This is my journey over the past few years to find out how to get a lean and toned body. A lot of you already know my story. When I first started getting into fitness, I did cardio only and ab exercises.
I was quite skinny and wasn’t toned. I was eating really healthy and exercising a lot, but couldn’t work out why I couldn’t get abs, even though I did LOTS of ab exercises.
It wasn’t until I started doing resistance training that I finally understood. The abs seemed to come quite easily! I started out with the basic 3 sets of 12 reps, training different parts of my body on different days. After a few months, I was so lean and toned and was really happy with my body.
I started mixing up my program, lifting heavier, focusing on strength… Fast forward about a year and my body had become too muscular for my liking. I didn’t look bad, but I didn’t like how my crop tops no longer fit as my back was much broader. My legs were also really muscly and seemed to have more fat on them. I hated wearing jeans because they just felt so tight and uncomfortable, and I stopped wearing shorts to the gym.
I was really unhappy with the amount of muscle I’d built. I don’t really have many selfies of me when I got to this point, because I didn’t like taking them!
WITHOUR GETTING BULKY
I tried a lot of different types of exercises to slim down but still stay toned. I did a lot of cardio, which helped slim down my legs. But unfortunately getting rid of too much muscle is hard and takes a long time.
I am still trying to reduce some of the muscle. But the problem with not doing any resistance training is that you end up skinny fat and I find it a lot harder to keep a toned stomach when I’m doing cardio only. But at the same time, I don’t want to do too much resistance training or the wrong type, because then I get bulky.
I was struggling with everything for a while, not knowing how to train. But what I’ve found is that you do need a combination of both cardio and lighter resistance training to stay lean and keep toned. Let me explain each one further.
The cardio I am doing involves walking and running and occasionally boxing. They are my favourite because walking is really great for slimming down your legs and I try to do it every single day. It’s not too strenuous on your body, and for me, it doesn’t really feel like exercise – I really enjoy it!
Running is good for slimming down your legs too but also great for getting rid of excess fat on your whole body (especially stomach). Any high intensity exercise while help get rid of excess fat on your stomach. I only run for about 20-30 minutes and it is always on a flat surface. Running uphill and doing short sprints will build more muscle, and isn’t great if you’re trying to reduce the muscle in your legs.
Boxing is an amazing exercise, because it is a good combination of cardio and resistance. I always burn lots of calories and it really helps to tone up my upper body and core without building too much muscle (my arms always look leaner).
The resistance training I am doing involves 2-3 lighter resistance sessions per week. These type of resistance sessions are similar to those from my Lean Legs Program 1. But other types of lighter resistance workouts such as exercises from the Victoria’s Secret workouts, reformer pilates, pilates, barre, etc are great too! Sometimes I also do 1 HIIT resistance session per week to help keep my stomach lean. Doing too much of this type of exercise can bulk you up, legs especially. But I try to keep it to body weight HIIT exercises only.
I no longer do any heavy resistance sessions because of the bulkiness that it causes my legs. Whilst I do love lifting heavy and I also love squats and leg days, my body just doesn’t seem to respond to this type of training the way it used to and I end up bigger than I would like.
So overall, you need a combination of both cardio and lighter resistance training. If you are a really naturally slim body type (ectomorph), you may not need the cardio. But most people will need cardio to keep slim and resistance training to keep body fat down (and of course to look toned).
From my experience, this is the program that works for me and gives me the body that I prefer:
- Running 2-3 times per week
- Walking every day
- Light resistance training twice per week
- HIIT resistance training once per week
- I will sometimes try to fit in a boxing session if I have access to a gym (this will replace the HIIT session)
Everyone’s bodies are different and will respond differently to exercise. This is just my own personal
Love Rachael xx