Toning Exercises: 30 Minute Workout Routines

Shape experts design the best 30 minute workout to tighten your abs, butt, legs and arms – fast.

If you could put one improved body part atop your winter wish list, what would it be? A better butt? Tighter abs? Leaner legs? Amazing arms? Well, look no further, because we have just the toning exercises to give you all of the above.

Earlier this year, Shape teamed up with kinesiologists Stuart Rugg, Ph.D., and Bill Whiting, Ph.D., to find the best exercises you could possibly do in your workout routines to shape specific body parts. Using an electromyograph (EMG) machine, our science gurus recorded activity in different muscles as our fearless test subject performed an assortment of popular moves. Over a period of several months, we analyzed more than 125 exercises to come up with a master list of all-time "Best Tested Moves." And now, for a special end-of-the-year finale, we've selected eight of those moves for this quick, easy and supereffective total-body 30 minute workout.

Since the 30 minute workout program is designed as a circuit (i.e., you go from one exercise to the next without resting), you'll blow through it faster. You'll also get your heart rate up for an increased calorie burn, notes Rugg, chair of the department of kinesiology at Occidental College in Los Angeles.

Better still, if you already have dumbbells, you can do the program at home. If you prefer using gym equipment for your workout routines, we've listed an alternative machine-based move for each exercise. You can also up the calorie-burning quotient of your fitness workouts by intermittently adding spurts of cardio (see "The Plan" at left for details). So, give yourself the gift that keeps on giving this season - a more fit, fabulous, sleek and sexy body... in next to no time.


Frequency of toning exercises

Do this workout 3-4 times per week, taking a day off between each session.

Warm-up toning exercises

Do 5 minutes of any low-intensity cardio, such as brisk walking, marching in place or step-ups.

The workout routines

Perform 1 set (10-15 reps) of each exercise in the order listed without resting between sets. Then complete the circuit a second time. For moves 1-6 use 5- to 10-pound dumbbells. If you want to use more weight, you can cut back on reps, but don't drop below 8 reps per exercise. If you're an experienced lifter or wish to advance, perform 3 circuits.

Cool-down toning exercises

End with static stretches for all the major muscles worked, holding each stretch for 20-30 seconds without bouncing.

Mega calorie-burning fitness workouts

Add 2-3 minutes of cardio after every other move. For example, after you finish Moves 1 and 2, do 2-3 minutes of jogging in place, jump-rope, jumping jacks, step-ups (using a step or staircase), knee lifts, lunges or any other heart-pumping activity you enjoy.

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