That's right ladies. This one's for you. Getting “toned” isn't quite what you think. And the way you are attempting to get this look, well, it probably needs some work. The good news is, it may not be your fault. There are many preconceptions about how women should look and how they should train, without enough sound advice in the public ear.
Unfortunately, even trainers can be at fault. Some clients tell their trainers they do not want to lift too heavy, they don't want to bulk up, etc. Unfortunately, some trainers simply go with what the client says, regardless if its the best approach. Why? It makes them money.
Lessons learned? First, find a trainer that will challenge you physically and mentally. Second, accept hard work and be willing to step outside your comfort zone.
Back to “toning.” Women who have a “toned” look have two things going for them; well-developed muscle, and low body fat.
The easiest to address is the low body fat. Eat a healthy diet rich in high fiber foods, protein and healthy fats. Avoid simple sugars, trans fats and too many saturated fats. Make sure you burn more calories than you eat to burn body fat. Both strength training and cardio will be needed.
Now for the training part. A well-defined muscle must be a well-developed muscle. Just being thin won't give you the look you want. You actually have to have some muscle as well. No worries ladies, you will not bulk up like a guy. It just can't happen.
To develop a muscle, you first need to develop strength. This requires a weight heavy enough you can only perform 4-6 reps. Anything more, you are leaving the strength zone.
You also need to add some size to muscles. To do this, perform sets of 8-12 reps. This stimulates the muscle enough to grow. If you can go beyond 12 reps, its time to add some weight.
Spend 6-8 weeks utilizing sets for strength, and sets for growth. Choose one exercise per body performing 3-4 sets of 4-6 reps. Follow this with a second exercise, performing 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps, to stimulate growth. After this period of time, you can switch to lighter weights for higher reps, giving you the best of both worlds.