With Spring well underway and the days getting warmer, Summer is only around the corner. It’s time to start toning your muscles in preparation for getting arms, legs and possibly even those midriffs on show.

Cardiovascular exercise is brilliant for burning calories – as well as lending a helping hand when it comes to losing or maintaining your weight. However, toned muscle looks far slimmer and more streamlined than untoned muscle (or, in other words, fat). So, for impressive results, why not spend a little time working out with some free weights – otherwise known as dumbbells.

Let’s take a closer look at the best free weight exercises for maximum effect:

1. Start with your arms. Give the lateral raise, bicep curl and shoulder press a try for targeted toning and definition – as well as getting rid of any unsightly ‘bingo wings’. All of these exercises are perfect for primarily strengthening your bicep muscles, as well as your deltoid muscles (shoulders).

Also, try doing a triceps kickback to balance the muscle toning effects of the bicep curl. This will help to prevent developing a muscle imbalance.

2. For the upper body, why not try the dumbbell bench press. It’s one of the best ways to target in one go your pectoral muscles (chest), your triceps, as well as your front deltoids (shoulders).

3. Using weights alongside your core exercises will build abdominal strength and burn fat. Your abdominal muscles work in all directions – not just up and down – so it’s important you do different rotations and stability exercises. Using dumbbells, try Russian twists or the tried and tested plank with weight transfer between each hand for the ultimate in targeted toning.

4. For definition in your legs, then squats, lunges and toe raises are the ideal choice.

Squats, in particular, are brilliant if you’re looking to target those tricky leg and bum muscles. They are a functional resistance exercise, and promote mobility and balance, help to burn fat as you’re continually building muscle, and can strengthen knees too when done properly.

Lunges use your own body weight to tone and strengthen the muscles in your quadriceps, hamstrings, buttocks and hips. Plus, when you do several sets of lunges at once, you’re combining both aerobic exercise and strength training.

And finally, toe raises target your lower legs, in particular your calf muscles, and help to promote shape and definition.

It’s important that you start off by using a comfortable dumbbell weight – especially if you’re either new to exercise or returning to a workout schedule. Use a dumbbell weight that is light enough not to cause injury, but heavy enough to challenge your muscles a little in order to see those results.