The ideal muscle toning workouts incorporate both aerobic and anaerobic workouts at the same time. How is this possible?
Well, there are 2 methods you can use. They are:
1. Superset Workouts; and
2. Circuit Training.
2. Circuit Training.
What are these 2 types of workouts?
Supersets are doing 2 or 3 sets back-to-back with no or little rest in between.
Supersets can actually be structured in a number of ways. You can combine sets targeting the same muscle or combine sets targeting different muscles.
Example of a superset targeting the same muscle:
Bench Press followed by Pec Deck.
Example of a superset targeting different muscles:
Bench Press followed by Barbell Curls (chest/biceps).
You can make them more aerobic in nature by doing 3 sets in a row. Again, you can target the same muscle or different muscles.
For creating fast workouts to tone muscle, it's best to structure supersets that target different muscles. Since you're not aiming to build muscle, there's no need to hammer the same muscle with 2 to 3 exercises back-to-back.
How do supersets tone muscle?
They operate by working out the muscles with little rest. A fast-paced and intense superset workout is both aerobic and anaerobic.
However, as with any workout, you must consider exercise form and rep count. Obviously diet plays an important part as well. Just because you do intense superset workouts doesn't give you license to anything or as much as you want. The principles of weight loss and/or fat burning come into play.
Other ways to structure supersets
You can do cardio such as jumping jacks, rope jumping, running on the spot in between weight lifting sets. This too would form an aerobic/anaerobic workout combo.
Another option is to incorporate intense stretching / yoga mini-sessions in between weight lifting sets. For example, you could do 1 to 3 sun salutations in between your weight lifting sets.
These last 2 approaches to supersets are arguably circuit training. There's a little crossover in definition. I'll deal with Circuit Training next.
What is Circuit Training?
Circuit Training workouts are doing a full or half-body workout by doing exercise after exercise targeting different muscles back-to-back-to-back, etc. with no or little rest.
For example, you could do a chest press machine, lat pull down, DB curls, shoulder press machine and tricep push down exercises in a row. You can do the full circuit multiple times. This would result in a full upper body workout. You can include lower body exercises if you wish as well.
Mixing up your circuit training
Like supersets, you can incorporate on-the-spot cardio and/or stretching in between exercises to mix up the circuits and add another dimension.
How often should you do these workouts every week?
This will depend on how much you work out each muscle. If you do 1 to 2 sets per muscle during a workout, you can do the workout 2 to 3 times per week. However, if you do 6 to 12 (or more) sets per muscle, you will only want to work out each muscle once per week (or every 5 to 7 days).
You can structure these workouts (especially the supersets) in many ways. For example, you can create a 3 or 4 day superset split where you work out each muscle group once every 3 to 4 workouts.
Circuit Training can also be split up... but usually it's either a full body session or upper/lower body sessions. Circuit Training results in fewer sets per muscle over the course of a workout, but you can work out each muscle more over the course of a week.
Machines, Free Weights or Both?
Probably both. However, machines are convenient because they are faster to set up. Dumbbells are convenient as well. Because you go from exercise to exercise, it helps to use equipment that's fast to set up. That said, if your gym isn't too busy, you can easily set up free weight exercises ready for your arrival.
Generally, supersets where you work out 2 muscles back-to-back work fine with free weights if you can have the two exercises set up and that another person won't jump in on the equipment.