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10 Strength Training Exercises for Beginners to Sculpt a Toned Body

If you’re new to strength training, use these moves to quickly boost your physique.
FACT CHECKED BY Alexa Mellardo

No matter how long you've been exercising, everyone wants a lean, toned body. But if you're new to fitness or strength training—maybe you haven't worked out for a while or you've never consistently trained before—you need to make sure you do the right things and avoid the wrong things. That's why I'm here to share 10 of the best beginner strength training exercises to get toned.

Before we dive in, let's back up a bit. What are the "right" and "wrong" things? Well, the right thing is to use strength training, which means exercising with resistance (i.e. dumbbells, barbells, or even your body weight) so you can transform your body. This method stimulates muscle growth and burns lots of fat so you can see more definition and get toned.

The wrong thing, however, is to use exercises that are inappropriate for your level of strength, mobility, or experience. The hard truth is people often see advanced exercises on social media and believe that's the only way to work out. But if a beginner tries what a fitness influencer does, they will most likely do it incorrectly and risk pain or injury (which means lots of discouragement and time off from any exercise).

In this article, I'll share 10 of my top-recommended beginner strength training exercises to get toned. These are easy-to-learn movements that build foundational strength in key muscle groups, fix any imbalances in your body, and teach fundamental movement patterns so you can safely add more complex exercises to your routine in the future.

Goblet Squats, Sets: 4, Reps: 5

dumbbell goblet squat illustration

Hold the end of one dumbbell (or kettlebell) in both hands, and position it by your chest with your elbows underneath. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes slightly out. Start the movement by sitting backward and spreading your knees apart. Descend below parallel while keeping your lower back flat. At the bottom, drive through your heels and keep your knees apart.

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Single-Leg Box Squats, Sets: 4, Reps: 8 per leg

Single-Leg Box Squat, Sets

Start by facing away from a bench or box. Lift one leg, sit back on the bench, and come up without putting your other leg down. To make this exercise more challenging, lower the bench.

Kettlebell Deadlifts, Sets: 4, Reps: 5

kettlebell deadlift

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with the kettlebell between your legs and the handle in line with the bony part of your ankles. Bend from your hips, and grab the kettlebell with both hands. Before you lift, your shins should be vertical, your back should be almost parallel with the ground, and your lower back should be flat.

Squeeze the handle hard, pull your shoulders backward, and crush your armpits. Lift the kettlebell by pushing through the ground, not by pulling up. Stand tall, and squeeze your glutes at the top. On the way down, place the kettlebell at the same spot you lifted it from.

To make this exercise easier, start with the kettlebell on a small step platform about four inches high (or even two steps if needed). As you improve, gradually lower the height until you're doing deadlifts from the floor.

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Pushups, Sets: 4, Reps: 8


Get in a pushup position with your hands about shoulder-width apart. Keep your lower back flat, and don't let your hips sag. Lower yourself, and keep your elbows close to your body as you descend. If you can't do it from the floor, put your hands on an exercise bench.

Single-Arm Cable Row, Sets: 4, Reps: 8 per arm

single-arm cable row

Set a cable handle to chest height. Grab the handle, take a step back, and stand facing the cable. Start the movement by pulling your shoulder blade toward your midline, and row without twisting your torso. Once you finish all your reps, switch sides.

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Hip Thrusts, Sets: 4, Reps: 10

illustration of barbell hip thrust

Lie down with your shoulders on a bench, your body perpendicular to a bench, and your feet on the floor. Rest a barbell with weight plates on your hips—and use a thick pad to cushion the barbell on your hips—and drive your hips to full extension. Push through your heels, and squeeze your glutes at the top. Lower the barbell back to the ground, and repeat.

Dumbbell Scaptions, Sets: 3, Reps: 8

Grab two dumbbells, and hold them at your sides. Stand tall with your shoulder blades squeezed together and your glutes tight. Raise the dumbbells to your sides and slightly in front of you (about 30 degrees in front of you). Repeat.

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Single-Arm Farmers Carry, Sets: 2, Reps: 20 yards each arm

Grab a dumbbell or kettlebell in one hand, keep your chest up and shoulder blades squeezed, and walk. Repeat with the other hand.

Tall Kneeling Pallof Press, Sets: 3, Reps: 10 per side

Get on both knees, and set a cable handle to chest height. While facing perpendicular to the cable, bring the handle to your chest. Brace your core, squeeze your glutes, and keep your shoulders and hips directly over your knees. Push the handle straight forward, and hold for three seconds. Bring it back to your chest, and repeat. Then, switch sides, and repeat.

Band-Assisted Chin-ups, Sets: 3, Reps: 8

This list of beginner strength exercises to get toned wraps up with band-assisted chin-ups. Loop one end of an exercise band around a pull-up bar, and pull it through itself. Grab a pull-up bar with your palms facing toward you, and place your bent knee in the bottom loop of the band so it gives you support. Start by squeezing your shoulder blades together. Pull yourself up, and lead with your chest.

Anthony J. Yeung, CSCS
Anthony J. Yeung, CSCS, is a fitness expert featured in Esquire, GQ, and Men’s Health and the founder of GroomBuilder, the destination for men who want to transform their bodies for their weddings. Join the free 5-day course to burn fat and build muscle for the big day! Read more about Anthony