The start of every health kick can be a glorious time, with your motivation at its highest and the fitness gains at their easiest to come by. Your muscles might be aching, and your diet could be missing a few unhealthy favourites, but the weight will be dropping off like nobody’s business.At some point, however, you might find that whatever efforts you make in the gym or the kitchen do not result in any further losses when you step on the scales. Your weight plateaus, or perhaps even nudges slightly upwards. Obviously, this can be the ultimate motivation killer if your main goal is weight loss, but a simple scales reading can be misleading when it comes to your general health.More important than how much you weigh is your body composition – namely how much of your body is made up of fat, muscle, bones, water, assorted organs, and so on.
Toned legs and a flat stomach aren’t the only benefits of working out. According to a research review in the International Journal of Clinical Practice, regular exercise can help cut your risk of more than 20 illnesses, including cancer and heart disease.
‘Exercise is essential for losing and maintaining weight loss,’ says sports scientist Nick Morgan, ‘but the other benefits are just as important.’ Here’s what exercise does to keep you healthy, happy and alive!
Staying active cuts your risk of dementia and age-related memory loss by increasing the size of the hippocampus, the area of the brain that makes memories. A 40,000-person Norwegian study found that those who engage in regular activity of any intensity are less likely to develop symptoms of depression.
Brisk walking for as little as one and a quarter hours every week can help reduce oestrogen levels in the body, which may lower your breast cancer risk by 18 per cent!
Bone-thinning osteoporosis now affects around one in three women in the UK, according to the latest research. Taking part in a 45-minute Step aerobics class, three times a week, will help boost bone density, especially in your spine, legs and heels. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) also reports that heavy resistance training may increase bone mass, as it places strain on the bones of the joint you are working.
Intense exercise can reduce levels of ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates your appetite, while raising levels of the peptide YY, which lowers appetite. A study in the journal Appetite also found that a brisk 15-minute walk decreased chocolate cravings by 12 per cent.
Not only will exercise add about four years to your life, it can also lower your systolic blood pressure (the top number that measures your blood pressure while the heart is beating) by as much as five to 10mmHg (millimetres of mercury). This is as good as some blood pressure medications. Aim for 30 minutes of aerobic activity most days of the week.
Lifting weights and upping your lean muscle mass could lower your insulin resistance, reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes. For every 10 per cent increase in muscle mass, the risk of pre-diabetes should drop by 12 per cent.
Three to five weekly workouts of 20-60 minutes of vigorous activity is an effective treatment for IBS, according to a Swedish study. Demanding workouts improve bowel movements, and relieve gas and constipation.
Around 20 minutes of cardio exercise gets your body aroused faster and more intensely for a bit of rough and tumble. Not only that, lifting weights can also cause testosterone surges, and women with more testosterone tend to be more aroused and enjoy sex more.
Leg raises are a great way to target the stomach, strengthening lower abdominals and hip reflexors, plus it doesn’t require any gym kit. Add these moves to one of your home workouts for a simple, effective way to tone your tummy. Try 10 reps to start with, and progress to more once you’ve perfected your form.
Try out these different variations of leg raises to challenge yourself, make sure you’re also hitting your fat-burning workouts hard, as you need to torch that fat to reveal your new toned tum!
Lying down leg raises:
-Lie on your back with your hands on the floor or under your bottom.
-Keeping a slight bend in the knees and feet together, start with both feet up towards the ceiling.
-Without allowing your lower back to overarch, slowly lower your legs towards the floor without bending the knees any more than they already are.
-When legs are almost on the floor, squeeze the abs and lift them back up to the start and repeat.
Hot tip: if these aren’t challenging enough for you, why not add some ankle weights?
Leg raises with a ball
Add a bit of weight to make your leg raises more challenging
-Start similar to the lying down leg raises
-With your feet on the floor, place an exercise or medicine ball between your feet, griping it firmly
-Begin to raise your legs up, then slowly lowering your legs down, the weight will cause you to use more control
-The weight will cause this exercise to me more challenging than the regular leg raises but effective works the abdominals.
Hanging leg raises
You can perform this exercise at the gym, in the park or at home if you have a door pull up bar
-Hanging from a bar with your arms- grip firmly wide or medium
-Begin to raise your knees/legs so that your body makes a 90 degrees angle
– Lower your legs down and repeat the exercise
This exercise can be difficult, some gyms provide a padded bench that can support your back and padded arm rests for your elbows.
