Having more toned, strong muscle that fat benefits your health in a number of ways. First of all, the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, even when you aren't exercising. You also lower your risk for certain medical issues like heart disease and diabetes, as the more fat you have on your body the more strain on your vital organs.
But there isn't just one way to burn fat and build lean muscles. Changing up your routine can keep you from getting bored and your results from plateauing, which can be incredibly frustrating. Three of our favorite ways to tone the body are weight lifting, plyometric exercises and static holds. Here's why:
Toning Method No. 1: Weight Lifting
Using weight is the best way to build strength not just in the muscles but also in the joints. If you're just starting out, begin with a weight low enough you can perform the reps with proper technique but heavy enough you still feel resistance -- if your muscles don't feel fatigued at the end of your set, you'll need to up the intensity. Perform as many repetitions as you can without compromising form. Increase your weight and/or reps gradually to continue seeing results. Make sure to add this form of strength training to your routine two to three times per week. See more of our tips for using weights safely and effectively here.
Toning Method No. 2: Plyometrics
Plyometric exercises involve jumps that challenge the muscles at both launch and landing. These exercises also get the heart pumping to burn calories. Basic plyometric exercises include jumping jacks, high knees and butt kicks. To take things to the next level, consider 180 jump squats or figure skaters that have a more difficult landing that engages the muscles of the legs as well as the abdominals. Make sure you're properly warmed up before performing plyometric exercises to avoid injury and and work your way into several repetitions to condition your joints. Add plyometrics in between strength training moves to up the calorie burn.
Toning Method No. 3: Static Holds
Holds are a low-impact way to tone and strengthen the muscles using only your body weight to start with. These exercises challenge the muscles by keeping them constantly contracted for a set period of time with you hold a particular posture or position. Using a wall or the floor can allow you to perform a number of static holds such as wall sits or planks. To challenge the muscles of the back, you can also lay on your back on the group, bend your elbows to 90 degrees and press the upper body and backs of your arms into the ground. Hold these positions for as long as you can to feel the burn -- static holds are a great way to end a workout.
Try incorporating any or all of these types of toning exercises into your fitness routine to trim and tone the muscles for a lean, sculpted physique.