A fit and healthy body is easier to achieve than you think but knowing what works is hard if you’re new to exercise or if you’ve been exercising for a while but you can’t see any noticeable changes. Firstly, it’s important to remember that everyone is different. We all have different body shapes, metabolism and our bone density affects our weight so what works for your friend might not be as beneficial to you. Generally, you should aim for a minimum of 20 minutes of cardio exercise a day to raise your heart rate and burn fat. Cardio includes a variety of different exercises; swimming, walking at a very brisk pace, jogging, cycling, playing tennis or a gym workout using the step machine, treadmill and bike. A brisk walk can burn up to 90 calories in just twenty minutes, jogging 150, swimming 120 and cycling 90 calories. Factor these cardio workouts in with six of the following exercises every week and you should notice body changes as well as feeling healthier with better, overall fitness.
Standing with your feet hip-width apart and squatting while keeping your back straight is a superb exercise for your quads, hamstrings and gluteal areas. Place your arms in front of you and gently sit down (either onto a chair) or without a chair, hold for a second or so and raise up again. Repeat this exercise ten times and pause, then do two more sets of 10, gradually increase the number as you get stronger. Never raise your heels off the ground, rather keep all the weight in the back of your heels as you push upwards. This keeps your back in position. As you get better at your squats and find them easier to do, add in some small weights, then lift the weights as you squat down, bringing your arms back down with you as you stand erect.
This exercise is an all-over workout for the muscles in your body and is especially beneficial for your core. It is very important that you position yourself correctly when planking as if you don’t, you run the risk of hurting your back. The plank works your abdominals, quads, spine, deltoids and oblique areas. It also helps to stabilise your balance.
If you’ve never planked before, don’t try a full plank, just use your forearms and knees. Place your weight on your forearms with your elbows on the floor, below your shoulder. Your knees should be behind your hips. Keep your spine and neck straight (don’t dip or over-raise). Hold this position for 10 to 15 seconds and then slowly drop. Hold for longer as you get stronger.
Once you’ve mastered a forearm plank you can move onto hands and toes. Move upward using your hands and toes so they bear your weight. Your feet need to be positioned hip-width apart. Keep your back and neck straight, don’t dip or over-raise. Hold for 10 seconds, gradually increasing the time you stay in position as you get stronger. You can also do this exercise using your forearms and toes. Again, you must keep your back and neck straight without dipping or over-lifting. Hold the position for ten seconds. Eventually you should be able to plank for 60 seconds +.
For strong, good-looking abs, there’s nothing better than stomach crunches and they’re easy to do. Do be careful to watch your back though because if you over-do it or don’t position yourself correctly, you could injure yourself. Lay down on your back with your knees bent and feet placed firmly on the floor approximately hip-width apart. Don’t over-bend your knees; there should be a good gap between knees and legs. Place your hands across your chest (or behind your ears with elbows out). Slowly curl your upper body up so your shoulders are a few inches from the floor. Never pull on your neck as you raise your body. Repeat the exercise ten times, then pause and do a set of 3 x 10 in total. Increase the number of crunches as your abdomen gets stronger.
These are good for your forearm and shoulder strength, working your triceps and abdominals (as well as your pectoralis major and deltoids) so giving your upper body better overall strength. Again, as with any exercise it’s important to keep your knees and toes at hip-width. Place your hands firmly on the floor, slightly wider than your shoulder position. You should push up onto your toes and raise upward slowly. Keep your spine straight and don’t lift your bottom! Come back down slowly and then raise up again before you completely reach the floor. Repeat 5 times for a beginner; slowly increase the number of reps as you get stronger until you can do three sets of 10 to 15.
These exercises are good for your quads, hamstrings, calves and glutes, improving leg strength and flexibility. You can do forward lunges and backward lunges. Stand straight with your hands by your side or on your hips. Take a large step forward with one leg and as you do so, bend the knee at 90 degrees. Keep your back straight and the toes of your other leg firmly on the floor. Try and go as low as possible without putting too much strain on your body. Then drive your weight upward on your leg to straighten again and repeat. Do one set of 10 then change legs and repeat alternating three times. Increase the number of lunges as you get stronger. You can add weights as you improve and you can also introduce lunge walking, so you move while lunging. Once you’ve mastered the forward lunge, try doing it backwards using the same principles.
This is a good all-over body workout for the muscles and really helps improve overall balance and stamina. It works the quads, abdominals, abductors, adductors, hamstrings and gluteal area.
Start by standing up straight and pull your right knee up while lifting your foot off the floor. Hold still for ten seconds, then change legs and repeat for 10 seconds. Once you’ve mastered this exercise and find it easy, move onto a full deadlift.
Start by raising your knee as the above exercise and then slowly move your body forward while extending out your bent leg behind you. Move your body downward without forcing it too far (you will feel your hamstring). Elongate your arms for balance and hold for ten seconds and then return back to standing and change legs. Repeat five times. As you improve, hold the deadlift for longer.