If you have a vacation on the horizon but a body that you’d rather not show off on the beach, don’t panic; the moves in this article should work to sculpt your figure in around just four weeks. Here, we’ll look at exercises for your entire body as well as a few that target specific areas such as your arms. And what’s more, the majority of these activities can all be done with minimal equipment and in the comfort of your own home.
Nowadays, the growth of social media means that we can find ourselves being bombarded with images of “ideal” bodies – not to mention gimmick workout plans and fad diets. It’s no wonder, then, that a lot of people invest in such schemes in the hope of achieving fast results.
But just what are fad diets, we hear you ask? Well, don’t get too intrigued, as they aren’t the best way to achieve sustainable and long-lasting results. Such nutrition plans are characterized by quick fat and weight loss and often involve cutting out vital food groups and nutrients that contribute to overall health and wellbeing. The cabbage soup diet, for instance, is just one example.
Rather shockingly, the Boston Medical Center claimed in 2018 that around half of the approximately 45 million Americans each year who resolve to lose weight by changing their eating habits utilize fad diets. And while people may think that they are getting the results they crave, in all likelihood they may struggle to keep the pounds off in the long term.
Exercise, on the other hand, is altogether more beneficial. Not only will becoming just a little more physically active help to tone and tighten your body, but it can also lessen the likelihood of contracting various circulatory diseases, cancer and even type 2 diabetes. And there’s plenty of research showing the psychological benefits of working out, too.
That’s right: exercise can both improve your physical health and work wonders for your mind. Scientific studies have established that increasing your heart rate makes your brain work more efficiently, for instance. And the resulting surge of endorphins that exercise produces may both improve your mood and leave you feeling energized.
As you can see, then, there are plenty of reasons to incorporate exercise into our daily or weekly routines. Yet the hectic, non-stop nature of our often-chaotic modern lives can leave people wanting that quick fix – especially when it comes to improving our health or the appearances of our bodies.
Perhaps one of the reasons why the gym has such a high dropout rate, for example, is because people tend to get fed up when they don’t see the amazing gains that they want straight away. But have no fear; if it’s toning you’re after, then the exercises that we have compiled are known for their ability to give noticeably rapid results.
As you may have heard, though, variety is key when it comes to seeing changes in your body. That’s why we advise picking a few of the moves from the following list per session and then changing it up when you come to work out again. And as for how often you should be exercising, between three and five sessions per week – with each lasting about 60 minutes – should help give you the results that you desire.
To ensure that you get the most out of your workout, meanwhile, we also suggest stretching beforehand. This will warm up your muscles and get them ready for the movements that you are about to execute. And these stretches won’t just allow you to perform efficiently; they will also help any tired muscles to recover more quickly. So, let’s get onto the main event: the exercises in question.
The plank is a powerhouse move when it comes to toning your overall physique. It’s an example of a relatively easy exercise that works a variety of muscle groups; the core, the hamstrings, the glutes and the back muscles are all strengthened through this one position. And, helpfully, a more robust core area can help to alleviate discomfort in the lumbar region.
So, just how do you perform this move correctly? Well, firstly place your forearms on the floor, making sure that your elbows are below your shoulders. Then lift your body up so that it’s resting on your toes and arms. Try to get your entire body – including your neck – in line with the floor, then tense your abdominals, glutes and leg muscles for stability. And be sure to check, too, that your butt isn’t creeping up or sinking towards the floor. Finally, hold the position for as long as you can, and try to increase the duration of this exercise on each occasion that it’s performed.
This body-weight exercise primarily works the chest, the abs, the shoulders and the triceps. So, even though they may not seem like it at first glance, push-ups are in fact another great all-round toner. As there are so many variations of the move, too, you’ll constantly have scope to push yourself – pardon the pun – and in turn achieve both stronger arms and noticeable definition.
To do a standard push-up, get onto all fours with your arms out straight, and rest your hands flat on the floor. Share your body weight out equally between your palms and feet, and keep your body in a line. Then bend your elbows until they are at a right angle before propelling yourself back up to the start position. If you’re a beginner, however, you may want to drop to your knees and work up to a full push-up.
