Pump those muscles into shape with a workout plan that tones and sculpts, blasting fat and building curves. Your routine should include both cardio activity and resistance training. Cardio offers major calorie-burning benefits plus aerobic conditioning and strength. Resistance training builds lean muscle mass. If you are new to exercise or have any existing medical conditions, consult your doctor before starting a new workout plan. And don't forget about diet: you will not lose fat unless you eat less than you burn.
Cardio (aerobic) activity is the cornerstone of your workout routine, helping shed fat to reveal a toned body. Perform an hour of cardio five days per week. (See Reference 2) If you do not want to pay for a pricey gym membership, no worries -- all you need are your own two feet. Do walking/running intervals by walking briskly for three minutes, then running for 30 seconds to a minute; continue the cycle until you reach 60 minutes. The intense intervals will give you a more effective workout and help prevent boredom. (See Reference 3)
At the Gym
For more cardio options, just head to your nearest gym. Stick with a five-day-a-week plan, using the elliptical machine, treadmill or exercise bike for 60 minutes per workout. With these machines, you have the added luxury of customized resistance, so take advantage. Start out at a low difficulty setting, and bump it up a notch every four weeks for greater muscle toning. Incorporate intervals into your routine by going at a moderate pace for three minutes, then stepping or pedaling rapidly for 30 seconds to a minute before switching back to the easier pace. (See Reference 3)
Do muscle-building exercises four days a week. For optimal posture, work each major muscle group, but not at the same time and never two days in a row. At home, do body weight exercises such as lunges, leg lifts, crunches, assisted pushups and dumbbell exercises. At the gym, do not be afraid of that crowd of men in the weight room; get in there and pump some iron. On day one, work your calves, stomach and shoulders. Day two, work your upper legs. Day three, work your biceps and back, and day four, pump your triceps and chest. (See Reference 4)
If weightlifting is not your thing and the thought of a biceps curl makes you cringe, get your strength-training groove on with yoga. Part meditation and part muscle-building, yoga uses breathing techniques and artful poses to tone your body and increase flexibility. What's more, regular yoga improves your posture, creating a longer, leaner look. For the greatest muscle-strengthening benefits, choose a more intense yoga style such as Ashtanga or Vinyasa. Perform yoga three times weekly as your resistance-training activity. (See Reference 1)
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.