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Gym Exercises for Toning

By Andrew Bennett ; Updated July 18, 2017

Both resistance and cardiovascular exercises can help you to tone up your body. One important component of improving muscle tone or definition is reducing your body fat. In fact, you already have very toned, shapely and striated muscle beneath your skin. The only thing keeping you from seeing muscle tone is body fat. By using effective exercises and training techniques, you can quickly improve your muscle tone to get into the best shape of your life and stay there.

Cardiovascular Exercise

Cardiovascular exercise is effective for toning because improving muscle definition or tone requires burning more calories, and cardiovascular exercise burns calories. Exercises like walking or jogging on the treadmill, riding the exercise bike or using the stair-stepper or elliptical machines can help you burn more calories per day. In time, this can help reduce your body fat percentage, improving your muscle tone. Do 30 minutes of cardio three to six days per week, up to two times per day, but always remember to take one day off per week for recovery. Also, do a cardio session after your resistance training, as this directly targets body fat, according to "Combat the Fat" author Jeff Anderson.

Interval Training

Interval training is a great way to burn fat because it triggers fat-burning growth hormone release and speeds up metabolic rate for hours afterward, according to "The Abs Diet," by David Zinczenko. To do this form of exercise, alternate between medium- and higher-intensity cardio activities. One example is jogging on the treadmill for 20 to 30 minutes and doing one- to two-minute running bursts every few minutes during the workout. For more intensity and faster results, you can do 15 to 30 second all-out sprints every couple of minutes.

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Squats

The squat exercise has a profound effect on muscle building and fat burning, according to the "Muscle & Performance" article "The Best Muscle-Building Moves of All Time," by Chris Logan. Since the legs are an extremely large muscle group, requiring a lot of energy and blood flow, you can burn a lot of calories with leg exercises. Moreover, squats trigger the production of more fat-burning hormones in the body, according to Logan. Try starting one or two well-spaced workouts a week with three challenging sets of squats. Start with a barbell stabilized on your upper back, palms facing out. Bend at the knees while keeping your lower back arched until your thighs are parallel to the ground or just below. Then, press with your legs back up to the original standing position, repeating for eight to 12 reps. For a real metabolic and toning boost, try three sets of 20 reps.

NA Compound Exercises

All compound exercises provide a great muscle-toning stimulus, according to "Xtreme Lean" authors Jonathan Lawson and Steve Holman. However, adding the powerful NA or negative-accentuated technique makes them even more efficient. To do this, lower the weight to a slow six-second count on any exercise, and then lift it normally in one to two seconds. The micro-tears this causes in muscle tissue take up to 72 hours to repair, burning extra calories and fat at rest during this time. Examples of compound exercises include bench presses, lat pull-downs, dips and dead lifts.

Isolation Drop-Sets

Isolation exercises work for toning specific muscles because they lengthen the amount of time under tension on those muscles in their fully contracted position, according to Lawson and Holman. You can make them even more effective by adding the drop-set technique to any isolation exercise. To do this, you perform one set of any exercise to exhaustion, immediately decrease the weight and do another set to exhaustion without resting. Drop-sets become even more powerful when you add more "drops," doing double or triple drop-sets. Isolation exercises include concentration curls, dumbbell triceps kickbacks, leg extensions, leg curls and chest flyes.

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