Side leg raises
This exercise can be performed lying or standing
– Standing on one leg, raise the opposite leg to the side as far as you can
– Bring it back to the standing position and repeat this exercise for both legs
-Lie down on one side- with legs extended and stacked on top of one another
-Raise the top leg up as high as you can, lowering it back down to the first poistion.
Strong is sexy! Sometimes big heavy metal weights can be a little bit daunting, but combining weight training into your workout will help you burn more calories and tone your body. So bust your fears, check out this barbell workout to get summer ready!
How to do it: Perform 8-10 reps of each move one after the other in a circuit, resting between sets if you need to. Once a circuit is complete, return to the start and repeat. Keep going until you’ve reached the time recommended for your level.
Beginner: 10 mins
Intermediate: 15 mins
Advanced: 20 mins
Squat (Areas trained: Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings, Calves)
– Holding the barbell resting on your shoulder muscles, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart
– Bend your knees and hips to lower your body until the tops of your thighs are parallel to the floor
– Reverse the position, extending your hips and knees to return to the start position.
Romanian Deadlift (Areas trained: Hamstrings, Lower back, Glutes)
– Hold the bar with an overhand grip approximately shoulder-width (your thumbs should brush the outside of your thighs)
– Place your feet approximately hip-width apart, with knees soft and your feet straight ahead
– Maintaining a flat back position, bend forward at the hips, lowering the bar towards the floor
– Reverse the position, extend your hips and return to the start position
Hip Thrust (Areas trained: Glutes, Hamstrings, Core)
– Set up with your shoulder blades in with the bend an holding a barbell to your hips.
– Place your feet close to your bottom, so that at the top of the hip thrust, your calves are at 90 degrees to the floor
– Drive through your heels and focus on using your glutes to pish your hips straight up. Finish with your hips as high as possible while maintaining a neutral spine.
– Lower; repeat.
What do you get if you mix giant ropes, friendly competition and a heart-pumping workout? Answer: Whipped!
It’s easy to get bored of treadmills, cross-trainers and slogging it out on your own in the gym. So a class that mixes effective results, competition and a fresh element is a welcome relief to an already busy day. Using battle ropes, that are more tug of war than skip in the park, Whipped!, is an exciting new circuit class at high-end London gym Equinox, bringing together the best elements of high intensity circuits, ramping up your cardio capacity while blasting fat (yey!) and using a great range of equipment.
The HIIT class is designed to get your heart rate soaring to burn fat while sculpting you from head to toe in the most time-efficient way. Our instructor Rory explained that, unlike steady state workouts, intense bursts of exercise help put your fat loss in the fast lane. Sounds good, right? So if you want to change your body for the better, the Whipped! class is the perfect place to start.
You work to your body’s maximum capacity in 30 seconds, doing as many reps, using good form, as you can and then have a quick rest. The circuit is cleverly designed so you work a different muscle group with each exercise, and simultaneously push your fitness to its limit.
Rory led a dynamic warm-up involving a quick jog around the room, followed by exercises like high knees and jumping jacks.
We were then paired up and allocated a fitness station. As usual in circuits, each pair circled the room in a clockwise direction, performing high-octane exercises at each station for 30 seconds before moving to the next exercise. By the end of the class, we’d visited each station four times.
My partner and I began in plank position on our forearms, pushing up onto our hands. The aim was to do these plank transfers as many times as possible within 30 seconds.
Next, we moved to the battle ropes, which posed the biggest challenge of all the exercises. Holding a rope in each hand, we slammed them to the ground, making small rippling waves, and swung them from side to side.
This was followed by a whole host of exhausting moves, from V-sits holding a 3kg dumbbell to barbell rows while wobbling on a BOSU ball. The class ended with another speedy jog around the room, followed by a series of stretches to ease our shaking muscles.
If you’re bored of the same old workouts, this class is brilliant. Yes, it’s punishing, but the fact that the HIIT exercises are short and sharp is a big draw. Our trainer was a great motivator and helped spur us on – even when our arms felt like they were about to fall off! There’s no denying the class is challenging but it’s also fun and there’s no risk of getting bored. We’ll be back!
AT A GLANCE
What’s the concept? A high-intensity 45-minute circuit using battle ropes, the ViPR, BOSU balls and hand weights.
How much is it? The class is only open to members of Equinox. Monthly membership is £180.
Where can I get more info? Visit equinox.com/clubs/Kensington.
