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woman smiling toning up

Easy Workouts To Help With Toning Up

6 MIN READ • 2nd December 2021
Stacey Carter by Stacey Carter

How to work on toning up

There’s nothing quite like the care-free world of the playground, where days are spent playing red rover, getting ‘married’ every week and skipping with your BFF until the sun goes down. Although nowadays the games are competitive, the matrimonies legal (hopefully not every week!) and the friends are different, there’s one thing that can still give us a pang of nostalgia – jumping rope. The boundless energy of a young whipper-snapper may be hard to find after a 60-hour working week, but it turns out those youthful activities have more body benefits than we first thought, especially of the toning up variety. 

Crossfit, Body Pump and Bootcamp may have replaced the humble PE lesson, but skipping has prevailed as the go-to exercise for an all-over body workout that not only helps you with toning up your legs, abs and arms but also gives you a serious cardio boost. They didn’t tell you that in school, did they? You might not think that bouncing up and down on the spot does a lot, but it unwittingly forces your body to engage, working muscles you didn’t know you had, helping with the overall toning up process.

Not only does the plyometric move raise the heart rate in a short amount of time (torching calories as it does so), it also tones your centre as the core works overtime to steady the movement. After jumping rope for just 10 minutes, three times a week, you should start to see more definition in the calves, thighs and glutes (from consistently bouncing on your toes), abs and lower back (to stabilise you), and the arms and shoulders (each turning motion tones the whole arm). With the outside taken care of, personal trainer Matt Roberts tells us how it can help the inside, too. “Skipping is a great, cost effective cardiovascular exercise for strengthening your heart and lungs, and thus can help prevent type 2 diabetes and heart disease,” he says. Not to mention the benefits it has in helping you tone up and reduce your body fat.

Skipping as a fat burning exercise 

Whether it’s pounding the pavement or pumping iron, skipping can give your workout routine the shake up it needs by taking your body out of its comfort zone. “In terms of effectiveness as a fat burning activity, skipping works best when used in high-intensity intervals, meaning that you should work hard and fast before slowing down (or stopping) to rest, then going again,” Matt tells us. “It compares favourably to many cardiovascular workouts in that it can burn a lot of calories in a brief space of time. It has less impact on your joints than running, and requires less space and equipment than many activities with comparable benefits.”

How many calories does skipping burn?

It’s hard to believe that a childhood game could hone your body into a lean, fat-burning machine, but jump rope does just that by torching 10 calories per minute. OK, it may not sound like much, but Matt puts it into perspective. “Per hour, skipping blitzes 1,000 calories compared to 800 for jogging and 400 for yoga. The amount burned will depend on how the activity is performed, and how hard you can push yourself. Realistically, most people won’t be skipping for an hour, but 20 minutes of intense, fast skipping will burn a significant amount of fat. It is a good way to fit in some great exercise in a relatively brief space of time.”

Tone up with this jump rope workout

If you’re a beginner, this is a perfect way to ease into a jump rope workout. As you become more advanced, add in single leg jumps, sit-ups and push-ups instead of resting intervals.

Skip gently for 25 jumps

Mobilise the legs with 10 lunges and 10 side lunges

Skip gently for 25 jumps

Mobilise the upper body and triceps with side bends and arm circles

Skip for one minute

Rest 30 seconds

Skip for one minute

Rest for 45 seconds

Skip for 90 seconds

Skip gently for 25 jumps

Stretch the hamstrings, calves and quads

Skip by numbers

Jump rope facts

  • 7 feet long is the average length of a skipping rope. It should reach both shoulders when you stand in the centre of it.
  • 45 minutes of running has the same health benefits as 10 minutes of skipping according to the British Rope Skipping Association.
  • Zero is the amount it costs to skip after buying a rope.
  • 12 muscles work hard with every leap.
  • Five minutes of jumping warms up your entire body – perfect for chilly weather.
  • 10 minutes of skipping is equivalent to running a mile in eight minutes.
  • 1,000: the amount of calories burned after an hour of jump rope.
  • 25 percent increased fitness was reported in women who jumped rope for five minutes a day over four weeks.

Want to work on increasing your muscle tissue? This guide will help you out. 