Like push-ups, squats are another great exercise that can be adapted depending on your fitness level. And while squats are mostly known as the go-to for toning areas such as the glutes and the thighs, they’re also another effective core strengthener. Furthermore, as you can reach relatively high rep counts when squatting, the exercise is great for getting the heart rate up and ultimately burning fat.
To perform a squat, then, first stand with your feet pointed slightly outwards but in line with your shoulders. Then bend your knees and push your butt back as though you’re about to sit down. Be sure to keep your heels glued to the ground all the way, however. Finally, when you get as far as you can comfortably sink down, use the power in your legs to return to your starting position. And remember: getting a squat right takes practice, especially before you think about progressing and adding weight.
The bird-dog’s name may conjure up some interesting images, but if it’s core strengthening you’re after, then this move has got you covered. In particular, the bird-dog focuses on working the abdominal and back muscles as well as the glutes, the hamstrings and even the shoulders. It may also help to keep your posture in check and contribute to spinal health.
To perform the bird-dog, come onto your hands and knees and engage your core to prevent your spine from rising up or sinking down. Then tense your glutes and simultaneously lift your arm and opposite leg so that they are both level with your back and creating a horizontal line. Pause for a few seconds when your limbs are outstretched, then return to your original position. For something to work towards, try adding resistance bands around your hands and feet, as this will increase the toning power of the move.
11. Lying hip-raises
You may know this particular exercise by another name – the glute bridge. And yes, you guessed it: this move is great for those butt muscles. If you’re looking to achieve a “peachier” posterior, then, lying hip-raises have all the right benefits; in addition, they help condition the hamstrings, the hip muscles and the lumbar region.
And this move – as with so many on this list – requires absolutely no equipment, meaning it can be done anywhere. To complete one rep, lie down and bend your knees with your feet flat on the floor below them. Next, push your hips up and squeeze your glutes when you reach the top. For an extra challenge, meanwhile, try lifting one leg off the floor; if you’re doing this, however, be sure to reach an even number of reps on each leg.
10. Ball twist
Now, the ball twist is one move that does require some equipment. And it’s also an interesting variation on the Russian twist – an exercise that you may already know. However, in this case, there’s a standing element that allows you to work a combination of muscles all at once. These include the glutes, the quads and the hamstrings as well as the abdominals and the obliques.
To complete a ball twist, first place your back against a flat wall and then bend your legs so that you are squatting. After that – and while grasping a medicine ball or dumbbell – stretch your torso from side to side, bringing the weight close to the wall each time. Continue twisting – and toning – for the desired number of reps.
9. Dead bug
Admittedly, the dead bug doesn’t have the most appealing name, nor does it make you look particularly attractive when performed correctly. That moniker, you see, is derived from the fact that the exercise gives you the appearance of an insect with its limbs flailing. Nevertheless, the dead bug is an “abulous” move for those core muscles and is especially good to do if you’re worried about causing damage to your lower back.
Start by lying on your back on the floor, then raise your hands straight up in front of you. Next, lift your legs up and keep them bent at a right angle, although you should also make sure that you can still feel the floor against the entirety of your back. Then simultaneously extend opposite limbs – your right leg and left arm, for example – as far as they will go without touching the floor. Return both limbs and repeat on the opposite side for your desired number of reps.
8. Downward dog leg pull
Despite its connection to the traditional yoga pose, the downward dog leg pull can in fact work wonders for everyone. Not only does the motion of bringing your leg to your chest crunch your abs, but the momentum also helps to get your heart rate up, contribute to overall fat-burning and boost circulation. The fluidity of the motion should help dispel any shoulder and neck stiffness to boot.
It’s likely you’ll have tried, or at the very least have seen someone, do a downward dog. And guess what? That’s your starting position: hands and feet flat on the floor, while the back and legs are straight but bent at the hip. From here, point one of your legs into the air so that you create a wide V-shape. To begin the crunch, pull your leg all the way down and tuck your knee to your chest. Repeat this motion for your desired number of reps – and, of course, don’t forget to repeat on both sides.
As the name suggests, performing this exercise is meant to make you resemble a worm shifting along the floor. But don’t let this vision put you off, as according to exercise physiologist Amy Dixon, the inchworm is a “sneaky strength move.” It works a great deal of muscles all over the body, you see – including those in the abdominals, the chest, the arms and even the hamstrings.
