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Cardio for Toning Muscles

author image Michelle Dawn
Michelle Dawn has written professionally since 2005, covering a variety of topics over that time, the majority of that work focused on health and well-being. A Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Certified Yoga Instructor, she enjoys teaching others how to live their healthiest, happiest life.
Cardio for Toning Muscles
Improve muscle tone with an effective cardio workout on an elliptical machine. Photo Credit rilueda/iStock/Getty Images

Cardio is one of the most effective fat-burning forms of exercise, and with a well-planned workout routine, you can use cardio exercise to build muscle and achieve a tight, toned appearance. The right cardio exercises and equipment will help you tone your muscles, from your chest to your calves. Choose the right exercises and get enough workouts in through the week, and you can get the results you`re after.

Upper Body Cardio Ideas

The major muscle groups in the upper body include the biceps and triceps in your upper arms, the pectoralis major and minor muscles in the chest, and the abdominal muscles. For toning muscles in the upper body, the rowing machine is one of the most effective pieces of cardio equipment you can use. The rowing movements on this machine work particularly the muscles in your arms and chest, but they also work your core muscles, helping you build strong, toned abs.

Cardio for the Lower Body

The lower body is primarily made up of the quadriceps and hamstrings in the thighs, the gluteal muscles in the buttocks, and the gastrocnemius and smaller soleus muscles in the calves. To tone the muscles in your lower body with cardio, try the elliptical machine, to build your calves, quads and other leg muscles. The treadmill also works well to build stronger, more defined muscles in the lower body. Walk or run at an incline of 2.0 or more to maximize your muscle-toning results.

Planning Your Workout

Even with all the right exercises, you won't get the toning effects you're hoping for if you're not exercising often enough. Aim for four to five cardio sessions a week, working out for about 30 to 40 minutes a day. Don't forget to spend five to 10 minutes warming up before your workout, and fit in some post-workout stretching to help promote flexibility and prevent next-day muscle soreness.

Calories and Weights

Although adequate cardio activity will burn calories and help you shed those layers of fat, resulting in an overall toned appearance, it's also important to include resistance training as a major part of your total workout plan. Include enough exercises to work all of the different major muscle groups in your body and to prevent strength imbalances and postural difficulties, warns the American Council on Exercise.

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