Women Who Want Toned Legs – Mix Weights & Cardio

To get toned firm legs you must mix weight training with cardio

Women out there are always talking about getting thinner, toned, firm, sexy legs. They try all sorts of diets and workouts but never seem to get the results they want. Perhaps the fear of weight training is holding them back?

Weight training is essential for toned legs

For some reason women are afraid of weight training. I talk about it a lot here at Real Women’s Fitness; they seem to think that after one session of weight training they are going to have huge bulky legs like Arnie. Well, this isn’t the case. It isn’t going to happen.

Weight training is the best way to change your body. Stimulating muscle growth not only makes you look more defined and toned but the added muscle actually burns fat. That is how it works. The more muscle you have the faster your metabolism will be and the less calories you will convert into fat.

Weight training also boost your metabolism for the whole day that you weight train. This is one of the best ways to burn fat and keep a toned appearance.

Why mix cardio and weights?

Mixing cardio and weights is so important if you want to change the shape of your legs. It is especially important if you want to tone them and make them more defined.

We have to look at the basics:

Firstly, losing weight is the only way you will look toned. If you have a nice shaped body with good muscle composition it doesn’t really matter if you have a layer of fat covering them. So first you should look to losing some fat through high intensity cardio.

Secondly, you need to add some muscle. This changes the shape of your body’s muscles as well as helping to burn some fat.

Mixing the two together is a powerful combination that will result in excellent all-round fitness as well as weight loss and toned legs. It is a little bit like the two wheels of a bike. You can get somewhere on a uni-cycle but it is much faster on a two wheeler!

How should I weight train for toned legs?

If you want to tone your legs you have to forget about all that rubbish on the internet that tells you to opt for higher reps. I went on a few women’s websites today (who will remain nameless) and so many of them are telling women to use higher reps if they want to tone their legs.

Their logic is this: If you don’t want to build big muscles you should use high reps and a low weight so that whatever muscle you have gets toned.

This is absolute crap and has no basis in fact at all. Doing lots of reps with a low weight will not tone the muscles. The only way you can tone muscles is to lose the fat on top of them. And lots of reps on the bench press is not going to do that! The reason we weight train is to stimulate muscles growth to accelerate our fitness levels and then our weight loss. To do this we need heavy weight.

If you lift a pencil 1000 times you will not make any progress. If you lift a 10 kilo dumbbell 20 times you will make some progress. The body needs to be stimulted and challenged to grow and as such you need to keep lifting heavier and heavier weights.

But won’t heavy weights make me big?

No! They won’t. This is especially true if you are doing a lot of cardio. It is very hard to put on muscle mass while you are doing cardio. It is also hard to put on muscle mass if you have the female genetic make-up. Women aren’t built for it.

If, however, you do want to put on muscle you need to increase your protein a lot and perhaps look into getting a personal trainer that can take you to the big-time. Adding huge muscle mass is hard for women and requires a lot of work.

If you want to tone your legs I strongly recommend you give weight training a try. Add it into your current program of cardio and you will see the difference within a few weeks. It is a much more powerful way to get the toned legs you want.

About Katie

Katie has transformed her body from a flabby 186lbs, to a fit & toned 124 pounds through healthy diet and exercise. Katie joined the Lean Curves team in 2007 and has posted hundreds of articles on fitness, fat loss and healthy eating.


  1. Jessie says:

    Yeah it really is so so important to mix the two. I agree with you, women really are scared of working with weights. I don’t know why, they have the information to know better.

  2. Hannah says:

    I always thought I would get big until I started reading rwf. I guess it is true what RT says about weights not going to make you huge if you only do it every now and then. I think it is good advice.


  3. Fitness one says:

    Love this site!

    Awesome job!

  4. francesca says:

    im soooo glad i found this site. there are so many useful articles. brill!

  5. homina says:

    i am so strong now…kiss me or i crush you!!!

  6. Kylee says:

    Thanks for that information I have been power walking, using the exercise bike and the stepper only to try and tone my reasonably large legs but in 12 months no real result. I will give this a bash and see how I go.
    I also thought that it would make my legs big but after reading all the information that I can it seems I was mistaken. :-)

  7. Tracy says:

    Hi there, I also enjoyed this site and found the information very useful. however my concern is not losing fat but gaining or building muscle in my (Bird) legs. I have a slender frame but fill out those “womanly curves” I would like for my legs to be in proportion with the rest of my body

  8. Nisa says:

    Thanks for all informations you gave. They could help a lot for me I read over and over get more knowledge do correctly each exercise. Thanks

  9. Aletta says:

    Thanx so much…great info!

