Toning Exercises for Women: Complete Workout Plan for Beginners

Toning exercises help tighten, strengthen and elongate your muscles, which results in a more attractive body shape, no matter what your size or weight. However, if you want to lose weight, you'll need to add some cardio to this routine.

Walking for 30 minutes a day three to five days a week paired with the exercise routine below and a healthy diet will get your body in shape in no time.

I've used this system for the past six months and I've lost 44 lbs in total, plus my body is more toned and attractive than it's been since high school. If you're just looking to tone those muscles, then this workout routine is all you need.

DISCLAIMER: For the best results, start small. This toning routine is targeted towards beginners, but as your body begins to shape up, you can increase your reps to create an intermediate or advanced workout.

Remember not to push yourself too far and always consult your doctor before starting any new exercise plan, especially if you suffer from any weight-related health problems.

Workout Overview

Monday, Wednesday & Friday
Abs & Arms
Crunches, Bicycle Crunches, Toe Touches, Side Crunches, Full Sit-Ups, Knee Bends, Alternate Heel Touches, Scissor Kicks, Bicep Curls, Hammer Curls, Overhead Triceps Extensions, Cross Chest Extensions
Tuesday & Thursay
Chest, Back & Butt
Single Arm Rows, Push-Ups, Butterflies, Bent-Over Rows, Palm Press, Straight Leg Kick Backs, Standing Hamstring Curls, Straight Leg Lifts, Lunges, Fire Hydrants, Bridge Lifts, Sumo Squats

Preparing for Your Workout

Allow approximately 15 to 20 minutes each day for your workout. You'll get faster as you get used to performing the exercises, but you may need as much as 30 minutes a day for the first week or two.

Make sure to wear tight-fitting clothing if possible. You don't need any special equipment for this workout, but 3-lb weights will be extremely helpful. If you don't have access to weights, however, you can use soup cans, glass jars filled with beans, heavy books or any other items around the house that weigh approximately the same amount.

You'll also need a mat or towel to place on the floor if your exercise area is not carpeted. In addition, remember to keep a bottle of water on hand. You should drink water before, during and after your workout to keep your body adequately hydrated.

Monday, Wednesday and Friday (Abs & Arms)

On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, you'll concentrate on toning your abs and arms. It's best to never work the same muscle groups two days in a row. They need time to rest and build-up before you work them again.

Because the abs and arms are where women most often have trouble staying toned, especially as they grow older, we'll concentrate on these areas three days a week. It may not feel like much at first, but after a few weeks, you'll be able to see a huge difference. Now, let's take a look at the ab and arm exercises:

Stomach Toning Exercises for Women

For your ab toning routine, begin by performing the following exercises on Monday, Wednesday and Friday:

  • Crunches
  • Bicycle Crunches
  • Toe Touches
  • Side Crunches
  • Full Sit-Ups
  • Knee Bends
  • Alternate Heel Touches
  • Scissor Kicks

Arm Exercises for Women

For your arm-toning routine, begin by performing the following exercises on Monday, Wednesday and Friday:

  • Bicep Curls
  • Hammer Curls
  • Overhead Triceps Extensions
  • Cross Chest Extensions


Most people are familiar with crunches, but very few people perform them correctly. When you do them right, crunches tone and strengthen your upper abs. Watch the video below to learn the proper technique.

Bicycle Crunches

Similar to regular crunches, bicycle crunches primarily target the lower abs, although they also work the upper abs and obliques (love handles). Watch the video below to learn how to correctly perform bicycle crunches.

Toe Touches

These simple exercises are not only easy to perform, they also target your upper abs. Watch the video below to learn how to perform toe touches the right way.

Side Crunches

Unlike regular crunches that target your upper abs and bicycle crunches that target your lower abs, side crunches target your obliques (side abs or love handles). Watch the video below to learn how to perform side crunches correctly.

