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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.

how to get lean and toned

GETTING BULKY

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.

muscle toning

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!

GETTING TONED 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.

CARDIO

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.

fat loss

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).

RESISTANCE TRAINING

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.

SUMMARY

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 experience, and the changes that I have made to my workout program over the years. I know a lot of women have experienced similar issues, and it is the main reason that I designed my Lean Legs Program 1.

Love Rachael xx

Rachael is an Australian born certified personal trainer and nutritionist who holds a Bachelor degree in Science.

After struggling for years to find an exercise and diet program that is tailored to women striving for lean and toned body with no bulk she designed her Lean Legs Program. This program is tailored to each body type and focused on helping women get toned but feminine bodies, without getting bulky.

Her mission is to empower women and help them stay in shape in a healthy and balanced way.

42 Responses

  1. Will this program help slim
    Your arms too? My focus is to slim and tone my whole body arms, tummy and legs so just want to make sure this helps your arms too. What have the results been witj women’s arms?

    1. Hi lovely,

      The 3 Steps To Lean Legs Program is designed to help you get lean and toned legs without bulking. It will help you slim down your legs, but will also help you slim and tone your upper body and core too (the workouts are full body).

      You can check out some of our before and after photos through this link. :)

      If you have more questions, feel free to email us at info@rachaelattard.com

      Love,
      Len

    1. Hi lovely <3

      Thanks for reaching out!:)

      Let's start with your body type!:)

      You can do this quick Body Type Quiz, it will only take a couple of minutes. <3

      Once you have the results, feel free to email me at info@rachaelattard.com and I will gladly give you some tips!:)

      Love,
      Sara

  2. I am trying to be/get lean, but also toned. My focuses are my abs and legs. I have been going to a gym since mid-June. I either walk two miles/ride a bike 5 miles a day, 5 days a week. I also do 100 abdominal, 100 lower back extension and 100 leg press on three different machines. I just added the pullover machine for my arms. Do you recommend I change up my workout routine? Do you suggest I can do anything else to make my workout better?

    1. Hi lovely,
      We would love to help you as much as we can :) So that’s why we have created the Lean Legs Program.

      The program has been designed to include the perfect type of resistance training and cardio to give you a lean and toned look, without making you bulky.
      It’s an 8 week workout and nutrition plan designed to help you slim down your legs, but will also help you slim and tone your upper body and core too (the workouts are full body).
      It also includes a full meal plan, a separate recipe eBook and demonstration videos.

      You can find out more about the Lean Legs Program here:

      Lean Legs Program

      For more helpful info please have a read of these blog posts:

      https://www.rachaelattard.com/female-guide-how-to-get-lean-and-not-bulky-skinny-legs/

      https://www.rachaelattard.com/best-ab-exercises-for-a-flat-and-toned-stomach/

      Love,
      Diana
      xx

  3. Hi, just wanna ask, I’m skinny but I have my belly fat☹️. I read a lot of things how to lose belly fat but I’m not sure what’s the one that’s effective ☹️. Hoping that you can recommend some tips or exercises for me. Btw I’m a teenager so I’m not sure what’s the one that can help me. Thank you☺️

  4. Hi! This i exactly what I’ve been looking for ? But have a quick question. What types of workouts do you do in your HIIT routine? Mostly i worry about my legs getting bulky so want to avoid that if i can, but i do need something to tone my ghs and such. Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi lovely,
      I`m happy you`ve found the blog useful :) The program is created carefully for each body type so that you don`t get bulky. If you get bulky very easily I would avoid HIIT and heavy lifting and focus on cardio and circuit training. You can find out about your body type here.Xx

  5. long distance bike riding can create a spectacular body and works out the abs like crazy, all while slimming your calves, thighs, and arms. I got the body I wanted commuting around town about 60-80 miles a week for about 2 years.

    1. Hi there, that’s really great to hear! I think cycling can work for some body types and not others. But long distance cardio will definitely help slim down :) I’m happy for you! xx

  6. Hi Rachel :) after reading your post, I was wondering if you could let me know if i am on the right track with my exercise routine? I am quite short 161 cm and 56kg I do approx 15 minutes of HIT with some light weights every day as well as walking and a 3 pilates sessions per week. I am trying to develop more lean and toned muscle particularly in the arms and legs and loose some of the bulk i have gained. I have a bit of a sweet tooth :) and was wondering if there is anything you
    could recommend for me?

    thanks :)
    Sophie

    1. Hi Sophie, lifting every day seems like a lot! If you’re trying to get rid of bulk it could be a good idea to reduce the lifting. And obviously diet is really important! It’s OK to eat a bit of sweet food as long as it’s only a little bit (everything in moderation!). Good luck xx

  7. Hi Rachel this blog is the best!
    I’m mesomorph, I run sometimes, and I’m doing fitboxing 2-3 times a week and reformer pilates 2 times a week.
    Do you think fitboxing is a replacement for running ?
    I have fat in my hips and inner thighs
    I don’t know what to do
    Please help me

  8. I am a mesomorph. I have had times in my life where I’ve had muscular legs and times when I’ve had skinny legs. I started training with a personal trainer 5 months ago because I had extra weight I wanted to lose and just wanted to get back into all those clothes that don’t fit anymore. I told him on day one, my legs are prone to get very muscly, and I didn’t want them to bulk up. He looked at me like “That’s not how it works”. After about 6 weeks when he still doesn’t believe me, I show him a picture of my legs from a time in my life when I was doing zero exercise and my legs were really muscly. We cut out all leg exercises but some other exercises also use legs and I’ve ended up will the results I didn’t want. My arms are also larger than I would like now too. :'(

    I’m now at a stage where there is no fat on my legs, but I still can’t wear skirts because my legs look so big and chunky. I have not lost any weight or any inches. My diet is very healthy and I am at a comfortable calorie deficit, so hopefully, I will slim down even it takes a while.

