The 15-minute workout routine that actually works
With such busy lives, making time for exercise can be tricky. So, our resident personal trainer has devised a failsafe workout routine that can be done in just 15 minutes
Designed to target all the major muscle groups, this snappy bootcamp-meets-yogalates routine can be done any time, any place, with just your body to work with and just your body’s worth of space to work in. Its beauty is in its simplicity and versatility.
If you feel the urge, add a short cardio blitz between each exercise, do the whole routine twice, or choose one of the exercises per day and do them to death in spare moments – squats on Monday, plank on Tuesday, etc. Try and squeeze 15 minutes in before breakfast, when you get home, or even in front of the TV, at work or on holiday.
1.SQUATS 10 x 3 (10 squats, three times, pausing between each set).
Squats are commonly considered to be one of the most effective lower body exercises, and are a great way to achieve perfectly honed glutes and thighs. They are, however, equally effective in achieving lower back and core strength if executed correctly.
- Stand upright with feet hip width apart and shoulders square, extending arms in front of you to give extra balance
- Lower body from the hips as though you are about to sit on an imaginary chair keeping your heels flat on the ground – knees should be in line with feet and you should just be able to see your toes if you look downwards.
- Your back should be at a 45 degree angle to the floor
- When your thighs are parallel to the floor, drive bodyweight back upwards to the standing position, drawing pelvic floor muscles tight and squeezing glutes to enhance muscle tone.
2. PLANK 30 seconds x 2
The plank is one of the best isometric exercises for total body strength. It targets shoulders and upper arms, as well as gives excellent core strength without creating impact on the spine. By flexing the feet you can also achieve tension in the quads and stretch the hamstrings.
- Position yourself with weight evenly distributed between forearms and toes, with body in a straight line and feet an inch or two apart
- Keep a neutral neck by looking downward. Avoid clasping hands as this can create undue tension through the shoulders
- Engage the core by pulling in with pelvic floor muscles and drawing navel towards the spine
- Do not let your back sag as this could cause damage to the spine and potential compression to lower back discs.
- Remember to breathe evenly, and maybe attempt a little yogic smile to help you along
3. ABDOMINAL CRUNCHES 30 x 3
Great for toning. Love them or hate them, crunches are a really effective exercise for the front abdominals if done correctly.
- Lie on your back with legs bent at the knee and feet placed firmly on the floor, hip width apart and about 14 inches from your bottom.
- Clasp hands together and hold the weight of your head cradled in your hands – by doing this you will ensure that abdominal muscles are used in the exercise rather than neck muscles
- Raise upper body slowly from the floor, look upwards and forwards – as though at the top of the wall – then return body to the floor slowly
4. PRESS UPS 10 x 2 (FULL press ups for advanced exercisers; BOX press ups for beginners/intermediate).
Typically, press ups tend to be women’s least favourite exercise. Done correctly, however, they are an excellent full body strength exercise. They target not only the pecs, but also the core, shoulders and triceps.
- For FULL press ups assume a straight arm plank position, with weight on the hands and toes
- Feet should be together or a couple of inches apart, and body in a rigid, straight line
- Hands should be slightly wider than shoulder width apart
- Keep abdominals braced by drawing stomach muscles in
- Keep tension in the legs by keeping feet a little flexed
- Bend arms at the elbows and lower the body slowly towards the floor, keeping abdominal muscles braced, go as far as you can without buckling and do not let your back sag at any point
- Then, straighten arms to push the body weight upwards to return to the start position
- For BOX press ups start the exercise on all fours, then bend the arms as above and bring your chest close to the ground
- Try to avoid pushing your bottom in the air and keep your spine straight
5. LUNGES 10 each leg x 2
Lunges are great for lower body strength, as well as flexibility, balance and core strength. They are challenging and there is a low level of impact on the knees, hips and back, so take care to execute the exercise correctly.
- Stand upright with stomach drawn in and shoulders square
- Take a stride forward with the right leg, planting the foot firmly on the floor
- Drop back knee to about an inch above the floor and keep your back upright. Make sure that front knee is in line with foot – you should just be able to see the toes of your front foot
- Draw abdominals tight throughout the exercise
- Step back with right leg to return to standing position. Do a total of 10 lunges leading with your right leg, then lunge leading with your left leg
- Pause and repeat the sequence
6. HIP BRIDGES 10 x 2
This is a great conditioning exercise for back muscles and spine. It is also good for pelvic floor control and a cracker for the glutes and thighs, too.
- Lie on your back with legs bent and feet on the ground, hip width apart and about 14 inches from your bottom
- Arms should be straight out, palms down for extra balance
- Slowly raise hips from the ground until body weight is distributed between feet and shoulders.
- Clench buttocks tight, then return to the start position lowering back vertebra by vertebra
- This exercise is a good remedial low impact exercise for those needing to strengthen the muscles around the knees
Remember always to put caution before zeal during exercise and stop immediately if you feel concerned by muscular pain or dizziness.
Annabel Arkwright has 12 years' experience as a qualified personal trainer, nutritional advisor and weight management coach. She previously worked for 12 years in equity market sales followed by 10 years in investment banking headhunting.