Exercises to strengthen abs 

The experts at Total Fitness have put some of their favourite moves together that will help to work all the key muscle groups, and get you in shape. Carry out each exercise for 45 seconds, then rest for 15 seconds before moving onto the next. Repeat the five-minute circuit as many times as you like to help with toning up.

High knees 

This is a great way to warm up while targeting your lower abs, giving yourself a quick blast of cardio.

To complete this simple cardio-intensive exercise, start from standing a position and run on the spot as fast as you can, raising each knee so it’s on a 90 degree angle to the floor.

This exercise engages the core and works the leg muscles whilst getting your heart rate up. It’s the perfect warm-up to keep the pounds off.

The superman

Strengthen your lower back and abs with the superman pose. Start by lying on your front with arms and legs extended away from you.

Raise your arms and legs off the floor simultaneously and engage your core to lift your chest off the floor a little.

Hold for a few seconds before returning to your start position. For a more advanced exercise, whilst in the hold position, move your limbs in criss-cross motion as though making a snow angel.

Mountain climbers

Mountain climbers, or hill climbers, is a great full body workout that exercises almost every muscle group, whilst getting your heart rate up to burn belly fat.

To perform a hill climber, get into plank position and raise one knee up to your chest at a time, ensuring your back remains straight at all times. Perform the action one leg after the other and as fast as you can.

Ball slams

The original ball slam is a great way to elevate the heart rate quickly whilst developing core strength, positioning itself as a fantastic calorie burner.

Stand with your feet hip-width apart, squat down keeping your back straight, drive the ball upwards with your arms fully extended and the ball overhead, then accelerate downwards back into the squat position slamming the ball into the ground on the way down.

Try and catch the ball on the bounce and keep it fast-paced for a great cardio/strength workout.

Plank dips

Plank dips are a fantastic workout for toning the obliques while also strengthening your core and upper body.

Holding an elbow plank with your core tucked in, rotate your left hip so that it almost touches the mat then do the same on your right side.

Continue this sequence of rotations with a strong plank posture to really target that muffin top and define your waistline.

How to build lean muscle

If you want to try to tone your legs, glutes and entire body, our article on four toning workouts from Virgin Active personal trainer Helen Russell will kick start your journey. Helen’s workout plan targets a key muscle group each week, for four days, with strength training such as yoga or Pilates being the focus of the remaining three days. You’ll notice greater muscle definition, and are likely to see weight loss results, too.

Want some upper body exercises? Try this workout. Or, if you’d like to try to work on your core muscles, head over to the NHS website for this speedy 10 minute routine

What to eat to help you with toning up

Besides your workout, it’s important to eat well if you want to work on your body fat percentage. A few simple tweaks to your diet can make all the difference. Especially if you want to tone up. So we spoke to health and nutrition expert Karen Cummings-Palmer about what to eat if you’d like to see results. Remember – to create sustainable changes, it’s important to focus on more than just muscle toning exercises, but how you can get it functioning and feeling it’s best, too!

Eating breakfast is essential for kick-starting your metabolism, so start the day with good quality protein, such as the humble egg, poached on avocado with a slice of rye bread.

Nutritious fat is most definitely your friend if you want to tone your body. Avocados and olives are rich in oleic acid that can help regulate insulin levels, in turn regulating metabolic function.

Raw apple cider vinegar helps rid the body of excess toxins. Create a supertonic by adding a tablespoon to warm water with a teaspoon of turmeric and a little raw honey.

Seaweed is rich in iodine, which can balance thyroid function and boost your metabolism.

Asparagus is one of the most nutrient-rich vegetables on the planet, full of skin-enhancing zinc, vitamins A, C and E and potassium, which helps flush out excess fluid.

Wild salmon is rich in anti-inflammatory Omega 3 – an essential fatty acid that not only helps break down fat and ease bloating, but will also support your skin, hair and nails.

Green tea is rich in antioxidants and natural caffeine, which will stimulate your metabolism. Look out for matcha, which has 10 times the antioxidant value of green tea.

Meet the writer
Stacey Carter
Senior content writer

When I’m not at my desk writing a feature or researching the latest trends in women’s health, you’ll probably find me deep in a book or doing a LISS-style session in the gym in the evening. I have a work-in-progress relationship with putting the alarm clock on snooze.

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