Full Sit-Ups

Different than crunches, sit-ups require a full range of motion as you move your torso from the floor into a sitting position. When performed properly, sit-ups are very effective in toning your upper abs. Watch the video below for tips on proper form.

Knee Bends

This exercise targets your lower abs, and it's quite easy to perform, usually even for beginners. Watch the video below to learn how to perform knee bends.

Alternate Heel Touches

This exercise works your oblique muscles (also known as the love handles) and helps tone your entire core. It's a simple exercise, but you'll be able to feel the burn quite quickly. Watch the video below for a demonstration.

Scissor Kicks

These can be tough for beginners, but they work your upper and lower abs at the same time. Watch the video below to learn the proper technique and do as many as you can as part of your toning workout routine.

Bicep Curls

Pull out your weights (or soup cans) for this exercise. Although it may be tempting, remember to perform bicep curls slowly for the best results. Watch the video below for a demonstration of proper technique.

Hammer Curls

You'll need your weights again for this one. Hammer curls work your forearms and biceps, making them a great combination exercise for your arms. Watch the video below to learn how to perform hammer curls correctly.

Overhead Triceps Extension

The overhead triceps extension uses only a single weight and targets your triceps, or the back of the arm. Many women have a problem with “flabby arms,” especially as they get older.

This exercise will get rid of that arm flab in no time. Watch the video below for a demonstration.

Cross Chest Extensions

These extensions require you to be in a lying position, and they work the triceps, or the back of the arm. They help combat the flabby arms that women often lament.

Watch the video below for an example of how to perform this exercise. Although the exercise is often performed while on a weight bench, you can also do the same by just lying flat on the floor.

Tuesday and Thursday (Chest, Back, and Butt)

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, you'll concentrate on toning your back, chest and butt. While performing these exercises, you'll also be working your abs and arms, but the primary focus will be on the back, chest and glute (butt) muscle groups.

Let's take a look at the exercises you'll need to become familiar with for this part of your toning workout routine.

Chest and Back Toning Exercises for Women

For your chest and back toning routine, begin by performing the following exercises on Tuesdays and Thursdays every week:

  • Single Arm Rows
  • Push-Ups
  • Butterflies
  • Bent-Over Rows
  • Palm Press

Butt Toning Exercises for Women

For your butt toning routine, begin by performing the following exercises every Tuesday and Thursday:

  • Straight Leg Kick Backs
  • Standing Hamstring Curls
  • Straight Leg Lifts
  • Lunges
  • Fire Hydrants
  • Bridge Lifts
  • Sumo Squats

Single Arm Rows

You'll need at least one weight, soup can or heavy book to perform this exercise, which targets the back and shoulders as well as the arms. Watch the video below for instruction on performing single arm rows correctly.


Almost everyone is familiar with push-ups, but you can perform them in a slightly modified way to accommodate beginners. Push-ups target the chest and arms, and for women, they help firm and lift the breasts.

Watch the video below for a demonstration of several different ways you can perform push-ups. Choose the one that's easiest for you to do and stick with it.


Also known as the chest fly, the butterfly exercise targets the chest muscles. You'll need to pull out your weights or soup cans again, and you can lay flat on the floor to perform the exercise if you don't have a weight bench at home.

Watch the video below for a demonstration, but remember it's okay to lay down and let your elbows touch the ground during each repetition if you need to.

Bent-Over Rows

This exercise also requires weights and it targets your back muscles primarily. Watch the following video for a demonstration of the proper technique.

Palm Press

This exercise targets the chest muscles and biceps, and it's especially helpful to women, as it helps lift and firm the breasts. Watch the video below for a demonstration.

Straight Leg Kick Backs

This exercise targets the glutes and will help you get the toned butt you want. Watch the video below to learn how to perform straight leg kick backs correctly.

Standing Hamstring Curls

This exercise targets the butt and hamstring, or back of the thigh. If you need to, stand with your palms against the wall in front of you for support until you become stronger. Watch the video below for a demonstration.

