We all have busy schedules. Appointments here, meetings there, family gatherings everywhere. You may find yourself asking at times, “How can I find the time to work out?” Maybe you are going away on business or vacation and can’t meet with your trainer for a few days or a few weeks. What do you do? Well fear not, as contrary to what you may have been told, an effective exercise program does not have to take up a lot of time. In this article I am going to give you a very brief, yet very effective sample routine that you can perform in a minimal amount of time. Even though you are not spending hours in a gym, this routine will deliver some phenomenal results. First I’ll explain why you don’t necessarily need weights to stay fit, and then I’ll go over some very effective exercises for you to try out.
“Your body is a Barbell.” I’m unsure of who first coined that term, and I wish I could claim it as my own. The truth is, your body weight alone is sufficient resistance to stimulate muscle growth as well as preserve muscle tone. I’m not going to have you do endless sets of crunches followed by mindless arm circles for 20 minutes. I’ll leave that for the Jane Fonda video that’s been collecting dust in your closet since the eighties. We’re going to be working on functional exercises that work your whole body as a unit. These are some of my favorites:
Single legged squats- Stand directly in front of a chair on one foot, keeping abs tight. Extend the opposite leg in front of you slightly. Push your hips back as you bend your knee that you were standing on, and slowly lower yourself down to the chair until your butt makes contact. You may be unable to hold yourself much past halfway, at which point you simply drop a few inches into the chair. That’s okay, make sure you have a comfy chair for this drill. Once you make contact with the seat with your glutes (medical term for your rear end), squeeze them hard and stand back up using the single leg that you lowered yourself with. Feel free to use your arms to help lower or raise yourself in the beginning. Once you’ve built up enough strength and mastered this, a more advanced variation would have you attempt the same thing without the arms and eventually without the chair.
Burpees. From a standing position, jump up into the air reaching arms overhead. Then squat down, place your hands on the floor, and kick your feet out behind you, you are now in a pushup position. Perform a pushup. Bring your knees back in towards your chest and stand up. That’s one repetition, immediately repeat the same sequence for the desired number of reps.
Plank Holds. This is one of my favorite exercises for your core. Many trainees spend too much time training the flexion function of their core, and very little time on stabilization. This exercise hits your entire abdominal region, your low back, and even many smaller muscles that help stabilize your shoulder blades. Start off face down on the floor with your weight on your forearms. Make sure your body is straight like a “plank” and raise your hips off of the floor. The only contact you should have with the floor is via your forearms and your toes. Simply hold this position for time. If this version is too difficult start off on your forearms and your knees and progress from there. For a more advanced variation, lift one foot off of the ground to create a greater demand on your stabilizing muscles.
*Single legged squats
3 sets of 3 reps
(Rest 15-45 seconds between each set)
3 sets of 15 reps
(Rest 30 seconds between each set)
3 sets of 15-30 seconds
(Rest 30 seconds between each set)
As you get stronger work on adding one rep at a time to each exercise. When you reach 5 single legged squats, 25 burpees, and 1 minute plank holds, keep the repetitions the same and try adding another set.
Perform this routine anywhere between 1-3x throughout the day whenever you have time, and start enjoying better strength, balance, and fitness as a result. You can get fit no matter what amount of time you have, no more excuses. Remember to have fun, be fit, and get functional!