The 7 best exercises for toning your body right now


Trainers know that the exercises we choose, and how we choose to do them, can have a huge impact on body shape.

When it comes to getting ready to take your clothes off this summer, some moves are proven to work better and quicker than others at getting a slim, toned, beach-ready physique.

Tony Maloney, a trainer and exercise physiologist at the National Institute for Fitness and Sport in Indianapolis, shared his best tips for slimming down this summer with Business Insider.

It turns out that a lot of basic exercises that we all know and recognise are still some of the best for anybody trying to get a little leaner. Take a look:

Push-ups are still one of the best moves for toning from the waist up.

Shutterstock/El Nariz

Push-ups are a great way to tone the upper body and build shapely arms and shoulders. But that’s not all they’re good for. “You’re still working the trunk, so you’re working the abs and the core,” Maloney said.

Planks and side planks are stellar core exercises.

Maloney says he prefers plank moves to crunches or sit-ups, because you’re less likely to do them wrong and injure the spine. Plus, they’re generally more effective at building a tight core. “You’re holding and stabilizing the spine,” he said. “That’s really what the core is supposed to do.”

When you get really good at regular planks, start moving your extremities for some extra-intense fun.


Lifting one elbow or one foot is “going to challenge the system big time,” Maloney said.

But getting toned is not just about which exercises you choose. It’s equally important how you choose to do them.


Like many trainers, Maloney recommends using a moderate amount of weight and quick reps for anyone aiming to tone up and slim down for summer. “To get ready for the beach, I would suggest a little higher intensity,” he said. “You want a little more higher rep exercise.”

Scientists have studied how jumping and more plyometric, explosive movements are great for burning fat and gaining power and quickness. But the benefits of high-intensity workouts don’t end there.

Researchers in Denmark also recently reported that patients with type 2 diabetes who tried short, 20-minute high-intensity workouts not only improved their fitness, they also maintained more consistent blood-glucose levels than patients who tried longer, 40-minute cycling workouts.

One of Maloney’s favourite high-intensity, plyometric, burst-like moves is the jump squat.


To try this one, bend down like you’re going into a normal squat (get your booty down like you’re sitting in a chair) then burst up into the air. Maloney says the benefits of a jumping movement like this go beyond shaping and toning.

“You’re also expending the energy that you need to actually lose the body fat that may be surrounding the dormant muscles,” he said. “Your metabolic need goes up, so your energy need goes up, so you burn more calories.”

The split squat jump is another perennial favourite. Maloney says this move is “brutal,” but it really gives you results.


From a split stance position like this one, jump up and switch over to the other leg. Try doing as many as you can for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 more.

And of course there’s everybody’s favourite jumping move: burpees.

Again, with this jump move, you’re not only toning the body – you’re expending extra energy to get lean.

Pull-ups and chin-ups are two other classic moves that are nearly full-body workouts.

Most of the work here is happening in your arms and in your shoulders, but you have to be strong all over to really pull this feat off, from the abs and the pelvis to the palms of your hands.

You can also try holding a pull-up to build strength when you’re just starting out. With your palms facing toward you, pull your chin above the bar, and hold the position for as long as you can.

If you’re not quite ready for a full set of pull-ups, Maloney recommends starting off with a simpler bar hang.

Flickr/Marion Doss

For this move, just hang from the bar for as long as you can. Maloney suggests giving this a try a few times a day if possible, and building up strength that way.

With these seven exercises, you can build a simple circuit workout of push-ups, planks, jump squats, burpees, pull-ups, and more. Maloney suggests speeding through each exercise for 30 seconds, then giving yourself 30 seconds of rest. Repeat the whole sequence four or five times in a workout.


If that sounds too easy, try a tougher time ratio, like 40 seconds on, and then just 20 seconds off.

However you decide to structure your toning circuit, make sure you’re focusing on moving quick, and doing lots of reps. That’s how you’re going to develop lean tone.

One caveat about all this fast-moving high-intensity work: If you’ve been on the couch all winter, start slow at first.


Give yourself at least a day or two of rest in between your high-intensity sessions.

While getting a good, sweaty workout in is important, killing yourself at the gym or on the track isn’t going to be helpful if you’re just sitting around the rest of the day.

New research shows that those of us who sit all day aren’t just endangering our waistlines – we’re also building up dangerous proteins that hurt the heart and thinning areas of the brain associated with memory, potentially leading to long-term cognitive problems like Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Maloney suggests desk workers break things up at least once every hour, and do their work in a combination of positions throughout the day: sitting, standing, and even kneeling at their desks. He also lobbies for people to park far away in parking lots, and always take the stairs, no matter what floor they live or work on.

The bottom line? “Enjoy movement,” Maloney said. “Although we’re preparing to look good on the beach, play around. Move!”

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