“There are so many choices and possibilities available for training at home, now that gyms are closed, and the key is to plan well. Getting into the shape you want to be can take time and should not be rushed,” advises Carla Williams, Les Mills instructor and UK presenter for Les Mills UK. “Avoid quick fixes as they can often have a negative effect on the body long-term. Slow and steady wins the race.” A great tip is to keep your regime simple – short 20 to 30 minute workouts, four or five times per week, so that you stay motivated. “This can involve intense bouts of cardio and resistance exercises followed by periods of rest. A circuit-style workout with 15 to 20 reps per exercise performed back-to-back is ideal. Take a minute’s rest before repeating the circuit again for three to five sets. This simple style of workout will not only get the heart-rate up to burn calories, but will challenge and build full body strength quickly in an efficient daily workout.”
“Whether it’s your wedding day or not – having strong arms and a graceful silhouette is something many of us admire. Achieving this is quite simple, but it does take commitment to form and practice,” says Melissa James, trainer at Ten Health & Fitness. “Whenever you’re taking weight through your arms, remember that the set-up of your shoulders is incredibly important. Think of keeping your chest open and proud, and your shoulder blades gently sliding back and down. Also, try to keep your neck tension-free as this will help you to maintain good posture and avoid injury.” If you were lifting weights and using gym equipment to tone your arms prior to lockdown, you could try filling up water bottles to create hand weights. “Seeing as 1ml of water weighs 1g, it’s easy to work out how heavy your weights are by the size of the water bottle. You can then use these weights to perform numerous exercises, from bicep curls to chest flys, and tricep kickbacks to chest presses,” adds Melissa. Alexandra Rogers, director at Chelsea Fitness Club, agrees it’s easy to tone your arms without the gym, “If you were doing tricep and bicep pull downs on the cable in the gym, the good news is a park bench could be just as effective.”
Alexandra’s top arm exercises:
Scapula Retractions: Start in a plank position, push through the hands to round the back up to the sky, then reverse the movement to allow the muscles between the shoulder blades to lower down and relax the upper spine. Do eight full reps.
Forearm Plank: Placing your forearms on the floor directly underneath your shoulders, take your feet as wide as you wish creating more balance, try and keep your head, neck and hips in line. Try holding for 30 seconds at a time and do four or five sets.
Table Rockers: Sitting on your bum, bend the knees and place feet flat on the floor, place the hands behind the shoulders on the floor with thumbs pointing out. Lift the hips up off the floor towards the sky into a table top position with your face to the sky. Do 12 reps.
“If you were doing tricep and bicep pull downs on the cable in the gym, the good news is a park bench could be just as effective.”
Carla’s top arm exercises:
Push-Ups: With your hands shoulder-width apart, fingers facing forward, lower your mid-chest between hands to shoulder height (to a 90-degree angle). A great tip is to keep your nose in front of your middle fingers to keep the load in the chest. These can be performed on your knees for a lower intensity or on the toes to increase the challenge. Do 15-20 reps.
Dips: Place your hands on a ledge or bench (you could use your sofa or the stairs) either side of your hips with fingertips facing forwards. Drop your body down so the shoulders come to elbow height (to a 90-degree angle), and keep hips close to the bench with each rep to keep the work in the triceps. These can be performed with knees bent for a lower intensity or straightened legs to increase the workout. Try 15-20 reps.
Side Raises: Take two equal sized weights (you could use cans of beans or bottles of water), bring your arms to your sides and lift them away from your body up to shoulder height (no higher). This can also be done with bent elbows to reduce the intensity – bringing the elbow and wrist up to shoulder level starting from a 90-degree angle from the waist. Build to 15 or 20 reps per side.
Your wedding dress might have a fitted silhouette, or perhaps you’re thinking about being fit and toned for your honeymoon. Either way, having strong legs and a toned bum will help increase your overall fitness levels. “Of course, there’s more than just aesthetical benefits of toning your legs and bum for your wedding day – think about all that dancing you’ll be doing at the reception, not to mention, working your quads, glutes and hamstrings is incredibly important for longer-lasting calorie burn. The reason being, these are the biggest muscles and will continue to burn fat even after you’ve finished your workout. It’s a win-win,” says Carla. “No fitness regime is complete without leg-day,” adds Melissa. “It’s important to build strong glutes and legs for an overall stronger form. A well-controlled squat requires no equipment, so it can be performed anywhere, and it can be great for toning your glutes and legs. The key here is to establish that you’re set-up correctly, and that you maintain alignment between your ankles, knees and hips during the exercise. As you work though slow and controlled movements, you need to ensure that the glutes remain engaged. You can also increase the intensity by progressing your squat into a skater. This is an exercise that we typically use in Pilates, whereby you load the weight of your squat into one leg/glute and extend the alternate leg out to the side. Once in this position, you can also add in a few pulses on the stabilising leg to really get the glutes firing.”