Difficulty? Whipped! is aimed at all fitness levels, but steel your nerves for
a tough session!
1.Try outdoor bootcamps… inside!
Such is the success of outdoor bootcamp classes, they’re now coming to the gym floor. ‘We’re seeing a lot of “outdoor-style” activity in the gym,’ says Technogym master trainer Steve Harrison (technogym.com). ‘They involve plenty of space, lots of running drills, small group interactions and shorter, sharper classes.’ Bootcamp classes are varied, improving your cardio fitness and stamina as you’ll be running, doing intervals and encountering obstacles. You’ll also boost your strength using dumbbells, resistance bands or your own bodyweight for resistance. Some classes even add in some yoga poses to help your flexibility. You may focus on upper body and abs one week, then lower body the next, giving good variety. Pumping music will get you motivated.
TRY: David Lloyd’s Orangetheory class, for example, is a 60-minute session for up to 20 people. Like a Bootcamp class, it also consists of cardio and strength-training intervals, featuring treadmills, rowing machines and weight-training blocks. It’s claimed to burn at least 500 calories per class.
2. Form a group
Create a mini workout club at the gym. Devise your own group circuits, or train together on the cardio machines. You’ll burn more calories when training with friends. A study of 1,000 women carried by Virgin Active shows that women who exercise with friends burn up to 236 calories, compared to 195 for those who train alone. The study also showed that 64 per cent of women push themselves harder when training with friends. ‘I can see more and more people forming HIIT groups and working out together,’ says personal trainer Philip Kasumu, an ambassador for BioSynergy. ‘Training alone can be daunting and working out together is a great way to socialise.’
TRY: Forming a group with friends and working as hard as you can in HIIT sessions. Go to a HIIT-based class for inspiration, then do your own to suit your availability.
3. Be the boss
Want some one-on-one advice but don’t like the idea of being bossed around by a PT? Good news. There’s a new, more empathetic breed of personal trainer, re-shaping themselves as lifestyle coaches and trying to find out what really makes you tick. The result? You get to take control of the sessions. ‘I tell trainers to let the client lead the workout,’ says Harrison. ‘There’s no point having a varied workout if the client doesn’t like it. I encourage personal trainers to ask the client: “Do you think you’d like to run?” “What sort of activities did you enjoy on holiday and how can you bring them back into daily life?” The aim is to get people relaxed and to have fun.’
TRY: Tell a prospective personal trainer what exercises you like and dislike. A good trainer should be willing to ditch those you don’t enjoy and offer alternatives.
4. Train for an event
Competing in an event such as a triathlon or a 10K run is one of the best ways to boost your motivation to train. Too daunted to sign up? Many gyms are now offering classes to help you get fit for triathlons and races, with classes ranging from triathlon training to express treadmill classes.
TRY: Some Nuffield Health clubs run Express treadmill classes lasting just 15 minutes and aimed at setting the right pace for you and improving confidence, which is ideal for new runners or those training for their first 5K.
5. Make it short
Gyms know your time is precious, so increasingly, they’re offering express classes to get you fit in half the time of regular ones.
Afterwards, your metabolic rate will be elevated, meaning calories burned at a faster rate post-exercise. Kettlebells are great for improving your strength and power, while also giving you a cardio workout, as your heart rate will soar, even while you’re doing the basic kettlebell swing. ‘During a shorter session, you tend to push yourself harder and the results are long lasting,’ says Harrison.
TRY: Nuffield Health offers Express Kettlebells classes and Express Circuits that work your whole body in half an hour. Both are high intensity, so your heart rate will rise and you’ll burn optimum fat and calories.
6 Train in 3D
It’s all too easy to focus on exercises that involve moving in a straight line, such as squats or forward lunges. Yet in real life, we move in all sorts of directions. We rotate our bodies diagonally, twisting, turning and bending in many directions. Even when we run, we have to twist and turn to avoid pedestrians, other obstacles and potholes. So it makes sense that your training routine should reflect daily movements.
‘I like to incorporate functional training into my workouts,’ says personal trainer and fitness model Phoebe Robinson Galvin, an ambassador for Bio-Synergy. ‘We work on rotational lunges, rotational ball throws and standing ball cable woodchop, as I believe working in this range of motion helps to prevent injury.’
Multi-directional training will also help to improve sports performance, as many sports, including tennis, squash and football, involve multi-directional movement.
