As a fitness trainer, one of the most common questions I’m asked is “how do I tone my body?”
There are a lot of ways to answer this question, but you can get great results from your workouts by sticking to the basics. I’ve outlined the top 10 movements you can do in one full-body workout session to help you tone all areas of your body and maximize your time spent in the gym.
Keep it Simple.
There are so many options and unlimited information and workout options available, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
These 10 movements are basic and cover all areas of your body. You can combine them into a routine for a workout that’s simple and powerful to keep you in shape for the rest of your life.
Use this routine 2 times per week (though you could do it everyday) and you should see improvements in your muscular strength, endurance, and balance in as little as 30 days.
Total Body Toning Workout
A well-rounded exercise routine will include some moves that challenge your balance. Lunges do just that, promoting functional movement, while also increasing strength in your legs and glutes.
- Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and arms down at your sides.
- Take a step forward with your right leg and bend your right knee as you do so, stopping when your thigh is parallel to the ground. Ensure that your right knee doesn’t extend past your right foot.
- Push up off your right foot and return to the starting position. Repeat with your left leg. This is one rep.
- Complete 10 reps for 3 sets.
When it comes to bodyweight workouts, pushups are one of the most effective movements because they incorporate a number of different muscles to perform them.
- Begin in a plank position. Engage your core and pull your shoulders down and back. Look straight down to let your neck be neutral.
- Bend your elbows and begin to lower your body down toward the floor. When your chest grazes it (or you come as low as your arms will allow), extend your elbows and push the floor away, returning to your starting plank position. Focus on keeping your elbows close to your body during the movement.
- Complete 3 sets of as many reps as possible.
If you’re building upper body strength, modify by starting on your knees — you’ll still reap many of the benefits from this exercise while building strength.
Squats are a great powerhouse movement. They increase lower body and core strength, as well as flexibility in your lower back and hips. Because this exercise engages some of the largest muscles in the body, they increase the number of calories burned during movement.
- Start by standing straight, with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, and your arms at your sides.
- Brace your core and, keeping your chest and chin up, push your hips back and bend your knees as if you’re going to sit in a chair.
- Be sure your knees don’t bow inward or outward, drop down until your thighs are parallel to the ground, bringing your arms out in front of you in a comfortable position. Pause for one second, then push into your feet, extend your legs and return to the starting position.
- Complete 3 sets of 20 reps.
4. Standing overhead dumbbell presses
Here’s a great compound exercise, which uses multiple joints and muscles at once. Again, this type of movement works several parts of your body at once, so you’re maximizing the benefits for your time in the gym. A standing overhead press works on your shoulders and also engages your upper back and core.
What you’ll need: 10-pound dumbbells
- Start with a light set of dumbells (try 10lbs). Stand either with your feet shoulder-width apart. Move the weights overhead so your upper arms are parallel to the floor.
- Bracing your core, begin to push up until your arms are fully extended above your head. Keep your head and neck stationary.
- Pause briefly, then bend your elbows and lower the weight back down until your tricep is parallel to the floor again.
- Complete 3 sets of 12 reps.
5. Dumbbell rows
Sometimes we forget to work out the muscles we don’t see everyday in the mirror. Your back is just as important (for your posture, strength and physique) as your front. Dumbbell rows are another compound exercise that strengthen multiple muscles in your upper body. Choose a moderate-weight dumbbell and ensure that you’re squeezing at the top of the movement.
What you’ll need: 10-pound dumbbells
- Start with a dumbbell in each hand (try 10 lbs to begin).
- Bend forward at the waist so your back is at a 45-degree angle to the ground. Be certain not to arch your back. Let your arms hang straight down. Ensure your neck is in line with your back and your core is engaged.
- Starting with your right arm, bend your elbow and pull the weight straight up toward your chest, making sure to engage your lat, and stopping just below your chest.
- Return to the starting position and repeat with the left arm. This is one rep. Repeat 10 times for 3 sets.
6. Single-leg deadlifts
Time to challenge your balance again. Single-leg deadlifts require stability and leg strength. Grab a light to moderate dumbbell to complete this move.
What you’ll need: dumbbell (your choice)
- Begin standing with a dumbbell in your right hand and your knees slightly bent.
- Hinging at the hips, begin to kick your left leg straight back behind you, lowering the dumbbell down toward the ground.
- When you reach a comfortable height with your left leg, slowly return to the starting position in a controlled motion, squeezing your right glute. Ensure that your pelvis stays square to the ground during the movement.
- Repeat 10 to 12 reps before moving the weight to your left hand and repeating the same steps on the left leg.
This is an exercise everyone loves to hate. But I’ve included them here because they’re an effective whole-body move that provides great bang for your buck for cardiovascular endurance and muscle strength.
- Start standing upright with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms down at your sides.
- With your hands out in front of you, start to squat down. When your hands reach the ground, pop your legs straight back into a pushup position.
- Do a pushup (you can bring your knees to the floor for this).
- Come back up to the starting pushup position and jump your feet up to your palms by hinging at the waist. Get your feet as close to your hands as you can get, landing them outside your hands if necessary.
- Stand up straight, bringing your arms above your head and jump.
- This is one rep. Complete 3 sets of 10 reps as a beginner.
8. Side planks
A strong core is a huge part of your overall stability. It will keep your back safe when lifting and will keep your posture intact into your later years. Side planks bring attention to the less commonly used muscles in your core. Focus on the mind-muscle connection and controlled movements to ensure you’re doing this exercise.
- Lie on your right side with your left leg and foot stacked on top of your right leg and foot. Prop your upper body up by placing your right forearm on the ground, elbow directly under your shoulder.
- Contract your core to stiffen your spine and lift your hips and knees off the ground, forming a straight line with your body.
- Return to start in a controlled manner. Repeat 3 sets of 10-15 reps on one side, then switch.
Good ‘ol sit ups. Sometimes they get a bad rap as being too basic, but situps are an effective way to target your abdominal muscles. Have lower back problems? Stick with a crunch, which means just your upper back and shoulders will lift off the ground.
- Start by lying on the ground on your back with your knees bent, feet flat, and your hands behind your head.
- Keeping your feet glued to the ground, begin to roll up from your head, engaging your core throughout. Don’t strain your neck during the upward motion.
- When your chest reaches your legs, begin the controlled phase back down to the starting position.
- Complete 3 sets of 15 reps as a beginner.
10. Glute bridge
Here’s an effective way to work your entire posterior chain, which isn’t only good for you, but will make your booty look perkier as well.
- Start by lying on the floor with your knees bent, feet flat on the ground, and arms straight at your sides with your palms facing down.
- Pushing through your heels, raise your hips off the ground by squeezing your core, glutes, and hamstrings. Your upper back and shoulders should still be in contact with the ground, and your core down to your knees should form a straight line.
- Pause 1-2 seconds at the top and return to the starting position.
- Complete 10-12 reps for 3 sets.
Kick it up a notch
Once you’ve been working with these movements for a few weeks, challenge yourself to kick it up a notch. You want your workout to be a challenge and ideally to get you sweating. Here are some tips to make each move more challenging:
- Add 5 more reps
- Add more weight
- Tack on a jump to moves like squats and lunges
Want another way to switch it up? Turn the routine into a time-under-tension workout. Set a timer and complete each movement for a set amount of time, instead of a set number of reps.