Still confused at whether you should lift weights or do cardio to tone? We got the verdict on the best way to tone and the type of training you need.

The verdict: WEIGHTS

Tone is a misnomer – the watered down version of what it means to have ‘washboard abs’ to placate the girls who fear bulk. When we improve ‘tone’, what we are really improving is the image of the muscle beneath the skin – toned muscles have a larger level of contraction when we are at rest, meaning the shape of the muscle is emphasised. While any form of exercise will help to improve the resting contraction of the muscles, exercises that specifically target the musculature obviously work best. And targeting muscles means smashing it out in the weights room.

“Irrelevant of whether they get physically bigger or stay the same size, training your muscles will cause them to seem leaner and naturally have a stronger look,” says

excercise scientist Johann Ruys.


“While any weights-based program will aid in tone, it’s generally recommended to stick with hypertrophy- and endurance-style sessions, especially for beginners. They are easier to perform, more taxing on the cardiovascular system and are less likely to cause injury.”

The increased energy burn induced by endurance-style training will also facilitate fat loss, leading to less packing between muscle and skin and resulting in a leaner look.


Endurance-specific weight training provides the muscle targeting required for adequate toning without the fear of creating a physique competitor’s muscle size.

“For pure toning, endurance training is best. It harnesses more energy burn but also stimulates your ‘slow twitch’ muscle fibres, which do not dramatically increase in size,” says Ruys. “This means there is no chance of ‘bulking up’ – although there is very little chance of naturally bulking up to the degree women often fear anyway.”

Think two to three sets of an exercise with upward of 12 repetitions at each. Ensure short rests, approximately 15 to 30 seconds between sets for maximum muscle stress.

Try this circuit workout to get your heart rate pumping.