TRY: Nuffield Health and Virgin Active offer ViPR classes, where you move the cylinder in all directions, twisting and turning it across your body. You could also do moves such as hip crossovers on a Swiss ball.
7. Devise your own circuit session
If you want a flatter belly but don’t have time to join a circuit class, set up your own workstations – high-intensity circuit training is an effective way to reduce abdominal fat, reports the American College of Sports Medicine.
Circuit-style training is one of the fastest ways to improve your cardiovascular fitness and muscular endurance, giving you a lean and toned body. And it’s easy to devise your own 20-minute circuit.
Make sure you have plenty of room and build in adequate rest breaks. Try setting up six workstations, then perform a minute on each workstation and move to the next one without resting, then rest at the end of one complete circuit. If this is too strenuous, reduce the work period on each station down to 40 or 30 seconds, then complete the circuit and have a minute’s rest, or rest for up to two minutes if you need more time to recover in between circuits. Depending on which body parts you want to work, you can set the circuit up in several ways: either to focus on a particular body part – such as doing three abdominal exercises back to back, (crunches, twists and reverse curls) or legs (deadlift, squats, step-ups) or you can alternate between upper and lower body exercises.
If space is limited, it may be safer to bring in more bodyweight exercises that require less equipment, such as squats, box press-ups and crunches.
If you’re new to circuits or new to exercise, it’s best to work on technique and perform each exercise at a slower pace to reduce injury risk. If you’re fitter or familiar with the exercises, you can perform each rep at a faster pace.
TRY: Squats, Push-ups, Kettlebell swings, Shoulder presses, Bench dips and Ab crunches. Rest for a minute at the end of the circuit, then repeat twice more. Make sure you stretch afterwards.
8. Be ahead of the rest
Keep your fitness ahead of the game and keep your motivation sky high by being the first to try new kit when it appears on the gym floor.
TRY: Some Fitness First and Virgin Active gyms now have Woodway Curve Treadmills in their gyms, which are self-powered. There’s no motor or button – the treadmill works by your own effort. Walking on a Woodway Curve could give you the same cardio workout as running on a motorised machine. Powering yourself means you burn 30 per cent more calories than on a normal treadmill. The harder you run, the more power you generate. The curve shape of the belt also means less impact on knees and joints, and it works your core, too.
9. Lift your own weight
Using your own body weight for resistance (with exercises such as press-ups and pull-ups) is a great way to get really strong and toned. Many gyms are now offering gymnastic rings, TRX machines or rigs consisting of ropes and pulleys to help you improve upper-body strength and build up to supporting your own bodyweight.
TRY: Use a TRX Suspension Trainer to do squats, reverse lunges, side lunges, chest press, rows for your upper back and many more moves. Change your body position to add or decrease resistance. For example, if you’re doing rows, the lower the angle of your body to the ground, the more of your own body weight you’re lifting. Remember to engage your core muscles while doing the exercises to support your body and strengthen your abs.
10 Beat the plateau
It’s easy to get stuck in a training rut or think you’re not improving. Checking your progress every four weeks will help you see how far you’ve come. For instance, if weight loss is your goal, you can check your body fat every four weeks (try the Omron BF306 Body Composition Monitor, £31.98 at www.amazon.co.uk). Having a varied training programme will also boost motivation and prevent boredom. ‘Continuous training with a clear goal in mind will get results. I keep measurements to track progress every few weeks,’ says personal trainer Carl Wallace from PureGym in Stoke says. ‘Change your workouts week-by-week, focusing on both cardio and resistance training. This will keep sessions fun and interesting.’ Another way to track progress is to set regular fitness tests.
TRY: Run 1K on the treadmill as fast as you can, record your time, and try to beat it four weeks later, after running regularly. Or complete 5K on the cross-trainer, again recording your time and try to complete it in less time in four weeks.
11. Find a swimming coach
If you did a lot of swimming on holiday, why not keep it up and improve? Hiring a swim coach can give you a better workout because if your swimming technique is stronger, you’ll be more efficient. This means you’ll have the energy to keep swimming for longer, burning more calories and making you fitter, plus improving your endurance.
TRY: Fitness First has a number of clubs offering Swimming Nature, a tailored instructional swimming programme, while Nuffield Health offers Swimfit classes. ‘Around 95 per cent of our centres have swimming pools and most of these offer swim schools,’ says Sarah Henderson, communications manager for Nuffield Health.
12. Count time, not reps
If you want to burn more calories, forget about counting the number of reps for each set of an exercise – try ‘time under tension’ instead. This simply means timing your exercises, rather than counting reps.
