Improving your fitness can be a challenge, what with the busy routine of daily life and the multitude of options on offer for exercise. From running and boxing to gym sessions and Pilates, these days, there’s something for every occasion and individual. However, if you’re struggling to keep up your fitness goals and are looking for some quick and easy routines to add to your plan, here are five top exercises that will help you improve your fitness with ease.
If you’re looking to seriously improve your fitness through 2017, cardio is a must. One of the main aspects of fitness is heart and lung health, and cardio will improve their performance significantly while increasing bone density, reducing the risk of heart disease, reducing stress and aiding with weight loss. If you’re short on time or can’t get out for a run but want an exercise that will provide a real boost to your cardiovascular fitness, this home routine is perfect. It will engage every muscle and get your heart beating. All you need is a clear space and a set of stairs.
First, begin with burpees. These are fantastic for raising your metabolic rate. To do a burpee:
• Stand with your feet hip width apart and your arms by your side
• Lower into a squat position with your hands flat on the floor in front of you
• Kick your legs back into a press up position and lower your chest to the floor
• Push your chest back up to the press up position and move both feet forward so you are back in the squat position
• Jump up and raise both hands over your head
Once you are confident with how to do a burpee, complete the following workout:
•20 burpees with no rests
•Star jumps for 60 seconds
•20 burpees with no rests
•60 seconds of climbers – in a push-up position, quickly bring your leg up to your chest, then push it back in its resting position on your tip toes. Repeat with alternate legs
•One minute rest, making your way to your staircase
•Sprint up your staircase as quickly as possible and walk back down. Repeat 10 times
Fitness and strength go hand in hand, so it is important to work on your main muscle groups in any balanced fitness routine. Perhaps the easiest way to incorporate a toning element into your fitness plan is to include a dumbbell workout. Inspired by this dumbbell workout from The Lean Green Bean, this simple weight-bearing routine will work every muscle from your biceps to the hamstrings and abs. Remember to keep your posture straight and balanced at all times so you don’t strain any muscles. Begin with a weight in each hand that is comfortable to you, and build this up throughout the year.
First, here are a few definitions of the moves you will need to do:
•An overhead press is simply pushing the weights from a position held by your shoulders up above your head
•A lateral raise is lifting the dumbbell from your side out with your arm straight to waist level
•A plank is placing yourself in a push-up ready position with your elbows and forearms 90 degrees to the ground, and holding your body straight and still
•A reserve lunge is a stepping backwards into a lunge with the weight held on the back leg as it lowers to the ground
•A hammer curl is bringing the dumbbells from a position with your hands by your sides, palms facing your torso, up to your chest, without turning your hands inwards
•A skull crusher involves laying on the floor and bringing the dumbbells from behind your ahead forward with arms straight to hold above your chest
•A hip bridge is laying with your feet flat on the ground and your hips raised off it, with the torso straight
Now perform the following routine:
•Squat with overhead press x 10
•Deadlift, followed by a lateral raise (to the side) x 10
•30 second plank
•Reverse lunge with hammer curl x 10
•Skull crusher with hip bridge x 10
•60 second plank
Fitness blogger Cassey Ho from Blogilates tells us that she believes: “The best way to build strong, lean muscle while burning fat is by doing high intensity interval exercises combined with strengthening moves. My programme PIIT28 does exactly that. I paired together the best fat-burning moves with muscle building POP Pilates exercises. The workout is short but effective (only 28 minutes)!” For a super-quick HIIT workout that will exercise the whole body, complete the following steps:
•45 seconds of push-ups
•45 seconds of squats
•45 seconds of jogging, kicking your heels to your glutes
•45 seconds of tricep drips, placing your hands a chair with your legs straight out on the floor, lowering your weight from the elbows and lifting back up
•45 seconds of side lunges
Repeat three times, with 15 seconds of rest between each set.
This HIIT routine lasts only 10 minutes, but if you fancy a challenge, Cassey’s routine adds in toning Pilates, which also improve core strength and flexibility for a full fitness boost and stress reliever in one.
Bodyweight exercise, technically known as calisthenics, involves working out using only the weight of your own body. Bodyweight workouts typically include exercises like press-ups, sit-ups, lunges and bodyweight squats. This form of exercise is brilliant for not only improving your endurance and strength, but also for developing a healthy, toned physique while developing a stable core, which you won’t get through using exercise machines alone. As Shout Fitness explain: “While they don’t develop as much mass as weighted exercises, you can build a strong bodyweight routine that incorporates the main muscle groups for an all-over workout.”
They formulated this straightforward beginner’s workout to point you in the right direction:
•3 x 10 press-ups (do these from your knees if you can’t achieve full ones)
•3 x 5 wide-arm press-ups
•3 x 20 sit-ups
•3 x 20 leg-raises
•3 x 20 bodyweight squats
•3 x 10 lunges (5 each leg)
It’s important to ensure that your posture is correct and your muscles are kept tight when engaging in body conditioning. It is often a good idea to consult a professional before you begin incorporating this as a regular part of your exercise routine. Whether it’s a fitness instructor on a spa weekend, bootcamp or a personal trainer at your local gym, getting expert advice will allow you to avoid injury and find a bodyweight programme to suit you.
Maintaining an exercise plan that has a noticeable impact on your fitness is all about getting the motivation to keep going. However, what people often forget is that enjoyment, and more specifically adrenaline, are fantastic motivators. Doing a workout once a week that turns up the speed and really pushes your limits will give you that rush to make you feel good and want to keep trying your best. Sprints are a great way to do this, while also giving your cardiovascular fitness an unrivalled push. Inspired by Lunges and Lyrca’s running workout, this simple sprint routine is an easy way to transform your fitness:
•Begin by sprinting 200m, 10 times over with 25 seconds of rest between each round
•After 10 repeats take two minutes’ rest
•Do five more repeats, reducing your rest time to 20 seconds
•After five repeats take one minute’s rest
•Do another five repeats with 25 seconds of rest
•Have one minute’s rest
•Try to complete your final five repeats in under 35 seconds, with 25 seconds rest between each
•When you have completed all 25 rounds, ensure you stretch out your legs and torso well
This routine is all about speed, so be sure to take note of your timings with each round. Every week, complete this workout and try to get your times down and reduce your resting periods to take your fitness to a new level.
It’s important to remember that if you truly want to get fit in 2017, you must maintain a healthy and balanced diet – no matter how often you are working out. As Cassey notes: “You can't out-train a bad diet. So fuel your body with whole foods.” If you really want to see results with your fitness, it is essential that you cut out processed food and keep refined sugar and caffeine intake to a minimum. Ensure you are eating enough to get the energy you need for an effective workout, or you’ll find you fatigue easily and struggle to sustain your fitness plan. Foods such as nuts, seeds, fruit and protein-rich yoghurts are great for giving you the boost you need as you increase your activity levels.
There are countless exercise plans that you can experiment with in 2017 – it’s all about finding the right fit for your lifestyle. As Cassey says: “More than anything, find a workout you enjoy and you will be able to stick with it through the entire year!”