  10. Katie says:

    I workout with weights and cardio. I usually do about 30 minutes on the elliptical and then hit the weights. I do almost all the leg machines. My legs are only getting bigger though. I want to look leaner. What should I do?

  11. amanda says:

    This information is very helpful. i have so many people telling me that because i do running and other cardio, as well as weights my legs will begin to look bulky. nice to know it wont happen !

  12. Rachel says:

    Thanks so much for clearing this up, my trainer has given me weights and high cardio for toning and increasing my fitness, but i was worried the leg weights would make me large!

  13. anon says:

    i do a lot of cardio, yet i find that my legs are still chubby despite my fat percentage being down to 20 per cent. i do not find it difficult to slim down, even without having a proper diet i am a ble to loose weight…however when i want to loose weight i always eat just fish and veg and do a lot of cardio, why it seems that cellulite is always there or is it just my immagination? i got injuries due to weight training so what if just cardio is it enough? please help

  14. Vicky says:

    I am afraid i totally disagree with this article. It depends on your muscle mass and the way you are formed. I do a lot of cycling and my legs have increased considerably in size. I also do running but still they are very bulky. A professional cyclist told me that she cycles in the easy gears for less resistance. If she peddled in higher gears, she wouldn’t be able to get her shorts off. I had exactly the same problem when mixing cardio and weights at the gym – i had to give up weights because of the way my legs expanded.

  15. confused says:

    why are there so many comments disagreeing with your article?

  16. Ryan says:

    People are getting bigger legs because they are continuing to eat more than they burn. If you lift weights you will add a little muscle. Not a lot but some. For women it is slower but if you do it all the time for a long time muscle growth will happen if you are at a calorie surplus. Cut your calories down and you shouldn’t have to worry about adding too much muscle. This should only be done after a certain amount of muscle is gained. Most women wouldn’t have an access of leg muscle but cyclists might. If they want to lower their muscle they will have to stop doing resistance training, cut their calories, and do high intensity cardio which burns a higher percentage of muscle than low intensity.

  17. gym says:

    Cardio is one of the most important things you can do for your body, whether you want to lose weight, build muscle or improve
    your health. The great thing is, there are plenty of choices for cardio
    exercise. Anything that gets your heart rate into your target heart rate zone
    will work. The confusing thing is, there are so many
    choices out there…which exercises are the most effective?

    There’s no ‘right’ cardio exercise and the best choice is the one you enjoy and the one you’ll work hardest at, but there are some that work best if your goal is to blast calories and get in great shape

    Running is a great choice for a variety of reasons:

    It doesn’t require special equipment (except some quality shoes)
    You can can do it just about anytime, anywhere
    It’s high impact, which helps build strong bones and connective tissue
    It gets your heart rate up more quickly than low or no impact exercise.

    Whether you’re outdoors or indoors, cycling is an excellent cardio workout. By using the power of your legs, you increase endurance while burning lots of calories, anywhere from 250-500 in 30 minutes, depending on how fast you go and how high your resistance is. What makes cycling even better than other activities is that you can incorporate it into your daily life. You can ride to and from work or use your bike to run errands around town. It’s also low impact, which is great for your joints and perfect cross-training for high impact activities like running or aerobics.

    Walking is another great choice for cardio because,
    like running, it’s accessible: You don’t need special equipment and
    you can do it anywhere, anytime. It’s harder to get your heart rate up with walking since it’s low
    impact but, if you work hard at it, a 145-lb person can burn about 180 calories in 30 minutes.

    This is an often overlooked machine in the gym because we’re confused about how it works and, perhaps, aren’t sure it delivers
    a great workout.

    However, rowing is a physically demanding
    exercise involving both the upper and lower body, which means a higher heart rate and a greater calorie burn.

    Like an elliptical trainer or stationary bike, there are different levels of resistance, allowing you to get a challenging workout no
    matter what your fitness level. In 30
    minutes, a 145-lb person can burn about 300 calories, but if you’ve never tried rowing, it can be tough. Start with 10-15 minutes and add time to subsequent workouts to give your body time to adapt.

    step aerobics

    Step aerobics is another great choice, particularly for people who like choreographed workouts, but don’t enjoy
    the jackhammer feel of high impact aerobics. The step offers intensity without the pounding and it’s easy to up the energy by adding risers.

    It’s also a great calorie-burner, targeting your legs, butt and hips while burning 300-400 calories
    in 30 minutes (during high intensity sessions). Though it might look complicated, step is easy to learn if you
    start with a beginner class or video.

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