The Top 10 Best Exercises to Tone Up

Many popular workout fads are promoted with perfectly sculpted models and make lofty promises that their routine alone will do the same for you. However, most exercise programs aren't focused on correct muscle building principles and don't include the best exercises to tone up. And the average person doesn't get results.

In the real world, some exercises build muscle and tone, and some don't. And that's it, without an in-between. So, if you want to get your body fit, read on to find what toning exercises work and what doesn't.

Dispelling the Myths of Muscle Toning


Certainly, most people that start an exercise routine only want to build just enough muscle to lose the “jiggle” and basically look good. Most also wish to get a toned and defined look without gaining the massive bulk from that bodybuilders have from weight training. This happy medium of firm but lean muscles is what people refer to as “toned.” But what does it really mean to be toned?

Toned muscles result from an increase in muscle size combined with low enough body fat to have visible definition and shape.

The reality is that muscles won't grow only big enough to a predetermined toned size. They will either increase or decrease in size. With low body fat, they will be visible. And with high body fat, they won't be. It's as simple as that.

To understand how to get visibly toned muscles, let's take a look at what kind of strength training works, and doesn't work, for toning up.

Strength Training Do's and Don'ts For a Toned Body


Since more muscle and less fat leads to a more toned appearance, then your workout should accomplish precisely that.

Let's recap quickly; to get toned, you will always have to do the following:    

  • Build more muscle    
  • Burn the fat covering your muscles

With those two principles in mind, what's even more impactful than just focusing on each one?

Building muscle and burning fat simultaneously. 

Therefore, by spending your workout time wisely by doing only the most effective moves is the best way to get toned muscles.

To do this, you need to do mainly high-intensity exercises with low repetitions when you workout, even if you don't want to gain significant muscle mass. That's the only way for the muscles to grow and tone up. Unfortunately, doing high reps or long periods of relatively light exercises will never stress the muscles enough to get a toned look.

Strength training with exercises intense enough to produce fatigue between 8-12 reps is the perfect combination for people that achieve and maintain toned muscles. In other words, these moves are working your muscles so hard that there's no way you can do a 13th repetition. This is the only way to build strong, firm, and toned muscles.

Now that you understand the basics about strength training for toning up, let's discuss the other vital component to toning your muscles – burning fat.

The Top Method for Burning Fat While Toning Muscles


Remember that the most efficient way to tone your muscles will be to build muscle and burn fat simultaneously? Now say hello to your new best friend, high-intensity interval training.

High-intensity interval training, known as HIIT, is the most powerful way to get a fat-burning cardiovascular workout and muscle-building strength training at the same time. In fact, studies show that HIIT is the most effective way to burn fat to get a toned body.

Typically, we think that cardio and strength training routines should be done on separate days. But nothing can be further from the truth for these reasons:  

  • Adding more muscle tissue with strength training boosts your metabolism, resulting in higher calorie and fat burning.        
  • The dynamic body moves involved in compound exercises used in HIIT routines work the largest muscle groups. So you burn more calories and fat than isolated exercises alone.        
  • Compound exercises, like push-ups, strengthen your muscles and elevates your heart rate. This gives you the same fat and calorie-burning benefits as a cardio workout while also building toned muscles.            
  • Combining both muscle building and cardio on your workout days gives you more ample rest days. As a result, your body can recover to build stronger, more toned muscles and avoid injury and burnout.    


High-intensity exercises are exactly as they are named, intense. Therefore, they require short rest and recovery periods of about 30 seconds in between reps. This allows you to maintain the intensity level for up to 30 minutes while keeping the heart rate elevated.

To sum it all up, the best recipe for toning up the body includes:    

  • Compound, high-intensity moves that work the largest and most muscle groups to burn the most calories and fat.        
  • Keeping the intensity level high enough to feel your muscles burn with only 8 to 12 repetitions of each exercise.        
  • Brief 30-second (or longer for beginners) recovery breaks in between sets of reps to maintain an elevated heart rate.    

Now that you're acquainted with how you should exercise let's talk about putting together the best workout for muscle toning.

Workout Routines that Most Effectively Tone the Muscles 


One of the best ways to create a balanced workout and ensure your heart rate remains elevated is with circuit training. Circuit training isn't only for bodybuilders or athletes; it's for anybody that wants to strengthen and tone their entire body. It's also the best way to build muscle and melt fat in one workout.

Circuit training involves going directly from reps of one activity to another, working different muscle groups with each exercise. Between each set of reps is a brief recovery period of about 30 seconds. Circuit training requires commitment and focus but is an incredible way to tone muscles, burn fat, build endurance, and get into fantastic shape.

Forget about bicep curls. The top exercises to include in your circuit routine will utilize larger muscle group movements. For example, one exercise could work the entire legs or back. Other circuit exercises should work numerous muscle groups simultaneously, such as pushups that work the arms, shoulders, chest, and core. These types of activities burn more calories than isolated exercises alone but require less reps.

Now you know how to work out and what kind of exercises to include to tone the muscles. Let's take a look at the ten best exercises to tone up your entire body.

The 10 Most Effective Exercises to Tone the Entire Body


We've established that high reps of isolated exercises with alternating muscle groups on different days are one of the least effective ways to tone up the body. And we know that doing high-intensity interval circuit training with low reps is the most effective way to build muscle while burning fat.

