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10 Bodyweight Exercises for Beginners to Sculpt a Toned Body

These exercises sculpt, define, and tone your entire body.
FACT CHECKED BY Alexa Mellardo

You don't have to go to an upscale gym or have lots of equipment for every workout. Bodyweight exercises are great—especially for beginners who want to start their fitness journey. They're perfect for burning fat and sculpting that lean, toned look you're after—as long as your efforts stay high and your dedication stays true. That's why I rounded up 10 of my best bodyweight exercises for beginners to get toned.

Many ask, "Coach Jarrod, can I rely on bodyweight exercises alone?" My response: Absolutely! As you advance in fitness, there might be time to diversify with equipment or gym sessions. But for now, you can stick with bodyweight exercises. Challenging your muscles by upping reps, cutting rest, trying tougher variations, and slowing down tempos to maximize muscle tension is key.

Continue reading as I share my top 10 bodyweight exercises for beginners to get toned. These moves sculpt, define, and tone your body, building lean muscle mass and boosting metabolism. Some exercises are straightforward to master before advancing, while others are more challenging, designed to elevate your heart rate and burn calories efficiently. We will also spice things up using interval sets instead of traditional sets and reps to give you a little variety in your workouts.

Keep reading to learn all about my 10 best bodyweight exercises for beginners to get toned. And when you're finished, be sure to check out these 8 Tips for Boosting Muscle Growth After 50, According to a Trainer.

Alternating Reverse Lunge with Knee Drives

Reverse lunges kickstart your metabolism as an excellent unilateral exercise that sculpts the quads, glutes, and hamstrings while relying on increased muscle activation to stabilize the lunge positions. Adding in the knee drive increases your intensity and intent for each rep.

Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. Step back with one foot, lowering your rear knee toward the floor while keeping your chest up and maintaining balance on both feet. Then, push through the front foot to stand tall, driving the back knee up toward your chest with power. Return to the starting position, and repeat on the other side, alternating between legs for the desired number of sets and repetitions. Complete three rounds of 30 seconds of effort with 60 seconds of rest between sets.

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Hand-Release Pushups

Pushups are undoubtedly one of the top bodyweight exercises for any fitness goal, whether you're looking to tone your chest, shoulders, and triceps or to improve functional strength. Adding the hand release element serves a few purposes: it emphasizes the lowering phase, promotes greater initial strength gains, and provides a brief pause before pushing back up from the floor, the most challenging part of the pushup's range of motion.

To knock out reps of pushups, position your hands beneath your shoulders, and start in a plank position, ensuring your arms are straight. Squeeze your core, lower your body to the ground, pause, and release your hands, return, and then push back up. Repeat for desired sets and reps, prioritizing form. Perform three sets of 45 seconds with 60 seconds of rest between sets. Prioritize proper form over the number of repetitions you perform!

Box Squat Jumps

Box squat jumps add an explosive lower-body exercise to your fitness arsenal. The dynamic nature of squat jump variations fires up your quads, glutes, and hamstrings, ramping up your metabolism and defining your lower body. They work great for sets and reps, intervals, or HIIT workouts.

Start in a hip-width stance with your toes slightly turned out to perform squat jumps. Lower into a quarter squat position until your hips touch the box or bench. Then, explosively jump upward, extending your hips and legs fully as you quickly reach your arms overhead. Land softly, and immediately return to the squat position for the next repetition. Complete three rounds of 30 seconds of effort with 60 seconds of rest between sets.

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Bear Holds with Rows

Targeting the lats and upper back muscles with bodyweight exercises can be challenging, but a bit of creativity goes a long way. Rows engage your lats and other back muscles, such as the rhomboids. Performing rows from the bear hold or all fours position works these muscles and adds a level of core activation to sculpt and strengthen your midsection.

Begin this exercise by assuming the bear hold on all fours, with your hands positioned beneath your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Lift your knees slightly off the ground, creating a tabletop position while maintaining a straight line from your head to your heels. Engage your core muscles as you perform rows, pulling one elbow up toward the ceiling in a controlled motion. Alternate between arms, focusing on stability and core activation throughout the exercise. Perform three rounds of 30 seconds of effort with 60 seconds of rest between sets.

Marching Glute Bridges

Marching glute bridges are a potent exercise for sculpting a toned lower body. You engage the glutes, hamstrings, and core muscles by alternating lifting and lowering each leg while holding a bridge position. Incorporating this exercise into your routine strengthens key muscle groups, enhances stability, and improves overall muscle definition. Plus, the one-sided aspect of marching glute bridges significantly ramps up the intensity of this effective bodyweight exercise.

Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground, positioned about one foot away from your glutes. Ensure your knees and ankles align. Keep your feet hip-width apart, and extend your arms fully with palms flat on the ground. Squeeze your core and glutes, then drive your hips off the floor toward the ceiling. Bring your right knee toward your chest while keeping your hips stable. Lower your right foot with control, maintaining engagement in your core and glutes. Then, repeat the movement on the left side to equal one repetition. Complete three rounds of 45 seconds with 60 seconds of rest between sets.

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Rotating T Plank

Rotating T planks are an all-inclusive stay for activating your midsection for bodyweight workouts. The standard plank targets the rectus abdominis, while rotation engages the transverse abdominis. Transitioning to a side plank fires up the obliques. Incorporating a single-arm plank targets the shoulders, creating a powerful formula for sculpting a toned upper body and midsection.

Starting in a plank position with your hands beneath your shoulders. Lift one arm, rotate your torso, and extend the arm toward the ceiling, forming a T shape. Maintain a tight core throughout, squeezing your abs as you rotate. Return to the plank position, and repeat on the other side. Perform three rounds of 30 to 45 seconds with 60 seconds of rest between sets.

Cross-body Mountain Climbers

Cross-body mountain climbers elevate your fat-burning capacity, offering a rigorous and effective workout. While traditional mountain climbers are demanding, cross-body variations intensify the challenge, engaging a broader range of midsection muscles for enhanced results. Experiment with fast versions and slow rep variations to mix things up and increase the intensity!

To execute cross-body mountain climbers, start in a high plank position with your hands beneath your shoulders and your body straight. Engage your core, and bring your right knee toward your left elbow, then quickly switch legs, bringing your left knee toward your right elbow. Alternate legs in a smooth, controlled motion, maintaining a steady pace. Complete three rounds of 20 to 30 seconds with 60 seconds of rest between sets.

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Bicycle Crunches

woman doing bicycle crunches, concept of bodyweight exercises for beginners to get toned

Bicycle crunches offer an intense and dynamic ab workout, effectively sculpting your midsection. You maximize results by engaging your abs and squeezing them as you alternate from side to side while targeting obliques and rectus abdominis. Additionally, the vigorous nature of bicycle crunches burns calories and incinerates fat, contributing to a more defined and toned core.

Lie on your back with your hands behind your head, legs lifted off the ground, and your knees bent. Bring your right elbow and left knee together while straightening your right leg, then alternate by bringing your left elbow and right knee together while straightening your left leg. Perform three rounds of 30 to 45 seconds with 60 seconds of rest between sets.

Lateral Shuffles

Lateral shuffles provide a distinctive workout by emphasizing lateral movement, a departure from many exercises' typical forward-and-back or up-and-down motion. With minimal space needed (just two to three shuffles in each direction), they elevate your heart rate and rev up your metabolism. Incorporating lateral shuffles into your routine adds variety and enhances overall fitness by targeting different muscle groups and movement patterns.

Choose a space where you can comfortably perform two to three rapid shuffles in each direction. Set your timer and get into a partial squat position. Shuffle to the right with purposeful speed, then quickly change direction and shuffle back to the left. Maintain continuous movement throughout the working interval to maximize the effectiveness of the exercise.

For a HIIT workout, aim for three to five rounds of 20 to 30 seconds of intense exercise followed by 60 seconds of rest between rounds. If you prefer longer intervals, complete two to three rounds of 60 to 90 seconds of work with the same amount of rest in between. Adjust the duration and intensity based on your fitness level and goals.


illustration of burpees, concept of bodyweight exercises for beginners to get toned

Burpees are fantastic for sculpting a toned body because they engage multiple muscle groups, including the chest, shoulders, arms, core, and legs. This full-body exercise also boosts cardiovascular endurance and burns calories, making it an excellent choice for improving overall fitness and achieving a lean physique. Plus, burpees can be easily modified to suit different fitness levels, allowing for progression.

Begin by squatting down with your knees bent and your feet shoulder-width apart. Lower your hands to the floor just inside your feet and kick your feet back, entering a pushup position with your body straight from head to heels. Perform a pushup, ensuring your back remains straight. Next, jump your feet back to the starting position, standing and reaching your arms overhead. Quickly leap into the air, returning to the squat position to initiate another repetition. Perform three rounds of 30 to 45 seconds with 60 seconds of rest between sets.

Jarrod Nobbe
Jarrod Nobbe is a USAW National Coach, Sports Performance Coach, Personal Trainer, and writer, and has been involved in health and fitness for the past 12 years. Read more about Jarrod
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