Moves that just work one muscle? No thanks. We’d rather get more bang for our toning buck, which is why we’re sharing five awesome exercises that tone all over.
We asked Brian Durbin Med, CSCS, and owner of Fitness Together in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina for his favorite total body toning moves.
Crossover step up
“This exercise is a fantastic core and butt toner,” says Durbin. He also explains that doing this exercise has the added benefit of training the hip muscles in a way that can help you avoid knee injuries when using heavier weights or doing more dynamic exercises. “A toned butt and core plus injury prevention makes this one a keeper.”
Start by standing to the right of an 8 to 15 inch step, placing your right foot squarely on top of it. You can hold light dumbbells or perform this movement with just your body weight. Your left leg will be behind your body and the foot will be flat on the ground.
Step up onto the bench with your right leg. Your left leg will come up from behind your body to the opposite side of the step on the left where you should end up in a standing position. Step down in the reverse order from how you stepped up. Repeat 15 times on the right leg and 15 times on the left and do two sets on each leg.
Axe chop thrust
You’ll need a long bar to complete this move. Durbin explains that this exercise is amazing for toning the entire body. “It’s terrific for toning and tightening but has the added benefit of strengthening the core for nearly any sport or lifestyle activity,” he says.
Start by holding the bar with your left arm locked at a 45-degree angle away from your body with your palm up and your right arm locked directly in front of the body. Don’t allow your shoulders to round forward or rotate internally or the exercise won’t be effective. Tighten your abs, shoulders, and upper back and begin rotating the bar town toward your right hip. Once you get the top of the bar to line up with the right side of your pelvis, hold for one count and then thrust the bar further away from your body (as if you were thrusting a sword). Slowly return the bar to the starting position. Do 10 reps on each side for two sets.
This is one of Durbin’s top five favorite exercises because of its simplicity to perform and how well it works your back. “Basically, there is not a muscle on the back of the body that is not working to perform this exercise,” he says.
Start in a seated position with your hands behind your body, fingers pointing toward your feet, and shoulders drawn back together. Your knees will be bent, with both feet flat on the ground. From here, lift your body up onto your right leg by contracting the right glute muscles and lifting your pelvis toward the ceiling. Your left leg should be extended. Hold your body in a stretched and fully extended position for one count and return to the starting position. Perform two sets of 10 to 20 reps on each leg.
Whether you love them or hate them, squats are a must-do exercise and a great total body toner. “There is no better total body exercise than the front squat,” affirms Durbin. “You can train the midsection, legs and upper back in one amazing and relatively easy to learn exercise.”
Stand with your feet slightly beyond shoulder width, your glutes and abdominals tight and a barbell positioned on the front of your shoulders. Note that the bar should rest comfortably on the shoulders and not the wrists. Start by pushing the hips backward into a deep squat. Once the upper legs drop below parallel, begin reversing the direction of the squat. Exhale once you are halfway up, pause and repeat. Perform three sets of 8 to 15 reps.
Kneeling band triceps extension
This might not look like a full body toner, but Durbin says to try the exercise before passing judgement. “No one thinks of this as a full body exercise, until they try it. The way you have to support your body during the performance makes it an amazing core toner,” he explains. “Not only will your triceps get the tone and attention they so rightly deserve, your midsection, upper back and butt will be begging you to get back to something a little less demanding.”
At the gym (or if you have bands attached to the wall at home), kneel in an upright position with a band handle in each hand and your palms facing away from you. The upper arms should be parallel to the ground or very slightly elevated. Hold the kneeling position perfectly upright and begin extending your forearm straight out in front of your body. Pause when your elbow is completely straight and repeat, ensuring your body remains upright the entire time. Perform for 60 seconds and repeat for two or three sets.