, but you need to have plenty of calories to build muscle and fuel your workouts. If you have excess fat to lose, choose a moderate calorie deficit to assist with weight loss while prioritising strength training and lots of protein – this will allow you to build muscle while lowering your body fat. If you are at a healthy weight, you can either eat at maintenance calories or at a moderate calorie surplus.

Toning Vs Building Muscle: What’s The Difference?

Although they’re spoken about as different things, toning and building muscle both refer to the same thing – increasing muscle mass. However, they involve slightly different goals, which can impact the process:



  • Toning refers to having both muscle definition and low body fat to create a lean, athletic look.

  • Building muscle refers to creating noticeably bigger muscle mass, which can impact your body proportions more dramatically – for example bigger glutes or arms.

Both involve strength training to stimulate muscle growth, and both usually involve some kind of nutrition and diet to help achieve the desired look. So why is it that people looking to tone up are often scared of building muscle?

There are a few reasons this might be the case, including lack of knowledge around what being ‘toned’ means or how to achieve it, and fear of getting bulky from building muscle. Building muscle mass is actually very challenging – it requires a lot of training, eating in a calorie surplus, and a lot of patience! It’s very rare for someone to accidentally build significant bulk without trying, particularly for women who are slower to build muscle than men due to hormonal differences.

Frequently Asked Questions About Toning



  • How can females tone up fast? There is no quick way to get toned unfortunately. With regular training and a good diet, you should start to see improvements in your body composition within 4-12 weeks. Changes in the first few months are often at a more rapid rate, than for someone who has been training longer term, although improvements can be made over and over again.

  • How can women tone their arms? The best way to tone your arms is through a mixture of upper body compound exercises like chest press and lat pulldowns, and arm isolation exercises like bicep curls and tricep extensions. This will help to create enough stimulus to build muscle in the arm. Depending on your body fat percentage and where you store fat, you may also need to lose some fat through a calorie deficit.

  • How can women get a toned stomach? For a toned stomach, you’ll likely need to combine some fat loss with core strengthening exercises like crunches and planks. Genetics also play a big part in how ‘toned’ your stomach can look.

  • Can women over 40/50/60 tone up? There is no age limit to toning up or building muscle! In fact, as you get older it becomes even more important to build and maintain muscle mass as women who have gone through the menopause are at higher risk for muscular atrophy and bone loss. While hormonal changes associated with the menopause can make it more challenging to lose weight, resistance training can help to create a more toned appearance while improving muscle and bone health. Check out our guide to fitness and the menopause here for more information.

  • Does cardio help with toning up? Cardio is not crucial for creating a toned appearance. If you are trying to lower your body fat, cardio can help, but a calorie deficit is more important in doing this. Cardio is great for overall health, so we do recommend including some cardio in your workouts, but if your goal is to tone up prioritise strength training.

Read also:
The Ultimate HIIT Workout For Men

Women’s Full Body Toning Workout Plan

Choose weights that are challenging but allow you to complete the reps. As you get stronger each week, increase the reps of weights to continue to challenge the muscles. For example, if you can manage 10 reps of 10kg in week 1, you would take increase the reps until you can do 12, and then increase the weight so you can only manage 10 reps again. Continue to repeat this each week.

The Best Full Body Toning Workout Plan For Women



  1. Squats – 4x 8-10 reps

    Choose from bodyweight squats, goblet squats, or barbell back squats depending on your ability. Make sure you can complete your reps with good form, including getting your thighs parallel with the floor.

  2. Inclined shoulder press – 3x 10-12 reps

    You can either do a seated dumbbell press and set up a bench up to create an incline back support or use the shoulder press machine. Ensure your feet are flat on the floor, back is flat against the support, and that you fully extend the arms without locking your elbows out.

  3. Seated row – 3x 10-12 reps

    You can either do seated rows on the cable machine or using the resistance machine seated row. Ensure you fully retract your elbows back, and be careful not to sway too much with the movement.

  4. Lying hamstring curl – 3x 10-12 reps

    Make sure you adjust the hamstring curl machine so that the pad rests above the heels. Keep your feet flexed and hips firmly on the bench during your reps.

  5. Bicep curls – 3x 10-12 reps

    You can perform bicep curls with dumbbells or using the bicep curl resistance machine. Make sure your upper arms and torso stay still throughout the exercise, and if using the resistance machine keep your elbows pressed firmly into the support pad.

  6. Tricep extensions – 3x 10-12 reps

    Can be done with dumbbells as an overhead tricep extensions or on the tricep extension machine. Keep your torso and upper arms still to avoid moving load away from the triceps.

  7. Press ups – 3x 8-10 reps

    If you can’t do full press ups, perform kneeling push ups or incline push ups. Keep your core engaged to avoid the hips sagging – they should stay in line with your shoulders throughout.

  8. Russian twists – 3x 10-12 reps

    Russian twists can be made more challenging by holding a dumbbell, or by extending the legs out farther than the body. 

You should start to see results within 4-12 weeks when strength training regularly. Get more tips and advice on building muscle here and nutrition and diet advice here to get started.

For bespoke advice and training programmes, why not work with a Personal Trainer? Find your nearest gym here.

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