If variety is the spice of life, then incorporating a variety of new strength workouts will spice up your regular routine and help you reach your fitness and weight loss goals. Surprising your muscles with different types of exercise may be the key to getting a toned physique while preventing workout burnout or plateau.

Regular exercise is important to keep your heart healthy, your brain sharp, and those excess pounds at bay. Studies show that being active can help you live longer and prevent many chronic diseases.

But to really see noticeable changes, cardio alone won’t cut it. Strength training is necessary. In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic, you can boost your metabolism and burn extra calories just by gaining lean muscle.

Nowadays, there are a variety of toning workout classes suited for women of different levels and interests.



You don’t need to be a professional ballerina to sculpt long, lean muscles.

Barre classes mix in elements of yoga, Pilates, and functional training, along with more traditional movements that dancers are familiar with, like pliés and stretching.

Using tiny repetitious motions and pulses, known as isometric movements, you target some of the biggest muscles in the body. These include the thighs, glutes, and core. Isometric movements are effective because you contract a specific muscle to the point of exhaustion, which leads to better stability and overall strength. You will also notice improved posture and flexibility.

No pointe shoes required!

Classes to try include:

Boot Camp

outdoor boot camp

Don’t let the name intimidate you.

Many of these military-inspired classes are made with women in mind. With a fast-paced tempo and group camaraderie, these classes are a great way to torch calories and build muscle. It’s generally a mix of sports drills, cardiovascular training, and high intensity moves like jump squats. The exercises are aimed at improving balance, coordination, and of course strength.

The cardio component has the added benefit of getting your heart rate up. Classes can range from group sessions outdoor in a park, to indoor sessions incorporating more equipment such as free weights and medicine balls. Either way, you are sure to get a killer workout.

While boot camp is not for the faint of heart, the endorphin rush that comes with these competitive style workouts has an addictive quality — as do the results.

Classes to try include:

Vinyasa Yoga


Looking for a workout that will calm your mind while toning your body?

The dynamic, flowing style of vinyasa yoga may be for you. Vinyasa is a Sanskrit term meaning “breath-synchronized movement.” The basis of the class matches varying strength-building poses with your breath.

Some vinyasa classes are held in heated studios, which can reach 90 degrees. Some classes incorporate additional hand weights for extra strength building. Yoga poses like downward dog and warrior help to build lean muscle, while improving balance and flexibility.

Then there is the additional mind-body benefit. Studies have shown that yoga can alter your gene expression to improve immunity, reduce stress and inflammation, and help with many other chronic health issues.

Classes to try include:



This core-based workout will align your posture and strengthen your core, while also proving to be easy on the joints by taking pressure off of the back and knees.

Classes can be offered either on a mat, or on a reformer machine, which provides precise resistance via springs and straps. A typical Pilates class will include toning exercise such as a dynamic warmup called the hundred. This is a challenging workout for both your abs and lungs as you coordinate your breath with core and hand movement.

Studies show that Pilates does indeed work the abs. One 2012 study in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found that it could strengthen the rectus abdominus muscle by up to 21 percent in sedentary women who are not practitioners of Pilates. Strengthening your core with Pilates can also help with low back pain.

Classes to try include:


spin class

Spin classes have evolved to be so much more than just a stale ride on a stationary bike.

Modern spin classes incorporate weights, side crunches, and even resistance bands to add an upper-body strengthening element to this popular cardio class. Boutique studios are popping up nationwide that add in choreographed movements, fun music, and darkened rooms for a dance party-like atmosphere.

These classes can be satisfyingly exhausting, delivering a cardio and strength workout at once, not to mention, the calorie burning component. Experts estimate that you torch anywhere between 400 and 600 calories per workout.

Classes to try include:



You may have seen them at the gym and wondered what to do with those handled weights that people seem to be swinging about.

But you probably didn’t know that these weights make for a fun and functional workout that burns serious calories.

One of the main differences between kettlebells and regular weights is that you swing kettlebells to create and control momentum. This means that it really gets your blood pumping, working both your anaerobic and aerobic systems, and packs strength and cardio into one full body workout. Most classes that incorporate this type of weight include kettlebell squats and kettlebell swings, intermixed with cardio intervals.

Classes to try include:

  • Kettlebell Power at Equinox, nationwide



For those who are pressed for time, classes that incorporate high intensity interval training, or HIIT, can provide the most bang for your buck.

Usually between 10 and 15 minutes long, what these workouts lack in time they make up for in intensity. Think: burpees, sprints, lunges, and more. Designed to raise your heart rate, make you sweat, and strength train all at once, studies show that HIIT can deliver more of an impact than an hour of the elliptical.

But pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone may be the ultimate satisfaction.

Classes to try include:

  • BodyShred by Jillian Michaels at Crunch gyms, nationwide
  • Les Mills Grit at 24 Hour Fitness gyms, nationwide