Who’s got time to fit a whole workout session into the day? The trick is to aim for bite-sized exercises that’ll get you looking fab in no time.
Twenty to 30 minutes of exercise five times a week – that’s what experts recommend. With busy day-to-day lives, making time to work out can fall by the wayside. You can, however, try “exercise snacking”.
“This is about breaking down your exercise into five-minute stints over a day,” says personal trainer Angela Loannou. “The science behind it shows that a few shorter bursts allows you to fit them into your schedule, and can be beneficial in controlling blood sugar levels. It’s also been proven to reduce stress. When you work out for too long your body’s stress hormone, cortisol, begins to rise. This can encourage destruction of muscle tissue rather than growth.”
Angela’s 10 exercises can be done with limited space and next to no equipment. When done together, they will work every muscle in your body and give you the same benefits as a 30-minute gym class.
1 THIGH-FIRMING SQUATS
These work your whole body. They might be painful, but when done in short bursts, they’re more bearable and just as effective. Squat till your bottom is parallel with your knees, then come back up – keep your back straight and try not to arch as you go back down. If you need support, place your hands shoulder-width apart on a work surface.
2 LEG-LOOSENING LUNGES
These aren’t only great for the glutes and abs, but perfect for honing your balance, too. Remember to keep your upper body straight, with your shoulders back and relaxed, and chin up. Step forward with one leg, lowering your hips until both knees are bent at about a 90-degree angle, then come back up. Swap legs and repeat on the other side.
3 HEART-PUMPING STAR JUMPS
We all did them back in school, and guess what? They’re great! Star jumps are the perfect exercise to get your heart racing, while also working your calves, glutes, abs and shoulders. Simply jump, with your arms and legs in and out as fast as you can, and try to get as wide as you can, too.
4 BACK-STRENGTHENING SUPERMAN
Strengthen your lower back and improve your posture with this superhero-inspired move. Lie on the floor face down with your arms stretched out in front of you on either side of your head. Raise your arms and legs as high as possible so only your stomach remains on the floor, hold for a count of three seconds, lower and repeat.
5 SHOULDER-BOOSTING SHOULDER BRIDGE
This will help tighten and strengthen your glutes and lower back, and also stretch the hip flexors and shoulder muscles. Lie on your back, face up with your hands by your side, palms down. With your feet flat on the floor, move your heels as close to your bottom as you can. Next, push your hips up into the air and bridge as high as you can so only your upper back is touching the floor. Use your hands for stability. Then gently lower your hips back down to the floor and repeat.
6 AB-TONING MOUNTAIN CLIMBERS
These might be tough, but they’re hugely effective. Do them as fast as you can, and they will work wonders for your abs, arms and glutes. Start in a press-up position on the floor with your hands shoulder-width apart and your legs out straight. Bring one knee up through to the space between your elbows and then straighten it out. Then do the same with your other leg. Alternate legs as fast as you can.
7 THIGH-BOLSTERING SKI SQUATS
This is another great move to strengthen those glutes and thighs. With your back against a wall, squat down so your legs are at 90 degrees and hold. To increase the difficulty, move away from the wall slightly and slowly ‘pulse’ up and down as you squat.
8 GLUTE-ACTIVATING KICKBACKS
These target your glutes and legs. Kneeling down on all fours, kick one foot out, up and back behind you, squeezing your bottom as you go. With a slight bend in your leg, reach as high as you can with your foot before bringing it back down and changing legs.
9 CORE-WORKING BICYCLE CRUNCHES
Strengthen abs and obliques without a bike. Lie on your back, fingers touching your temples or behind your head. Crunch up, bringing your right elbow and left knee to meet, return and repeat with the opposite elbow and knee. Alternate in this way for as many times as you can.
10 ARM-STRENGTHENING PRESS-UPS
Less intense than regular press-ups, work surface press-ups are ideal for working your triceps, shoulders and chest muscles. Using a surface such as your kitchen worktop, desk or even a wall, stand about a metre away from it, hands a shoulder-width apart, place them on the surface, then bend your elbows and lower your body towards the surface before pushing back up and straightening your arms.
5-MINUTE HEAD-TO-TOE WORKOUTS
Try these exercises in five different combinations to be done throughout your day. The key is to go from one muscle group to the next to minimise the risk of poor form or injury. Aim for 40 seconds of exercise, then 20 seconds rest before doing the next exercise.
Workout 1: Star jumps, mountain climbers, squats, press-ups, lunges.
Workout 2: Star jumps, bicycle crunches, kickbacks, press-ups, ski squats.
Workout 3: Mountain climbers, superman, squats, shoulder bridge, kickbacks.
Workout 4: Shoulder bridge, press-ups, ski squats, star jumps, lunges.
Workout 5: Lunges, bicycle crunches, star jumps, squats, kickbacks.