Straight Leg Lifts

This exercise is similar to straight leg kick backs, except instead of bending your knees after each rep, you'll keep your leg straight and bring it slowly up and down to work your glutes. Watch the video below for a demonstration.


Another exercise almost everyone knows, the lunge works your glutes and thighs. Watch the video below if you need a refresher on performing lunges the right way.

Fire Hydrants

Cheekily named for their appearance (you look like a dog lifting its leg), fire hydrants are an exercise that works out the butt muscles, hip flexors and inner thigh. Watch the video below if you need a demonstration.

Bridge Lifts

This exercise targets the butt and abs. Make sure to squeeze your buns and abs tightly on each lift. Watch the video before to learn how to perform butt bridge lifts.

Sumo Squats

This exercise helps firm and tone your butt, and it also helps firm up your legs. It may be difficult at first, so only perform as many reps and you can comfortably complete. Watch the video below to learn how to perform sumo squats.

Repetitions for Beginners and Beyond

If you're an absolute beginner, start by performing 8 reps of each exercise on the days specified above. On the exercises that require you to work each arm or leg separately, perform 8 reps on each arm or leg.

Continue this regimen for the first week, then increase to 10 reps on your second week. Increase each exercise to 12 reps on your third week, and stay there until you feel comfortable moving on.

You can usually increase your reps by two each week until you reach about 30 to 40, but don't push yourself. You may not feel sore right away, but your muscles haven't had a chance to recover yet.

Wait until the next day and see how you feel. If you're really sore, you've pushed too hard. Your muscles should feel like they've been worked, but you shouldn't be in pain. Stay at a comfortable level at all times and don't forget to drink plenty of water while you're working out!

Comments 13 comments

Daysha 2 weeks ago

How many reps and sets do we do ?

cj 4 weeks ago

how much is one rep for an exercise? i am only focusing on ab and glutes

Amany Yehia 3 months ago

awesome steps

5 months ago

You tube pictures r not working please help thanks

Kristen Howe profile image

Kristen Howe 11 months ago from Northeast Ohio

Great guide, Willow. It's very useful and resourceful to tone our bodies with those exercises and guides.

alyssa 2 years ago

this doesn't buff you out right? i mean i just really need something to shape and tighten le body..

Cindy Robinson 2 years ago

Thank you so much for this article. I have been looking for help/support in this area for some time. Thinking I will be signing on and creating my own blog VERY soon. Looking forward to this, since I graduated from U. of Phoenix 2011 and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in 2012. Helping others to overcome illness through changing your diet is key to so many factors I can't begin to list them here. I am a product of this very process and it is still on going.

Randi Hammond profile image

Randi Hammond 2 years ago

Thank you for posting this. My New Years resolution for 2013 was to finally loose weight, and stick with it. With diet alone, and the help of the MyFitnessPal app, I have lost 75 lbs. I am a single mother of a VERY active a(n) (almost) 5 yr old boy. I also have multiple health issues. Which leaves me pressed for time, as well as (more often than not) in lots of pain and extremely tired. I have been trying to get back into doing yoga again. To tone up all of the loose skin that I am now plagued with. I know that if I had been able to exercise while loosing the weight this wouldn't be much of a problem now. Anyhow, what I am wondering is this; do you have any suggestions for MY specific dilemma?! Thank you.

JRochelle707 3 years ago

Thanks, I really need to get into shape.

Willow Sidhe profile image

Willow Sidhe 3 years ago Author

Good luck, Sherry! It's a great workout for beginners. I've done it myself several times when I don't exercise for a while.

Sherry 3 years ago

I am starting this Monday..Boy do I need help and need to do this 'beginner' toner shaper workouts!

mecheshier profile image

mecheshier 3 years ago

Thanks for a great Hub. Wonderful info and illustrations!

fucsia profile image

fucsia 5 years ago

Good Hub! the videos are very useful. Thanks for sharing!

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