January is literally around the corner and we all know what that month means for a lot of people… reviewing the year before, feeling cold, penniless and overweight! Given that discomfort is one of life’s greatest motivators, it is no surprise that January is the month when we make pacts with ourselves to start doing better.
Do you want to be one of the people who splash out on expensive gym memberships, only to feel even worse because the only thing that lost weight was your wallet? Or would you rather be someone who sets realistic, achievable goals? The latter simply means eating less, eating healthier, and doing a bit of home-based exercise; it’s also the most sensible, sustainable option.
What if there was a quicker, easier route to success with this option? As it happens, there is: by applying the principles of healthy eating and exercise, but with a shortcut on the exercise front. We know you’re already decided on the healthy eating and winter supplementation, but the hardest part can be knowing where to start with exercise; especially home exercise, where there may be no gym equipment and little to motivate you.
In this instance, it’s not who you know (e.g. gym sales staff), it’s what you know. Check out these five surprisingly simple exercises - it may not sound like a lot, but in actual fact, if done consistently and correctly, it’s possible to see a significant transformation in only four weeks:
Plank is such a simple exercise. It works the abs, core and shoulders all at once, and it’s easy to get right; we’re not saying it’s totally easy to maintain for extended periods, but you should be able to work your way up to holding it for a full minute in no time.
To get into plank, simply move into a press-up position. Then, bend your elbows at ninety degrees, and push up until your arms are straight (shoulders aligned above the wrists). You’ll be balancing on your toes, and the idea is to keep a straight line all the way along, head to foot. Keep still like this and you’ll be able to feel it in the core and shoulders – which is a good sign it’s working! You might feel a bit shaky at first but once you manage to consistently hold it for a minute, you’ll start to see good results.
Press-ups: soldiers and gym bunnies make them look so easy! In reality, not everyone is a fan and it can take some time to build the strength to carry your own body weight this way, but it has to be said that the good old press-up is one of the best exercises you can do. It works your whole body; press-ups quickly build strength and promote muscle tone.
So get back into your plank position and then instead of holding it, just lower yourself down gradually without meeting the floor, push slowly back up, and repeat.
Squats seem a little more palatable then press-ups and planks... unless you’ve loaded on extra kilos in the gym, that is. Squats are a winner though, when it comes to strength and tone. They’re the best way to attain a shapely backside (a common goal for squatters) but they’ll also promote stronger calf muscles, quads and hamstrings, as well as a strengthened core.
To squat effectively - without toppling over backwards or straining your knees - you’ll need to position your feet so that they’re shoulder-width apart, or a little wider. Next, facing forward, reach your hands out in front (this helps with balance and also helps to tone the arms) and slowly start to sit, as if you were expecting to land on a chair. Keep your back straight, and only stop when you find your hamstrings are parallel to the floor. Then, slowly push back up to neutral and repeat. If you really want to go for it, you could hold some free-weights while you do it.
This one is all about the ‘glutes’ (for the gym-shy, that’s the muscles in your backside) and hamstrings, but it also benefits your abdominals, back, and quads.
You’ll need to be lying on the floor for this one. Lying on your back, place your feet on the floor, with bent knees. Now, stretch your arms out at a forty-five degree angle on both sides. Squeeze your glutes together and raise your hips up as high as you can, tilting the pelvis. Hold it as long as you can, and then lower back down to the floor.
Made famous by yoga, yogis will tell you how much the bird-dog boosts core strength and eases back pain. It’s simple to get the hang of. Getting back into that beloved plank position, move onto all fours evenly, with a straight back; so your shoulders are above your arms and your hips above your knees.
Now, reach out your right arm at the same time as you stretch out your left leg. Keep them both straight, and aligned with your straight back. Hold this for a few moments, move slowly back to neutral and repeat on the opposite side (left arm, right leg).
Now that you know the exercises, you’ll be wondering which combinations will give you the results we mentioned. Breaking it down into two workouts, set 1 and set 2, alternate them on different days. For set 1, plan on resting for around ten seconds between each exercise. Feel free to perform them in any order.
Plank - a minute
Press-ups - a minute
Bird-dog – a minute
Hip raises – a minute
Squats – two minutes
Plank - a minute
Press-ups - a minute
Squats – two minutes
Plank – three minutes
Hip-raises – three minutes
Bird-dog – three minutes
Press-ups – a minute
Because set 2 is more strenuous (you’ll hold the positions longer), take fifteen seconds rest between each exercise.
As we said, alternate your workouts, so you’ll do set 1 on the first day, and on the second day you’ll do set 2, then you’ll keep alternating for six days in total. On the seventh day you’ll have a day off.
The effort you exert doing these exercises promotes fat burning, and although we aren’t suggesting that you’ll experience total transformation in four weeks, that time period should be enough to see some promising change. What more motivation do you need to keep going than that? Remember to combine this with healthy eating, and your vitality levels will shoot through the roof. 2017, bring it on!