To do the inchworm, then, start in a standing position before lowering your hands to the ground in front of you. Next, place your weight on your palms and then step them forward one at a time so that you come to be in a raised plank position. Finally, inch your feet forwards towards your hands in order to return to your original stance. And you may have already spotted the easy way to enhance the benefits of this move. In short, if the inchworm feels too easy, try adding a push-up when you reach full extension.
6. Crossover lunge
Performing this variation of the traditional lunge on a regular basis will work to tone and strengthen your thigh muscles as well as those all-important glutes and hip flexors. And again, it’s a move that can be adapted by adding weight as you build up both your fitness level and your confidence.
To start, stand tall and lift either your left or right foot so that it travels sideways and in front of your opposite leg. Then, as your toes become grounded, bend both knees and lower into a lunge. After that, allow your knee to come close to the floor – but not letting it touch – and then return to a standing position. Depending on your preference, repeat on one leg or alternate between the two. And feel free to hold a hand weight in front of you to boot; you could even place a barbell on your back.
5. Standing lift
Now, for those of you who are looking to tone those all-important core muscles, the standing lift is another go-to, as it targets the obliques, the back and the shoulders. And guess what? All you need is a dumbbell. If you do have access to a gym, however, this move can also be done on the cable machine.
To carry out a standing lift, place your right foot behind your left while holding a dumbbell or a plate. After that, get ready by putting your arms out straight near the top of your right leg. Then, lift your arms towards the ceiling and across your body while keeping your midsection tight and engaged. Return your arms to your hips, and repeat for your chosen number of reps on each side.
4. Side plank
Yes, the plank returns, although this is a different take on the traditional move that we mentioned earlier. That said, the side plank also specifically targets your core muscles: your abdominals and obliques. And because you are having to support your weight with a single arm and leg, the muscles in your limbs are getting a killer workout, too.
In order to do a side plank, first get on the floor and roll onto one side of your body. Then place one foot on top of the other and position your elbow so that it is parallel with your shoulder. And as you engage and tighten your core, lift your butt off the floor while simultaneously making sure that your pelvis doesn’t droop down. Remain in the position for as long as you can without allowing your body to curve before doing the same again on your opposite side.
3. Bicep curl
Luckily for you, the arms are known as one of the first places where people start to see the results of their hard graft. But as you would imagine, there are a couple of specific exercises that can help speed up the process – a bicep curl being one of them. And this move really is a staple when it comes to toning.
Choose an appropriate weight for your strength – nothing too strenuous to lift – and start with your arms outstretched, making sure that the inside of your wrists are facing your upper legs. Then grip the dumbbells and lift, turning as you do so so that your inner wrists are facing your shoulders at the top. Rest momentarily and then return your arms to your starting position. Again, complete the exercise for the desired number of reps.
2. Tricep kickback
So you’ve got something for the front of your arms, but what about the back? Well, if your priority is getting rid of those so-called “bat wings,” then the tricep kickback is the move for you. If done correctly, you see, this exercise should be solely working – and subsequently toning – the tricep muscles.
To really stretch those triceps, then, begin on your feet and place your left foot behind your right. Then, while gripping a dumbbell in your left hand, bend over, ensuring that your back stays straight. After that, bring your weighted left arm to a right angle before stretching it in a controlled motion so that it is pointing behind you. Finally, bring your arm as far back as you can before returning to your start position. Do your desired number of reps and then complete the exercise on the opposite arm.
1. Bent-over rows
The bent-over row is another great exercise for those all-important back muscles – an area that we shouldn’t ignore when working out and looking to tone up. And here’s a useful tip for this move: pretend that you’re holding a pen with your shoulder blades. You’re going to want to feel the shoulders almost touch each other for optimum toning.
To begin with, then, engage in a standing position and lean forward as you bend at the knees just a little. Then, while keeping your back straight and your chest upright, extend your weighted arms so that they are pointing towards the floor with your forearms nearest to your body. Finally, bring your elbows up towards your back and squeeze your shoulder blades together before returning your arms to their outstretched positions.