    I am really happy to find this website and Rachael’s programme because at last, someone realises and acknowledges that women can build muscle and actually we don’t necessarily want that particular shape. I really enjoy working out and I want to be strong without building muscle. Thank you, Rachael, for letting me know it is possible.

    1. Hi Liane, I’m so sorry to hear that this happened to you! :( I hope I can give you some hope, good advice and some different styles of workouts that will suit you better. Keep up the hard work and I know you will get the results you’re after. Good luck! xxx

  9. hi rachael u r blog is very nyc..first of all, thanks for all your helpful blogposts! …i want to lose my thigh and butt fat ..i started my workout 2 weeks ago…i m doing jogging for weekly 5 days ( 30mins at 7km/hr )….and aftr running weekly 3 days i m doing exercise like pilates ,jumping rope , donkey kick ,lying leg lift , hip bridges….am i doing in a ryt way ? this type of exercise will help me to reduce my thigh fat ? …please give some tips..please help me…

    1. Hi hun, I would do the jogging 3 days per week. And I would also try to run a bit quicker (at least around 9 or 10km/hr if you can). I would also try to do as much walking as you can to help slim down your legs and reduce thigh fat. Other than that, you’re doing great babe. Keep it up! xx

  10. This is a great website and blog, for too many years the whole fitness industry has completely denied that certain exercises can make women bulky. Too often we’re working against our own goals. What are your thoughts on dance cardio? Also, if you bulk incredibly easily, do you think it’s best to only do cardio? It’s so great to find a blog, written by another woman, with educated information and rationale. Thank you for this!

    1. Hi Alex, thank you! :) I personally LOVE dancing, so I think it’s great! It actually burns a surprising number of calories and shouldn’t cause bulk. If you bulk easily, then yes I think you should focus on cardio. But I do think that some resistance training is still important – exercises like this should help keep you toned but not add bulk! xx

  11. Hi Rachael,
    thank you so much for your helpful posts. I am in my late thirties, lost a lot of weight after my pregnancies..eating healthy! But the problem I have now is that my legs are skinny and very soft with cellulite. Pls advise me on the best way to get toned thighs!
    Thank you.

    1. Hi Ana, you’re very welcome! In your case, I would suggest HIIT as the best option to help tone your thighs. Building muscle through this type of exercise will help you tone up all over and help get rid of your cellulite :) Good luck! xx

  12. Hi Rachael, I definitely agree that power walking is the way to go!

    I was wondering what your thoughts were on spinning/cycle classes as a cardio workout? I’ve started going 1-2 times a week and I love it, but I’m worried that it will bulk up my thigh/butt muscles.

    (I have a mesomorph body type.)

    1. Hi Kate, I think cycle classes are great and I’ve personally had great results from them. As long as you’re careful with your resistance training, I think 1-2 classes per week should be OK! xx

  13. Rachel is it possible to get the workout program only? Partly because I’m vegetarian.
    You write exactly about the problems I have with working out

    1. Hi Heather, they come as 1 eBook so it is all together. You can definitely alter the nutrition program to make it vegetarian by swapping out the meat. If you do buy it, I can also help you tailor it to suit you and come up with some alternatives :) xx

  14. I’ve read that walking on a treadmill on a really high incline can help burn fat and I was wondering if it was true or if it would just make my legs bulkier?

    1. Hi Kristen. It will build muscle and may make you look bulkier. There are better ways to build muscle that benefit your whole body; so if you’re walking, I would just stick to a flat surface if you can xx

  15. I have same question as rachel and also how long do u run and at what intensity to prevent muscle loss and promote fat loss.

    1. Hi Ruxx, check out my reply to Rachael :) I usually only run for around 20-30 minutes, unless I’m training for something. When I run I’m usually pushing myself hard but not so hard that I can’t maintain the speed. It’s usually somewhere around 11-12km/hr. To promote fat loss, you need to be feeling like it’s a bit hard – but usually any running will burn fat. Running actually builds a bit of muscle; but to make sure your run doesn’t burn muscle, avoid running in a fasted state and make sure you eat carbs 1-2 hours before your run xx

  16. Hi Rachael, this blog post was so helpful, thank you so much. I’m just wondering are all your running and power walking sessions fasted cardio?

    1. Hi Rachel, you’re welcome! Most of my power walking sessions are fasted – I love starting my day off with a walk. But I don’t usually run fasted. It’s more difficult to run in a fasted state and I find that I can’t run as long as usual. So I prefer to run mid morning or afternoon, depending on my schedule xx

  17. Hey Rachael! Thank you for your advice. I am not really a big fan of running…do you think working out with a cross trainer / elliptical trainer will also lead to these results? (I have one at home) How often for how long should I use it? Thank you

    1. Hi Lia, you’re welcome! A cross trainer won’t give you the same results as walking and running unfortunately. It depends on your goals – if you want to lean out your legs, I would try to do more walking. You don’t necessarily need to run, but it will help you get results quicker. High intensity or intervals on the cross trainer could be a replacement for running, but you may not get the same results xx

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