Keep in mind that high-intensity training uses whole-body strength, cardio, power, endurance, and mobility work, so you will have the best results with a workout 30 minutes or less. Longer workouts may lead to overtraining, injury, and burnout.

Begin with 8 to 12 reps and maintain an elevated heart rate with rest periods of 30 seconds or a bit longer for beginners. Alternate between exercises that work different muscle groups. For example, follow up an exercise that works your upper body with a lower-body exercise. This minimizes fatigue and helps you maintain maximum intensity for the entire workout.

The Top 10 Best Fat Burning Exercises You Can Without a Gym


Put together any combination of the following exercises for your circuit training, HIIT routine. Any of these exercises combined will make a killer workout for burning fat and toning up your muscles. And you don't even need to step foot in a gym.

Jumping Jacks


Most of us have done jumping jacks at least once. They might seem simple, but jumping jacks are an excellent cardio exercise to elevate your heart rate and warm up. Additionally, jumping jacks strengthen multiple large muscles in your core, calves, hips, glutes, upper back, and shoulders. 

Use jumping jacks as your warm-up or in between sets to keep your heart rate elevated and caloric burn high.



There's good reason burpees makes just about every list for the perfect strength training exercises. This all-in-one exercise simultaneously tones your core, upper body, and legs plus an excellent cardio workout that gets your heart pumping. This jumping, plank, pushup, and squatting combo tones up the muscles and burns loads of calories.

Focus on maintaining stability and core rather than achieving that maximum number of reps.

Jumping Lunges 

Canva - Woman in Green Sports Bra and Black Leggings Doing Leg Lunges

If you're looking for a powerhouse thigh and leg toning exercise, look no further than jumping lunges. The momentum required to jump up in between lunges makes this powerful move into a cardio workout and an incredible fat burner.

If jumping lunges put too much impact on your joints, power-step ups on a low box or bench are a low-impact alternative for working the same muscles.

Jackknife Crunches 


Forget old-school sit-ups; jackknife crunches are an intense abdominal exercise that strengthens the upper and lower abs for maximal abdominal toning. Additionally, they work out the side abdominals (the obliques), inner thighs, and hip flexors.

Jackknife crunches work your muscles so hard you'll understand why you should only do 8 to 12 reps per set.

Reverse Lunges with Knee Lift


Lunges are an incredible compound exercise to include in any muscle toning routine. However, reverse lunges with knee lifts ramp up the intensity and muscle strengthening. They not only tone the hamstrings, glutes, quads, obliques, and lower back - they also strengthen coordination and balance.

Alternate reps of reverse lunges with knee lifts with other exercises like burpees and jackknife crunches, and you're guaranteed to have a total body-strengthening and fat-burning workout.

Jumping Squats


Jumping squats are a powerful way to take your squats to the next level. This challenging, plyometric exercise is outstanding for building explosive speed while toning the hips, thighs, butt, and calves. This heart rate-elevating, cardio exercise effectively builds strength and scorches fat.

If you don't have a box handy for this exercise, you can alternatively do in and out jumping squats for the same benefits.


Canva - Man Doing Push Up Exercise Outdoors

Though push-ups are already a part of the burpee, push-ups alone also make a tremendous muscle-building exercise. Push-ups work out the muscles in your chest, shoulders, triceps, abs, and keeps your heart rate elevated. Push-ups are the perfect muscle toning exercise to alternate with squats and lunges.

If a regular push-up is too simple for you, try raising one leg for a single leg push-up. Switch legs halfway through your reps.

Side Planks with Leg Raises


This Pilates move involves holding a side plank while raising the leg for the desired number of repetitions. This dynamic exercise targets the outer thighs, obliques, and shoulders. It also builds entire body strength, balance, and coordination.

Side planks with leg raises require so much strength and balance you'll be glad to keep reps minimal. Be sure to alternate sides.

Lateral Jumps


Lateral jumps are a relatively simple yet challenging exercise that tones your core, glutes, and thighs in one movement. All of the largest muscle groups are involved in lateral jumps, so you will tone your muscles while burning large amounts of calories and fat.

Once you've mastered the lateral jump movement, gradually build up speed to elevate your heart rate. Fast-moving lateral jumps make the perfect cardio exercise in between other activities in your routine.

Low Box Runners


Boost the elasticity of your muscles and build power in your legs, hips, and glutes with high-energy low box runners. Low box runners give you all the weight-loss benefits of other plyometric exercises without sore or achy joints. It's also an incredible cardio workout for ultimate fat burning.

All you need is a stable low box or step for this calorie-scorching exercise.

Additional Tips for Your Body Toning Routine


To conclude, you can easily create a powerful workout routine that will not only strengthen your muscles but burn fat and calories to achieve a toned appearance. Be sure to vary the exercises within your routines to work the body evenly and take at least three recovery days a week. Keep your activities intense but reps low for the most impact.

Additionally, after each workout, be sure to cool down for at least 5 minutes and stretch thoroughly to help your muscles to recover. If you keep your high-intensity routines challenging but fun, you'll be well on your way to the toned physique you desire.

Want more ideas for exercises to tone up your muscles? Visit the Zoid Academy to learn a variety of workout routines for toning the muscles and burning fat.