Sometimes, with all the demands of family life, we’re simply too busy to make it to the gym. But there are still plenty of ways to get your heart pumping in the comfort of your own home. These simple exercises are perfect if you’re pressed for time and don’t have access to a full range of gym equipment, and we’ve included moves that target the stomach, glutes, arms and legs.
Next time you have twenty minutes to yourself, clear some space, get your trainers on, play some energising music, and have a go at this simple-but-effective routine.
Start with a warm-up
Even when you’re short on time, it’s vital to include a warm-up in your routine. If your muscles aren’t warmed up when you begin, these exercises will seem even more difficult, and you’re more likely to injure yourself. You’ll also be very sore in the morning!
To warm up your muscles and get your heart pumping, try a minute (or two, depending on your fitness level) of basic repetitive exercises. Jumping jacks, skipping with a rope, or even running on the spot are all perfect warm-up exercises to get the body moving. You should also do a couple of stretches: try lunges to stretch your hamstrings, and make large circles with your arms, rotating from the shoulder.
Steps-ups will work your legs, glutes and core muscles, as well as improving your overall cardiovascular fitness. Place your entire foot on a low platform (try using the bottom step on a staircase or a sturdy box) and step up, following with your other foot. Then step back down the same way you came up. Repeat this exercise twelve times as fast as you feel you can safely manage, performing three sets of twelve. If you feel you need to add extra resistance, try it while holding a two- or three-pound dumbbell in each hand.
This notorious stomach-crunching exercise will work your abdominal and oblique muscles, and is a great way to improve core strength. To perform a plank, get into a push-up position on your mat then lower yourself onto your forearms, with the elbows beneath the shoulders. Keeping your back as straight as possible and leaving only your toes and forearms touching the mat, try to hold the position for a full thirty seconds. The key to an effective (and brutal!) plank is to keep your back straight and your core muscles engaged.
If you’re a beginner, or just getting back into the swing of things after a break, start with a ten- or fifteen-second plank, and gradually build up to the full thirty seconds.
Another deceptively tough move, mountain climbers will work your inner thighs, calves and core. Start in push-up position then, keeping your back strong and your bum raised, bring one knee into your chest and then return to your original position. Alternate between legs as quickly as you can while keeping your arms strong. Repeat for three sets of ten, or as many as you can do in two minutes.
This killer exercise is great for toning the muscles on the backs of your arms, and for sculpting a strong back. Begin with your feet hip-distance apart, and your knees slightly bent. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, lean forward with your upper body to a make a 45-degree angle, keeping your arms parallel to your sides. Raise your arms behind you an inch or two, before bringing them forward and bending at the elbow until they come to meet your chest. Then move your arm back behind you again and repeat the movement, performing three sets of five repetitions.
If you’re looking for a challenge, then modify the move by using some heavier dumbbells.
A great move to get your heart rate up, lateral hops will test your cardiovascular fitness. Lay a belt or yoga strap down on the floor in a straight line, and then quickly jump over it with your legs pressed together, moving from side to side. Bring your arms up to give you momentum, and land on the balls of your feet to help build up speed. Go as fast as you can, and repeat for three sets of ten. If you’re looking for more of a challenge, modify the move by adding a hop on one leg to end of each jump, a bit like a game of hopscotch.
Remember to move quickly from one exercise to the next to keep your heart rate high and your muscles working hard. Once you’ve built up your fitness level, challenge yourself by adding extra sets to the sequence, and incorporate heavier dumbbells. Find time to do this simple workout three or four times a week, and before long you should start to see — and feel — a real difference.
By Brian Lewis, Head of Product Development at Powerhouse Fitness – Europe’s no.1 for home fitness. Before joining the Powerhouse team Brian worked as a personal trainer and also competed in various bodybuilding competitions.
NB: Please always consult your doctor or health practitioner before starting any new exercise regime.