I’m sure most people agree. You want to lose weight so you look and feel better. And that can be a powerful motivator.

Wanting to look more attractive to your partner?

Need to feel more confident in your own skin?

That means we want to lose weight… don’t we?

But, losing weight might not actually make you lean.

It is definitely a start, but if you want to look toned, get rid of the flabby bits and get that athletic look, then just losing weight won’t be enough.

How come we don’t look lean?

“Losing weight surely means we are going to look leaner!”

If you have managed to lose weight that is brilliant, however it isn’t the only thing you need to do if you want to look toned and slim.

Weight loss isn't always fat loss

If you are losing weight, you are eating less calories than you burn. This means you are either eating less, doing more physical activity or a bit of both. This is a great way to start your journey to becoming lean.

However, depending on what activities you are doing, affects how you will look once you have lost the weight.

Losing weight will physically make our bodies smaller but if we have no underlying muscle, we could just end up being a smaller version of our old selves.

Yes, you will be healthier and look slimmer but you may still have a layer of fat, stopping you from looking toned and athletic.

Cardio doesn’t tone much

Usually our go to exercises for losing weight are cardio based.

More walking, jogging and cycling are all great for burning extra calories.

But they don’t help tone our muscles.

cardio for weight loss

Yes, you may see slightly more definition in your legs from these activities, but they aren’t helping you build your arm muscles to get rid of those bingo wings or sculpting your core to dispose of those love handles.

We need to train differently to get the physique we want.

Want to train to be lean?

So, how do we train to look lean and toned?

Instead of focusing on just weight loss, we need to focus on building muscle.

Now this may not sound ideal to you.

“I’ve just lost inches, I don’t want to gain them again”

Trust me, this isn’t going to happen. (Will Lifting Weights Make Me Bulky?)

Muscle is much denser than fat so actually takes up less room, meaning you could be the same weight as someone else but if you have more muscle, you’ll be the one wearing the smaller clothes.

Building muscle is going to help us burn more fat, plus make our body more toned and get rid of that jelly belly.

Looking more toned requires us to build more muscle.

And this requires us to be using resistance training (weight lifting) to build the muscle up, so when we slim down, our lean muscle will show through.

So how do we build muscle?

Scientifically, building muscle is a process where lifting heavy things breaks causing tiny tears in the muscle tissue. Then after our workout, the muscle starts to repair itself but comes back bigger so next time it will be more capable at handling the weight.

But how do we build muscle?

Doing resistance training (weight training) and eating sufficient amounts of protein (aim for at least 30g per meal) will help us build and maintain muscle.

Weight training is also, not as scary as it sounds.

weight training for toning

Most people will find bodyweight training enough stimulation to build muscle and become more toned. You only need to use the weight of your body to help your muscles grow, plus it will burn calories just like cardio.

Then once we have burnt the fat off, you’ll have slender, toned muscles on show.

Can we burn fat and build muscle?

I’m afraid there isn’t a yes or no answer for this.

If we use HIIT workouts or circuits we can be doing both resistance training (to help build/maintain muscle) and cardio (to help burn more fat).

However, eating less calories than we burn makes it very hard for us to build any muscle.

Doing resistance training though means we can try stop muscle tissue being lost as we are losing weight.

This means that when the number on the scales goes down, you know that you’re removing the fat, to reveal the muscle underneath.

Free workouts for fat loss and toning?

Now you should understand how we ideally should be doing some cardio, some weight training and some HIIT training. Here are some example programs of each for you to use:

HIIT workout – 30 seconds of each exercise with 15 seconds of rest in between

  • High Knees
  • Squats
  • Press Ups
  • Bicycle Crunches
  • Rest 1 minute then repeat two more times


  • Butt Kicks
  • Lunges
  • Chair Dips
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Rest 1 minute then repeat two more times

Bodyweight Workout – Rest 45 seconds in between each set

  • Squats x 3sets
  • Lunges x 2sets
  • Press Ups x 3sets
  • Chair Dips x 2sets
  • Crunches x 3sets
  • Russian Twists x 3sets
  • Plank x1 set


For your cardio workout, do whatever you enjoy.

Whether it’s jogging, walking, cycling or swimming go out and do a minimum of 20 minutes. Try increase how long you exercise for each week, even if it’s just a minute extra.

If you want to keep your workouts shorter, try do more in each workout. You could try going further or do more lengths in the same amount of time.

Let’s go look great

If your aim is to lose weight and look toned, then you need to be doing a mixture of cardio and resistance training.

Resistance training is essential for keeping our muscles firm and toned.

Losing weight is only part of the solution if you want to have an athletic body.

Don’t end up still feeling podgy even though you have done a great job at losing weight.

Learn to build your muscles, alongside calorie burning activities, to burn fat and start firming up.

losing weight might not make you lean