How to Get Toned With Just Two Workouts per Week

You're busy. You have work, errands, and whatever else life throws your way. If you’re looking for the quick answer to your question of ‘how to get toned’…

Yes, you can tone your body and lose body fat doing just 2 workouts per week.

But, before you get too excited, there is a caveat.

If you want to consistently lose body fat by exercising just 2 hours per week, we aren’t going to do what we’ve been doing. We’re going to have to make 3 shifts:

  • Leave your all-or-nothing mentality at the door.
  • If you’re spending 1% of your week on fitness, prioritize things that have the biggest bang for their buck.
  • What you do with the remaining 99% of your week matters.

These are 3 simple, straightforward shifts that will help you feel your best while spending only a small percentage of your week in the gym.


1. Mindset

When it comes to figuring out how to get toned, most people are married to an all-or-nothing mentality.

They think that in order to get results, workouts have to be fast, furious and frequent.

Until life happens, then they become fast, furious, and infrequent, if they even make it to the gym at all.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this does work well if the goal is to lose weight in 3 weeks. Just cut out carbs, exercise 2x/day and live off of energy drinks to keep hammering despite your extreme caloric deficit.

Then we fall off the wagon and sit on the couch when we should be at the gym, we drink beer instead of water, and before we know it, we’re right back where we started.

Here’s the deal: long term results aren’t going to come from an all-or-nothing mindset.  Long-term results come from a something-is-better-than-nothing mindset.

Let's explore some numbers:

Person A follows the all-or nothing method and exercises 5 hours/week for 3 weeks, then 0 hours/week for 9 weeks. Total: 15 hours of exercise in 12 weeks

Person B follows the something-is-better-than-nothing method and exercises 2 hours/week for 12 weeks. Total: 24 hours of exercise in 12 weeks.

What about after a year?

Person A: 75 hours of exercise in 52 weeks

Person B: 104 hours of exercise in 52 weeks

Think that’ll have any impact on how your body looks/feels? You bet.

So, the next time you find yourself saying ‘I don’t know how to get toned because I don’t have much time’ or ‘I can’t start because I can’t workout 5 days per week’ just keep this in mind:

Something is better nothing, no less than 100% of the time.

 2. Follow the 80/20 rule

In the late 1800’s, Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto came to an astonishing conclusion: 20% of the world’s population controls 80% of the worlds wealth. And thus, the 80/20 rule was born. [1]

This rule has been applied in many ways, from writing computer code to running successful advertising campaigns.

And even more importantly for us, it applies to your workouts. Some exercises work nearly every muscle in your body, while others work one small muscle.

If we’re following the rule that 20% of exercises produce 80% of the results, it should come as no surprise that with limited time, we’re focusing on the 20% that produce 80% of the results.

This means that if we’re spending 2 hours per week in the gym (approximately 1% of your week) you better spend that time as efficiently as possible!

Here are a few examples of efficient and effective exercises that can be the solution to your question on ‘how to get toned’:

  • Push up (or dumbbell press)
  • Squat
  • Deadlift (or swing)
  • Lunge (or split squat)
  • Row
  • Turkish get up
  • Farmers carry
  • Plank (elbow or side plank)

So if you’ve only got 2 hours a week, it should come as no surprise that your workouts will be jam-packed with all of the above.

Here’s a workout example:

Circuit 1:

Turkish Get - Up x 1ea

Kettlebell Swing x 10

Repeat 3-5x

Circuit 2:

Goblet Squat x 8

Push-Up x 8

Single Arm Dumbbell Row  x 8ea

Repeat 3x

Circuit 3:

Backwards Lunge x 8ea

Farmers Carry x 40 steps

Plank x 30s

Repeat 3x

3. The remaining 99% of your week matters

Especially what you eat.

Not that you should be surprised by that nifty piece of information. Everyone already knows that nutrition is key when it comes to improving body composition.

But just because we know it’s important, doesn’t mean we actually prioritize it.

And trust me, no judgements are being passed. There’s a lot going on in your life while you aren’t at the gym - work, sleep, fun, family and binge watching reruns of the Office (everyone does that right?)

So let’s take a look at how you can make the most of your time without having to cut out any foods that you enjoy.

  1. Practice ‘mindful eating’ at least once per day. Studies have shown that distracted eating can lead to eating more food, so to reduce caloric intake without tracking calories try practicing mindful eating by turning off all technology, eating with your non-dominant hand or by taking small bites and chewing well. [2]
  2. Drink plenty of water (shoot for around 8 glasses per day).
  3. Try to have protein with every meal.

Is that it? Of course not! Nutrition is a deep rabbit hole and there is always room for optimization. But the things outlined are the little, easy to implement habits that will produce massive results. Luckily the personal fitness coaches on Ladder are here to help too!

Are you worried that you might not follow through?

Sometimes we need some extra accountability to stay on track with our fitness. Since you’ve read this far, I wanted to offer you a 1 week free trial to Ladder, where your coach will build you a custom program and help you find the 20% that will produce 80% of your results.

Download Ladder

Pareto, Vilfredo; Page, Alfred N. (1971), Translation of Manuale di economia politica ("Manual of political economy"), A.M. Kelley, ISBN 978-0-678-00881-2

LeWine, Howard. “Distracted Eating May Add to Weight Gain.” Harvard Health Blog, 29 Mar. 2013,

Stan Dutton

Stan Dutton

Stan Dutton is a Boston based fitness expert who has worked with celebrities, professional athletes, helped multiple individuals lose over 100lbs and is a 4x world record holding powerlifter. His philosophy is simple: Move well, move often, and eat pizza.

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