Alexandra’s top legs and bum exercises:
Walking Lunges: Drop the bodyweight over the back leg and stay low, aiming for about 30 reps (15 on each leg).
Hip Thrusters: Lying on your back, push through the heels lifting your hips up to the sky. If this is a challenge, try 15 full range reps before going just half way down before pushing back up to the top again.
Static Lunges: Lunges are great for a toned bum. Apply the same type of reps, eight full range, eight partial reps and an eight second isolation hold at the bottom.
“A great tip is to keep your regime simple – short 20 to 30 minute workouts, four or five times per week, so that you stay motivated.”
Carla’s top leg and bum exercises:
Plié Squats: Take your feet twice as wide as shoulder width so both knees and feet can be turned out from the hip. Aim to keep your knee tracking in line with your baby toe as you sink your hips towards knee level with control. As you return to standing, squeeze your bum. Keeping your arms clasped and outstretched at shoulder height will help keep your chest lifted and back straight. Try 15-20 reps. You can vary this move by adding bottom-half pulses or static holds for a real burn.
Bridge: Lie on your back with your feet hip-width apart, heels close to the bum and arms by your sides. Squeeze your bum and feel your pelvis begin to lift off the floor. Continue the ripple through your spine until you are on your shoulders, lifting the chest to your chin and pushing down through the heels to drive your hips up into an extension. Your body should resemble a ski-slope from your knees at the highest point down to your chest without a ‘dip’ in the middle at the hips. Build to 20 reps.
Rear Raises: Tip forward from your hips, keeping a slight knee-bend and the back long and straight like a ski-slope. Begin with weights by your knees with arms long and lift away with control up to shoulder height, keep the body still. Aim to avoid ‘bouncing’ the body up and down with each rep, keep abdominals tight like a corset to hold the body strong. Repeat 15-20 times.
“Like shoulder and arm exercises, working on your core is about the posture and poise, that is accomplished through a strong abdominal set. Working your core encourages your entire framework of muscles to work together for a stronger body,” says Carla. “It may seem like a six-pack is the ultimate goal but, really, to have a strong core (and therefore a stronger body overall), the transverse abdominals need to be exercised,” adds Melissa. “When trying to build visible abs, people often only focus on the top layer – the rectus abdominus. It’s better to work from the inside out and start with the deeper abdominals – also known as the transverse abdominus. Supine exercises, which involve lying on your back, with your legs in tabletop, are great for activating the deeper abdominals as they encourage you to engage your core whilst maintaining a neutral spine. From this position, you can then alternate between controlled toe taps of each foot or you can try extending one or both of the legs. To increase the intensity – and activate the rectus abdominus too – you can also add in curl-ups to your sets, but remember this movement should come from drawing the abs in rather the shoulders up.”
Carla’s top abdominal exercises:
Mountain Climbers: Start in a push-up position, stacking wrists, elbows and shoulders with fingertips facing forwards, a long straight back and feet hip-width apart. Keep your abdominals tight like a corset while you alternate bringing each knee towards your chest. The upper body should remain completely still throughout. You can build up speed to bring a cardio effect into your workouts or perform them slowly with control to work upper body strength, core stability and target the deeper lower abdominals. Build up to 20 reps.
C-Crunch: Keeping elbows super wide and fingertips to temples, tuck the chin and slide the ribcage towards the hips whilst simultaneously lifting your knees to a 90-degree angle over hips and lowering to the floor with control. Do 15-20 reps.
Cross Crawl: Start with knees at a 90-degree angle stacked over your hips. With fingertips to temples, extend one leg out while bringing the opposite shoulder towards your bent knee before repeating on the other side. The focus is to keep the elbows wide, so the movement comes from the torso-twisting as opposed to the elbow. This can be modified with alternating toe-taps instead of leg extensions if it feels uncomfortable on the lower back.