Summer Tone-Up: 30-Minute Workout for Any Fitness Level

By: Robert Powell PH.D., CEP, CSCS, CDE  |  Diabetic Living

You don't need a ton of time or equipment to tone up. This whole-body routine focuses on all of the major muscle groups. The moves are great for people just starting out, with tips on how to increase resistance as the workout becomes easier.

Your body loses 1 to 3 percent of its muscle strength per year after age 30 if you don't do resistance exercises. A regular strength workout will preserve muscle quality and can improve your A1C by 0.5 percent.

Related: Trying to Lose Weight? Here's Why Strength Training Is as Important as Cardio

What You'll Need

  • Exercise mat (optional)
  • Dumbbells
  • Water
  • Comfortable clothes and shoes
  • Clock or something to tell time
  • Resistance band

Workout 101

Perform 8–12 repetitions of each move (or until you break form), 2–4 sets per exercise. Take a 2–3 minute break between sets.

Do this 30-minute routine 2–3 times per week on nonconsecutive days.

Warm Up

Use an aerobic machine such as an elliptical or rower to warm up both upper- and lower-body muscles. At home? March in place at a comfortable pace, pumping your arms above your head (raise the roof) and out in front (push the door) for 5 minutes. Perform a set for each exercise with light resistance to warm up your muscles.

Cool Down

Include 1–4 sets of static stretching in your cooldown, targeting each muscle used in this workout. Stretch until you feel slight discomfort, and hold for 10–30 seconds. Stretching daily improves flexibility.

1. Squat

Squat

Stand with feet hip- to shoulder-width apart, toes forward or slightly outward. Slowly flex at hips and knees, and lower your body until your thighs are parallel with the floor (or as far as your joints allow). Keep your back neutral, or slightly arch your lower back. (Do not round your shoulders or lean forward—you should be able to lift your toes.) Next, push through your entire foot to return to standing. Repeat.

Feeling Strong? Squat farther down as you become stronger and more flexible.

2. Push & Pull

This exercise combo ensures an upper-body balance.

A: Push-Up

Pushup

Stand an arm's length from a wall and place your hands on the wall shoulder-width apart. Bend your elbows and lower your chest toward the wall, engaging your core to keep your hips from sinking. Then extend your elbows to push yourself back up. Repeat.

Feeling Strong? Walk your feet farther from the wall. Next, progress to floor push-ups on your knees.

B: Seated Row

Seated row

Sitting, place the middle of a resistance band around the arches of your feet, knees slightly bent. Grasp the band and sit tall with your arms extended in front of you. Pull the band toward your midsection, keeping your elbows in tight, until your wrists meet the side of your torso. Maintain a rigid, erect posture—do not lean back as you pull the band. Next, extend your arms forward in a controlled movement back to the starting position. Repeat.

3. Curl & Extend

The push and pull of these exercises helps upper-arm balance.

A. Biceps Curl

Bicep curl

Stand tall with your knees slightly bent, feet shoulder- to hip-width apart and shoulders back. Hold dumbbells with your arms at your sides, palms forward. Bend your elbows and curl the dumbbells toward your shoulders, keeping your arms tight at your sides, wrists stiff and core engaged. All movement should occur at your elbows. Slowly lower the dumbbells to the starting position. Repeat.

B. Overhead Triceps Extension

Tricep extension

Stand tall with your knees slightly bent and feet shoulder- to hip-width apart. Grab one dumbbell. Extend your arms over your head, aligning your elbows with your ears. Then slowly bend your elbows, lowering your hands behind your head, keeping your elbows tight to your ears, wrists stiff, shoulders stationary and core engaged. Then extend your elbows, bringing your hands back above your head. Repeat.

4. Crunch & Fly

These exercises engage the midsection muscles that both flex and extend the spine.

A. Abdominal Crunch

Abdominal crunch

Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on floor and palms down. Use your abs to curl your chest toward your knees, sliding your palms along the floor toward your heels. Once your shoulder blades are completely off the floor or you reach maximum range of motion, slowly lower. Repeat.

Feeling Strong? Place hands across your chest or extend them above your head.

B. Superman

Superman pose

Lie on your stomach, arms at sides, palms facing up. Keeping your neck aligned with your spine, raise your forehead, shoulders, chest and feet off the floor by curling your lower back muscles (this may be minimal movement). Slowly lower to the floor. Repeat.

Feeling Strong? Extend your arms, palms down, above your head. Simultaneously raise your legs and feet off the floor to further engage your lower back and glutes.

5. Plank

Plank pose

The plank engages many of the major muscles, stimulates body alignment and posture, and can be performed with many variations based on individual ability.

Get on your hands and knees. Rest your elbows and forearms on the floor (close to your rib cage) to support your upper-body weight. Cross your ankles and slightly raise your feet off the floor. Engage your core to create a flat back (do not arch, sink or raise your butt). Envision a board lying on your body. Breathe throughout the pose; hold it until you feel your form breaking. Rest and repeat.

Feeling Strong? Increase the duration of the pose. When you reach 1-minute holds, make it more challenging by raising your knees off the floor and supporting your lower body on the balls of your feet and toes.

Increasing Resistance

As you get stronger and this workout becomes easier, increase resistance and number of sets.

  • Start with 1 set and build to 3.
  • 2-for-2 rule: If you can do 2 reps beyond your goal on the last set (2 sets or more), increase the resistance of your weights or band.
  • Increase reps to 8–12 to maintain. To improve muscular endurance, perform 12+ reps.
  • With weights or bands, do 6–8 reps to increase strength.

Watch: Crush Your Weight-Loss Goals

More Workout Ideas:

Skip the Gym and Get Outdoors to Find a Workout You Actually Enjoy
Why You Should Try Yoga for Weight Loss
Fitness Tips for Busy Multitaskers