Slim down and tone up by following this easy seven-day plan.

You’ve decided to start exercising to slim down and tone up. But like many of us, you’re crazy busy with your job, kids and endless obligations. So exactly how do you do it? First, lets break down some of the common misconceptions that might be holding you back.

Myth #1
Just work out for hours on end and you’ll lose all the weight you want.

To build your fitness level and burn maximum calories, you need a well-planned regimen that includes cardiovascular conditioning, strength training, proper nutrition and sleep.

  • Follow a workout program that you like and will stick with.
  • Consume smaller portions at meals and eat slowly; add 100-150 calorie energy-producing snacks in between meals that combine fats, protein and carbohydrates, such as energy bars, carrots with almond butter, and trail mix; always stay hydrated; and reduce alcohol consumption.
  • Shoot for 7-8 hours of sleep in a dark room at about 68 degrees six hours or less can actually contribute to weight gain.

Myth #2
Strength training builds bulky muscles.

Pound for pound, a woman’s strength development and fitness potential is very similar to a mans. The big difference is that women cannot build muscle size (hypertrophy) the way men can. What you can do, however, is increase muscle fitness.

Myth #3
The only way to perform cardio is to do 30 minutes continuously and on a daily basis.

While the American College of Sports Medicine recommends doing at least 30 minutes of cardio every day, you can break it up if necessary and accumulate 30 minutes throughout your day at a moderate to vigorous pace. Shoot for a minimum of 150 minutes a week and up to 300 as you gradually increase your conditioning.

When creating a 7-day workout plan, you’ll want to incorporate something that’s invigorating and versatile enough to change-up every day. Being able to perform the exercises at home without expensive gym memberships or fitness equipment also makes a workout easier to maintain for some people. Remember to start out slowly, be moderate, listen to your body, and never work through the pain. Muscle soreness is a normal process of getting fitter, but this will subside as your body adapts.

7-day balanced workout plan
What you’ll need:

  • Assorted dumbbells from 2-10 pounds (use lower weights in the beginning)
  • Set of three double-handle resistance tubes (color-coded for easy, moderate and heavier resistance)
  • Door jam to secure tubing
  • Circular resistance tube to place around knee or lower leg (for lower-body lateral exercise movements)
  • Optional mat (if you have soft flooring or carpeting, this may not be necessary)
  • Optional jump rope (you can also mimic jumping rope without a rope)

The key to getting fit, slimming down, toning up and sticking to it is really very simple:
Find a workout that is fun, efficient and effective.

We have only one body with which to navigate our lives, so keep it functioning well. Follow these guidelines, and start gaining the body and health you desire.

What you’ll do:

Pick one cardiovascular exercise (7 days/week)

Start with 10-minute increments, working up to 30-60 minutes of continuous exercise. During this phase, 50 percent should be vigorous, challenging and tiring (i.e., you can barely say a few words without having to catch your breath); 50 percent should be moderate (almost a complete sentence without catching your breath).

  • Walking
  • Jogging
  • Biking (indoor or outdoor)
  • Stair Climbing
  • Jumping Rope (higher intensity for shorter bouts)

Pick one upper-body exercise (2-3 days/week)

Do 2-3 sets of 10-12 repetitions per set (the last two reps should be a challenge). Rest about 30-45 seconds between sets.

  • Pushups
  • Lat Pulldown
  • Standing Row
  • Scaption (pulling shoulder blades down and back to strengthen deltoid and rotator cuff muscles)

Pushups

  • Keep body engaged and straight for whole movement
  • Bend elbows to 90 degrees for each pushup; keep head in line with spine
  • To modify, perform pushup utilizing your knees

Lat Pulldown (with tube)

  • Anchor tube over top of door
  • As you bend elbows, pull shoulders down and back
  • Squeeze shoulder blades together while pulling

Standing Row (with tube)

  • Keep shoulders down and back, with your back straight
  • Squeeze shoulder blades together while rowing

Scaption

  • Stand with slight bend in knees
  • Using light dumbbells, place arms down by sides with palms forward
  • Slowly raise arms out to sides keeping shoulders down, shoulder blades pulled back and down
  • Only raise arms until dumbbells no longer work against gravity

Pick one lower-body excercise (2-3 days/weeks)

Do the same number of sets and reps as above.

  • Squats
  • Back Lunges
  • Lateral Stepping
  • Deadlifts

Squats(with dumbbells)

  • Keeping back straight, squat down like sitting in a chair
  • Knees should not go over toes
  • Keep heels on ground during whole movement

Back Lunges(with dumbbells)

  • Step back with one leg at a time, keeping back straight
  • Front knee should not go over toe
  • Keep front heel on ground for each rep

Deadlift (with dumbbells)

  • With slight bend in knee, keep back straight and bend forward
  • Keep slight arch in back so posture stays strong
  • Only go as far as body will allow your back to stay straight

Lateral Stepping (with circular tube)

  • Start with legs together, circular band just below knees
  • Take broad step sideways, keeping back straight and feet parallel to one another
  • Take several steps one direction, then the other

Pick two core-conditioning exercises (4-5 days/week)

These exercises improve posture and reduce back pain. Each addresses a different part of your core.

  • Prone Spinal Extension
  • Bridge
  • Plank (can be modified utilizing your knees)
  • Side Plank (can be modified utilizing your knees)

Prone Spinal Extension

  • Lie on stomach, relax lower body
  • Bring arms down alongside body with thumbs turned up and out
  • Lift upper body, lowering shoulders and squeezing shoulder blades together

Bridge

  • Lie on back with knees bent to 90 degrees, shoulder-width apart
  • Brace core (engage muscles) and extend hips
  • Shoulders, hips and knees should be aligned

Side Plank

  • Lie on side, bend knees (contact point can be feet if you find knees too easy)
  • Position arm in with elbow bent so elbow is directly under shoulder
  • Elevate hips, maintaining a straight body

Becky Langton ACSM, NSCA, ACE, is a member of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Health Fitness Specialist certification committee. Langton studied Health Promotion and Wellness at the University of Wisconsin, and received her masters degree in Exercise Physiology and Pedagogy at Western Michigan University. As owner and founder of Intrinsic Motion Inc., she has merged her experience and knowledge to form a team of international experts in the fields of intrinsic biomechanics, exercise physiology, behavior change and education.