Starting a new exercise routine can be extremely daunting, especially if you haven’t exercised in a while. It’s always exciting trying something new, but at the same time confusing.

The best thing to do when starting a new workout routine is to master the basic, but most effective whole body muscle toning exercises and use these as a base to build on.

To cut the overwhelm, we’ve included 8 of the best whole body muscle toning exercises all beginners should master before moving onto a full workout routine.

Don’t worry about jumping right into the intense, body sweating workout you see on youtube. Start small and build up!

Strength, Body Toning Exercises To Master

1. Romanian Deadlift

The Romanian deadlift targets the glutes, hamstrings, lower and upper back and is a great lower body compound move.

The Romanian deadlift works your muscles more than a squat. ”You may have seen deadlifts done with weights, but you can do it without” says certified NYC personal trainer, Jacque Crockford.

How to do it

1. Stand with your feet hip width apart, knees slightly bent, arms relaxed in front of the tops of your legs.

2. Hinge forward at the hips, bend forward slightly, and push your butt backwards. Keep your back flat and knees softly bent. Don’t extend your knees over your toes.

3. Slowly lower your arms down towards the floor until you feel a slight pull in your hamstrings. Pull your arms back up, keep your core tight and squeeze your butt as you come back up. That’s 1 rep.

Pro Tips

There are more types of deadlifts you can add to your workout routine. The Romanian Deadlift is the easiest for beginners (pictured above).

A stiff legged deadlift requires more flexibility in the joints and muscles and involves no bend in the knees. It is best to work up to this move.

2. Squat

Squats. Love them or loathe them, they are a great strength building exercise for your quads, glutes and core, but only when done correctly.

This is one basic body weight exercise that confuses both beginners and professionals alike when it comes to proper technique.

How to do it

1. Stand with your feet slightly further than hip width apart, toes turned slightly.

2. Shift your weight onto your heels, push your hips back, and bend your knees into a squat. Imagine sitting onto a chair. You can bend your elbows and place your hand above your head if you so wish.

3. Drive your weight through your heels and squeeze your glutes when you’re coming back up. This is 1 rep.

3. Reverse Lunge

When you’re lunging, you’re training your body to be able to do single leg movements. This helps to improve your lower body balance and stability.

Reverse lunges work glutes, quads & core, and are typically easier on the knees than forward lunges, but if you prefer to forward lunge and don’t have any knee pain whilst doing so, feel free to do that instead.

How to do it

1. Stand with your feet together with your hands on your hips.

2. From this position, step back (about 2 feet) with your right foot, landing on the front of your foot, keeping your heel off the floor.

3. Bend both knees until your left quad and right shin are parallel to the floor. Make sure to keep your back flat and that your knees aren’t too far forward (if they’re over your toes, you’re leaning too far forward).

4. Push through the heel of your left foot when coming back up. This is 1 rep. Switch legs to continue.

4. Bent-Over-Row

Bent over rows is a classic exercise that targets your upper back, laterals, and shoulder blade muscles.

Unlike other exercises where you can use your bodyweight, you will want to use some form of resistance to get the most out of this exercise e.g. weights or bands are ideal.

Crocker suggests ”starting with a lighter resistance band, and trying to keep your shoulders back and down rather than hunched and forward.”

How to do it

1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a weight in each hand with your arms at your sides.

2. Moving forward at the hips, bend your knees slightly, so that your back is no lower than parallel to the floor. Make sure to keep your neck craned down towards the ground to keep it in a comfortable position.

3. Pull the weights/band up towards your chest, keeping your elbows tight to your body. Your elbows should move past your back as you bring the weight toward your chest.

4. To end the rep, lower the weights by extending your arms toward the floor.

5. Push Ups (Modified)

Push Ups are one of the simplest ways to incorporate a ‘push’ movement into your workout routine. BUT, they are hard!

I almost didn’t include it in the list because of how hard they are! However, there is no need to worry or eliminate them from your routine.

There are many modifications you can make to push-ups that make them more accessible for beginners. I do push-ups on my knees 99% of the time because I feel it gives my arms a better workout as opposed to struggling with a ‘traditional’ push-up and then failing to do reps.

How to do it

1. Drop to your knees, keep your glues tight, your back flat and your shoulders back and down, similar to the plank position.

2. Leaning forward, but keeping your knees on the floor, bend your elbows and lower your body to the floor.

3. Push through the palms of your hands (or your knuckles if you have weaker wrists) to straighten your arms.

6. Plank

Who remembers doing planks in school P.E lessons? Man, they are hard, but oh so good for improving your core’s stability and strength. So many exercises are pinned on a strong core. As with most exercises, there are modifications for beginners. If you can’t do a whole body straight plank using your forearms, start with high planks. Crockford recommends extending your arms and using your hands to form a lifted plank.

How to do it

1. Place your palms flat on the floor, hands roughly shoulder-width apart. Your shoulders should be directly above your wrists. This is your starting position.

2. Fully extend your legs behind you, feet hip-width apart.

3. Engaging your core, butt, and quads, hold this position for a set amount of time. Start with 10 seconds and then work your way up to 30 seconds – 1 minute as you get stronger.

7. Glute Bridge

Glute bridges are a great hip and leg compound exercise. Not only can they help to mobilise and strengthen the hip joint, but they also help to strengthen glute muscles, which are often inactive for long periods of the day, especially if we have office jobs.

Glute Bridges are great for pre-workout warm-ups too given they help to loosen and mobilise the lower body joints.

How to do it

1. Lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, lay your arms flat on the floor beside you.

2. Push through your hips, making sure to squeeze your glutes and abs as you lift your hips a few inches off the floor. Picture your body as an ironing board as you flatten your shoulders to your knees.

3. Hold this position for a second and then slowly lower your hips to return to the starting position. Continue for 10-15 reps.

Pro Tip

To make this exercise more of a challenge, and to engage more of your lower beg muscles, including your inner leg muscles, place a ball in between your legs as you lift.

As you lift up, squeeze the ball to activate and train these muscles.

8. Squat Chops

Squat chops are to help you get used to rotational movements, which are often included in high intensity workouts. You can do this as a pure body weight exercise or add a weight/band if you wish.

How to do it

1. Stand with your feet wider than hip-width apart, core engaged, hands clasped together or holding a weight if you choose to.

2. Raise your arms diagonally in front of your body, allowing your torso and toes to rotate as you twist.

3. Now, using your own weight, make a chopping motion across your body. Focus on keeping your core stable. Try not to make a loose swinging motion as you will lose the effectiveness of the exercise.