1. Strengthen your abs while standing.
Forget about doing hundreds of crunches; training your core while standing may be better. According to research presented at the American College of Sports Medicine annual summit, vertical core exercises are more practical than training on the ground because they move your body in multiple planes of motion – forwards, backwards and side-to-side – and train your core in the way it’s most often used, while standing.
Standing on one leg while exercising is a great way to activate your core muscles. The combination of being slightly off balance and focusing on your core means your stomach gets a hard workout while you’re training the rest of the body. Other moves that work your core include the cross-knee crunch. Lift your left knee and lower your right elbow until they meet.
2. Train for just 15 minutes.
Gym sessions don’t have to be long. A study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found short periods of aerobic exercise – three 10-minute sessions or two 15-minute sessions – have the same benefits as longer sessions, plus they’re much easier to fit into a busier schedule.
Do one 15-minute session in the morning and one at lunchtime or in the evening. But make those 15 minutes count. When using weights, ensure they’re heavy enough so you’re struggling by the end of the set and instead of resting between sets, run on the spot or do star jumps. Splitting your sessions up throughout the day means you can train more intensely than you might in one long session.
3. Set small goals.
Unrealistic goals can be daunting and could set you up for failure. One important piece of advice when starting out is not to feel overwhelmed. Although you should always have a big goal in the back of your mind, you also need to break this up into smaller targets you can achieve within four to six weeks. This will keep you training hard and eating well, while spurring you on to reach your next small goal.
Remember, if it took you time to fall out of shape, or to put on the weight you’re trying to lose, it will take time to get back on track again. You just need to break it into manageable chunks.
4. Do short squats.
Squats are one of the best ways to target your glutes, but you can make them even more effective by stopping short at the top of the movement and changing your start position. This will keep the tension on the glutes, so they don’t get a rest and have to work really hard.
Stand under a Smith machine (a tall steel framework with rungs that a barbell can travel down) and place your feet slightly further in front and wider than usual. This reduces the ability of the quads at the front of thigh to dominate and forces your adductors, hamstrings and glutes to do most of the work instead. Squat lower than usual, until your thighs are below parallel with the floor, and when driving up stop around 7cm short of the top so your knees don’t get near to locking. Do three sets of 15 reps at least twice a week to get your bottom firmer in just a matter of weeks. If you don’t have access to a Smith machine, you can do the squats using just your bodyweight.
5. Don’t stretch before your workout. Whoa, What?
Static stretching can deactivate the muscle you’re targeting, which can result in it becoming slightly weaker. Instead, allow muscles to stretch naturally by doing movement patterns, such as a squat to overhead reach with very light weights. This is called dynamic stretching and has been shown to boost performance and prepare you for the workout ahead. ‘To get the most out of a good stretching routine, do it at the end of your workout when your muscles are warm and ready to be lengthened, or do a yoga session once a week instead of a hard workout. It’s just as good for your body and great for your mind and wellbeing too.
6. Alternate upper-body and lower-body moves.
Peripheral Heart Action (PHA) training is a circuit in which upper-body and lower-body exercises are alternated. This forces your heart and lungs to work at a larger capacity because they’re not allowed to pump blood to just one area of your body. This results in a more demanding workout for your cardiovascular system because the blood flow isn’t able to get into an established pattern as it would if you were just working the same muscle groups continuously. Alternating body parts also gives both your upper and lower body time to recover while you exercise the opposing area, meaning your heart rate never has time to drop – et voilà, you burn tons of calories in one workout.