The 11 best exercises to tone your midsection, back and sides, according to trainers

A strong, toned midsection, back and sides not only contribute to a sculpted physique, but also provide essential support for everyday movement and posture. Targeting these areas with a well-rounded exercise routine can lead to better stability, reduced risk of injury, and improved overall strength.

We spoke with Andrew White, a NASM-certified personal trainer and co-founder of garagegympro.com, to learn about 11 workouts you can start doing to tone your midsection, back, and sides. White revealed that planks, Russian twists, deadlift, bird-dog, and many more are some of the most effective. Read on for more information.

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young girl doing planks

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planks

Planks are a core exercise known for their ability to sculpt and tone the midsection, back and sides. This deceptively simple isometric movement engages the entire core, activating muscles like the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis and obliques.

“Planks are a staple in any core training routine for good reason. Planks are a complete exercise that targets the entire core, including the midsection, back and sides. By engaging the deep core muscles, planks help build endurance and strength throughout the core,” says White.

woman doing Russian spins

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Russian lathes

This rotational movement engages the rectus abdominis, obliques, and transversus abdominis, creating a complete core workout. The twisting movement not only targets the front of the abdomen, but also activates the muscles on the sides, especially the obliques, contributing to a sculpted waist.

Says White, “When it comes to targeting those stubborn love handles, Russian twists are my go-to exercise. By twisting from side to side while holding a weight, you engage your obliques, helping to sculpt and define the waist”.

woman doing deadlifts

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dead weight

Deadlifts are a fundamental compound exercise that not only increases overall strength, but also plays a vital role in toning the midsection, back and sides. This full-body move engages the core muscles, including the rectus abdominis and transversus abdominis, as they work to stabilize the spine during the lift.

“Deads are a powerful exercise that not only works the lower back, but also targets the hamstrings, glutes and core. Proper form is key here to prevent injury and maximize effectiveness, so I always recommend starting with lighter weights and focusing on technique before adding more resistance. Deadlifts are great for strengthening your lower back, improving your posture, and engaging your core muscles. spine and lower midsection,” says White.

young girl doing bird dog pose

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Bird-Dog

The Bird-Dog exercise is a valuable addition to any fitness routine, offering a targeted approach to toning the midsection, back and sides. This simple but effective move involves extending one arm and the opposite leg while maintaining a tabletop position, engaging the core muscles to stabilize the spine.

“To improve stability, balance and overall core strength, the bird-dog exercise is hard to beat. It targets the muscles of the spine, including the erector spinae, while engaging the abs and glutes. It’s also a great way to activate the often-overlooked deep core muscles,” says White. He also adds that “the bird-dog exercise strengthens the core, lower back, and improves balance and stability by engaging both the back and abdominal muscles simultaneously.”

young woman doing side planks

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Side planks

This exercise challenges the core muscles to maintain stability while working the muscles on the sides of the torso, promoting strength and toning. Side planks not only help sculpt and define the waist, but also improve overall core stability and balance.

White says that “side planks primarily target the obliques, the muscles on the sides of the torso. They also engage the quadratus lumborum and erector spinae muscles in the lower back, promoting lateral stability and strength “.

How to do it: Lie on your side with your legs straight and support yourself with your forearm, keeping your body in a straight line. Lift your hips and hold the position for 20-40 seconds on each side.

old woman doing sit-ups

Seated turns

Seated twists are excellent exercises for targeting and toning your sides, back and midsection while offering the convenience of being performed in a seated position. By twisting their torso from side to side while sitting upright, people engage their obliques, rectus abdominis, and spine muscles.

“Sitting twists engage the obliques and transverse abdominis, promoting core stability and toning the waist. They also activate the muscles of the spine, improving mobility and posture of the spine,” she notes.

How to do it: Sit in a chair with your feet on the floor and hold a heavy object with both hands in front of your chest. Twist your torso to the right and then to the left, keeping your hips and legs forward. Do 10-15 twists on each side.

young man doing hip plank baths

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Plank Hip Dips

Plank Hip Dips are a dynamic 2-in-1 exercise designed to target the abdominal and oblique muscles, providing effective assistance in combating a flabby stomach and sides. This twisting movement engages the obliques while the plank position engages the entire core, providing a full midsection workout.

White says this workout is a “dynamic variation on the traditional plank that focuses on the obliques while strengthening the entire core. This movement adds a rotational component to the plank, increasing engagement of the obliques. It also helps build a stronger muscle, a more stable core, which can contribute to a firmer midsection.”

White says to follow these steps to properly perform this abdominal and side workout: Start in a forearm plank position with your elbows under your shoulders and your body in a straight line. Roll your hips to the side and sink them toward the floor. Return to the center and then dive to the other side. Perform 3 sets of 10-15 dips on each side.

young woman taking baths in the chair

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Chair Dips

Chair dips are a valuable addition to a fitness routine for people who want to reduce excess fat in the back and sides. This exercise primarily targets the triceps, shoulders and upper back muscles, helping to improve strength and tone in these areas.

“Chair dips work the triceps and muscles in the upper and lower back, helping to reduce back fat,” she notes.

How to do it: With your back in the chair, place your hands on the seat behind you, with your fingers pointing toward your body. Extend your legs forward and slowly lower your body by bending your elbows, then push up.

young girl in the gym doing leg lifts

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Seated leg raise

Seated leg lifts provide a targeted and accessible chair exercise that helps reduce back and side fat. This workout focuses on engaging the muscles of the lower abdomen, hips and thighs, promoting core and lower body strength and toning. As these muscle groups are activated, they help increase your overall metabolism.

“This exercise engages the core and improves posture by strengthening the back muscles,” says White.

How to act: sit up straight with your feet on the floor. Extend one leg at a time and lift it as high as possible, keeping your back straight. Hold for a few seconds before lowering again.

old woman doing chair squats

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Squats with a chair

Chair squats provide a low-impact but effective way to engage large muscle groups, helping to improve overall metabolism and calorie burn.

White says this exercise “targets the lower back, glutes and thighs, helping to strengthen and tone these areas.”

How to do it: Stand in front of a chair with your feet shoulder-width apart. Lower your body as if you were going to sit down, barely touching the edge of the chair, then stand up.

person sitting on the edge of the chair

Seated bicycle crunches

This exercise engages the abdominal muscles, including the obliques, while seated, providing a low-impact alternative for those with mobility issues. Seated bicycle crunches promote core strength and stability, helping to tighten and tone the muscles around the waist. By targeting the sides and back, this exercise contributes to the reduction of excess fat deposits in these areas.

White says the benefits of this workout are that it “targets the core, especially the obliques, helping with flank fat reduction.”

How to do it: Sit on the edge of a chair, lean back and hold onto the sides for support. Bring your knees up to your chest, then extend one leg out at a time, alternating sides, mimicking a bicycle pedal motion.


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