‘Remember, if you’re burning more calories, you’re burning more fat.’ It will also improve your strength too. A study published online in the Journal of Physiology showed that slower lifting movements create more strength.
TRY: ‘Do 30-45 seconds flat doing as many reps as you can, which will burn more calories than counting reps without worrying about a time limit,’ says Anthony Mendoza, David Lloyd platinum personal trainer.
13. Create an ‘afterburn’
Rather than just focusing on how many calories you’ve burned in your workout, create a fat-burning effect that lasts way beyond the session. ‘Triggering excess post-exercise consumption (EPOC) or ‘afterburn’ is crucial in prolonging the benefit of a session, as calories can continue to be burnt for up to 36-48 hours post workout,’ says personal trainer Alastair Crew. ‘I use a heart rate monitor to help gauge the correct intensity for myself and my clients – in a typical workout I’d like to achieve a minimum of 12-20 minutes at 84 per cent of maximum heart rate in order to trigger the EPOC effect.’
EPOC, also known as ‘oxygen debt’, is the amount of oxygen needed to return your body to normal after a workout. Exercise that places a greater demand on the body can increase the need for oxygen after a workout, creating the EPOC effect. High-intensity interval training is the most effective way to stimulate an EPOC effect.
TRY: To work out your maximum heart rate, deduct your age from 220.
14. Make cycling harder
Ditch the stationary bike and check out the Wattbike. It’s a serious way to burn more calories. The Wattbike can measure your power, your pedalling technique and heart rate, giving you instant feedback on your progress. It has a dual braking system, offering gears and a braking system on the flywheel to create the feeling of climbing hills. As it’s like a normal bike, it’s easy to vary the intensity and choose between sprints and climbs.
Try: The Watt Bike is available in David Lloyd health, Nuffield Health clubs, 29 Fitness First clubs and many Virgin Active gyms, while PureGyms have similar bikes called Matrix.
15. Beat the Plateau
It’s easy to get stuck in a training rut or think you’re not improving. ‘Change your workouts week-by-week, focusing on both cardio and resistance training. This will keep sessions fun and interesting,’ says personal trainer Carl Wallace from PureGym in Stoke. Another way to track your progress is to set regular fitness tests.
TRY: Run 1K on the treadmill as fast as you can, record your time, and try to beat it four weeks later, after running regularly in the intervening period. Or complete 5K on the cross-trainer, again recording your time and then try to do it in less time four weeks later.
Weight loss tips for women
Use these tips to put your fat loss in the fast lane
1 Do compound exercises
Working your bigger muscle groups and performing exercises that target several areas of your body at once ensures a higher fat burn, as you will be recruiting more muscle mass.
2 Focus on tempo
Don’t rush through the lowering part of an exercise. By putting your muscles under tension, rather than allowing gravity to do the work, you’re forcing them to build. Building muscle helps to speed your metabolism – and burn fat!
3 Don’t rest for too long
Of course you need time to recover (it’s important to rest so you can make the next set count!), but only take short breaks between sets to keep your heart rate up and ensure the workout hits the right intensity.
Blocking out the time to really delve into a stretching session can seem hard to justify if your busy schedule already makes squeezing workouts in difficult.But if you’ve found yourself hitting a wall when it comes to results, or you’re constantly plagued by niggling injuries, it might just be what the doctor ordered. US-based Lastics has taken inspo from the long, lean and limber bodies of dancers to come up with classes and online videos to help regular gym-goers get the most out of their workouts. ‘Dancers epitomise the balance between strength and flexibility to the extreme,’ says Lastics founder Donna Flagg. ‘Their bodies are graceful, sculpted and powerful.’Rather than overhauling your entire workout routine to emulate that of a ballerina, Lastics instead allows you to simply take a leaf out of their book, providing stretching-focused classes to help you develop an improved range of motion.
Your best body in less than 10 minutes, you say? it can be done- Wahoo’s 7 Minute Workout app shows us how. Whether you’e a full-time mum or busy office worker, we’re pretty sure a short and sweet workout you can get done in under 10 minutes will sound appealing. Well good news, it can be done. If you’re prepared to go hard and give it your all, it is possible to have an effective workout in 7 minutes, and with Wahoo Fitness’ 7 Minute Workout, which combines aerobic and resistance training to work your heart as well as your mules, you don’t need to leave the house to make it happen.