The Towel Workout Makes Toning Easy!

By , Jessica Smith, Certified Personal Trainer
There’s no need for special equipment for a great workout! A good old beach towel can be just as effective at working your muscles as dumbbells, resistance bands or expensive machines. Want proof? Meet "The Towel Workout."
All of these moves can be done with just a towel, which is great because you’ll probably need it to wipe up your sweat after you are done.
For detailed exercise instructions, scroll below this graphic. Don't forget to "pin" this workout for later use!

Exercise 1: Static Lunge Row
Targets: Back, Legs, and Biceps
Begin standing with right foot in center of towel, left leg staggered behind, hands holding each end of the towel evenly. Bend both knees to lower into a lunge, then hinge forward from hips (keep back straight) and pull ends of towel (grasp lower on the towel for more resistance, higher for less) towards body, keeping elbows close to sides, squeezing shoulder blades back and together. Hold lunge and continue pulling towel as hard as you can for 30 seconds then switch legs and repeat. Repeat for 2 more sets on each leg. Be sure to keep spine naturally straight, abs tight and front knee over heel.

Exercise 2: Triceps Pull
Targets: Triceps, Shoulders
Stand with feet hip width apart, knees soft, holding one end of the towel with left hand. Extend left arm up and bring towel behind back so that it lines up with your spine, bending left elbow. Bend right arm behind back and grasp the towel at your lower back. Hold right arm steady and slowly extend left arm up to ceiling (pull harder for more resistance, lighter for less), then bend back to start. That’s one rep. Repeat 12 times on each side for up to 3 sets in total.

Exercise 3: Shoulder Squeeze (External Rotation)
Targets: Shoulders (Rotator Cuff)
Stand with feet hip width, knees soft, holding onto the towel near the center of it, with hands shoulder width apart, towel slightly slack. Squeeze elbows against sides of body and try to pull hands wider apart, tightening the towel. Hold for one count and then release. Imagine you are a "flasher" opening and then closing your coat. (It sounds bad but it helps you understand the movement!) Repeat up to 20 times for 3 sets in total.

Exercise 4: Balancing Pulldown
Targets: Back, Arms, and Calves
Stand with feet hip width, knees soft, holding onto the towel with hands slightly wider than shoulders. Reach arms overhead (the towel should be slightly in front of body) and pull towel tight. Brace abs in and pull towel into chest, bending elbows and pressing shoulders down back while lifting heels off the floor, balancing on the balls of feet. Return to start. That’s one rep. Repeat 15 times for up to 3 sets in total.

Exercise 5: Skate 'n Slide
Targets: Thighs, Hips, and Glutes
Fold towel into a small square and place it on the floor under left foot. Balance most of your weight on your right leg. Bend right knee and push hips back while sliding left leg out to side, fully extending knee into a lateral lunge position. Straighten right leg while sliding left leg back in to return to starting position, squeezing through inner thighs to pull the towel. Bend your elbows and let swing your arms naturally to help you keep your balance as you slide in and out. Try up to 3 sets of 15 reps on each leg.

Exercise 6: Coasting Cobra
Targets: Lower back, Glutes, Triceps
Lie facedown, with legs extended and hip-width apart, arms extended shoulder-width apart and hands on a towel folded a few times lengthwise. Extend spine as high as possible, lifting chest as arms bend, sliding the towel into body. Be sure to keep chin towards chest and eyes focused downward to avoid any neck strain. Try up to 3 sets of 15 reps each.

Exercise 7: Shifting Push-Up
Targets: Chest, Arms
Start in a modified push up position, hands about shoulder width, with left hand on top of towel folded into a small square. Slowly slide right arm out to side, bending elbows to lower torso toward the floor. Slide towel back in as arms straighten to return to start position. Repeat all reps on one side before switching. Try up to 2 sets of 10 reps on each side.

Exercise 8: Rocking Cradle
Targets: Abs
Lie on your back, with knees bent, feet lifted, ankles crossed and knees open to the sides. Hold onto towel folded lengthwise, with hands wide and use it to cradle your head. Lift head and shoulders up off the floor and gently rock to left shoulder and hip, until left elbow touches the floor (contract abs and use them to stop your momentum there). Quickly shift to the right side. That’s one rep. Repeat up to 3 sets of 10 reps.

Exercise 9: Plank Pull-Ins
Targets: Abs, Legs, and Arms
Start in a plank position with arms straight, wrists directly under shoulders, legs straight and hip-width and toes on a folded towel. Brace abs in tight and keep arms stationary as you use the abs to drag the towel in toward your hips, bending the knees. Hold for one count then slowly straighten legs back out to start. Note: Try a modified version with knees bent and resting on the towel instead of legs straight. Try up to 3 sets of 10 reps.

Exercise 10: Assisted Stretch
Wind down your workout with this final lower body stretch series.
Inner Thigh Stretch:  Start lying on back with knees bent. Wrap towel around right foot and extend leg up to ceiling as straight as possible, holding onto both ends with right hand. Slowly open right leg out to the side, pressing left arm into the floor at the side of shoulder to counterbalance body. Open until you feel a stretch in the right inner thigh, without letting left hip lift off the ground. Hold for up to 30 seconds and then switch legs.
Piriformis Stretch: From the inner thigh stretch, bring right leg back into center of body and grab both ends of towel with left hand. Pull right leg across body and to the floor, trying to touch the inside of the right foot on the floor, opening right arm out to side. Allow hips to twist and left knee to drop to the floor as leg crosses over. Hold for up to 30 seconds and then switch legs.
Have you ever exercised with a towel? Which of these moves are you most excited about trying?
About the Author
As someone who struggled to lose weight for years, Jessica found that the key to her own 40-pound weight loss was making small, healthy lifestyle changes that led to big, lasting results. Now, as a certified wellcoach, fitness instructor and personal trainer, she has spent the last 15 years helping students and clients reach their goals in New York City, Los Angeles and Miami, and now reaches millions online through her YouTube Channel and home exercise DVD series. Please visit to learn more about her fun, results driven programs for all levels of exercisers.
All Photos by Vanessa Rogers Photography