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By Faith Richardson

The best way to maximise your workout is to work in a circuit. This way you’re breaking a sweat and working all your muscles in the most effective way possible. All the following exercises can be done with or without weights, so don’t worry if you don’t have your own personal set of dumbbells to use.  Time each exercise for a minute, then immediately go onto the next exercise. Allow yourself a 15 second rest between each pair of exercises, then continue onto the next ones. Once you’ve completed the circuit, take a well-earned two-minute rest. Repeat the whole thing three times, and you’ll have a workout that’s easily squeezed into around 35 minutes so you have plenty of time to get on with the rest of your day.

Your circuit will run just like this:

A: Plank Shoulder Taps (1 Min)

B: Push Ups (1 Min)

(Rest 15 seconds)

C: Jumping Lunges (1 Min)

D: Squats (1 Min)

(Rest 15 seconds)

E: Crunches (1 Min)

F: Leg Raises (1 Min)

(Rest 15 seconds)

G: Jumping Jacks (1 Min)

H: Burpees (1 Min)

(Rest for 2 minutes)

We’ve even popped a little modifier at the bottom of each so you can increase or decrease the intensity as needed, and a link to a YouTube video if there’s anything you’re not sure of. Throw on your favourite high-energy playlist and let’s go.

Arms

Plank Shoulder Taps

These have the added bonus of sneaking in a core workout too! Get yourself into a plank position, then slowly (don’t be tempted to rush!) take on arm off your mat and tap your opposite shoulder. Return to your original position, then repeat on the other side.

Modifier:

Easier – If you struggle to maintain a safe and comfortable posture doing these, try dropping to your knees instead. You can also rest your hands on a low coffee table or stool to make it even easier – just make sure it’s steady enough that it won’t tip over!

Harder – If you find these aren’t much of a challenge, try lifting your opposite leg and hand at the same time, so each time you tap your left shoulder, lift your left leg and vice versa – just don’t try and lift the same leg and hand at the same time!

Push ups

These are a staple of a work out for a reason – they work out a little bit of everything, including your abs and bum – three exercises in one? Sign us up. Make sure that you’re doing your push ups correctly by focussing on your position at all times. Keep your bum down – it shouldn’t be higher than your hips! Your body should form a straight line all the way to your toes. Try to concentrate on lowering your hips and chest to the ground, rather than your head – this should help you keep your position better.

Modifier:

Easier – Just like the plank, drop down to your knees instead if a full push up is difficult. Your knees shouldn’t be under your hips though – they should be stretched back beneath you so you’re still maintaining a proper position. You can also do incline push ups if these are too tricky. Use a wall, the arm of the sofa or a sturdy coffee table to practice your push ups. Once you’re comfortable with one level, move down to something lower.

Harder – Once you’ve nailed the full push up, you can move onto decline push ups. Find an elevated surface, such as a stool, step or coffee table, and balance your toes on this – it adds extra weight to your arms and helps you develop your push ups.

Legs

Jumping Lunges

Lunge forwards and spring back up, swapping legs as you jump up. Remember to keep your head and chest upright – it’ll only make it harder if you slump forwards. Focus on using your front leg to push up with – it should be the leg putting in the most work and providing the power to jump back up again.

Modifier:

Easier – If you suffer from bad knees – or live in an upstairs apartment – jumping can sound like your ideal of hell. Instead, take the jump out and concentrate on regular lunges instead.

Harder – if you’re finding this easy, you can always consider adding weights. If you don’t have a set of dumbbells at home, filling bottles with water or holding two heavy books can also do the trick!

Squats

Squats are the old faithful of any workout routine, so we couldn’t leave them out. Make sure your feet are hip width apart and your head and chest are upright and looking forwards. Squats should be working your thighs, not your glutes – make sure you’re using your legs to push up. Crouch down as low as possible without letting your heels come up and return to standing.

Modifier:

Easier – If you struggle with getting back up, try using a chair first. Squat backwards onto the chair, then use your legs to return to standing.

Harder – If you’re looking to turn your squats up a notch, try adding a pulse at the bottom – squat down, pulse, then return to standing. You could also try jump squats to increase heart rate, or practice sumo squats with your legs further apart and your toes turned out – great for that inner thigh.

Abs

Crunches

Crunches target your upper abs and are also great if you struggle with lower back pain as they don’t put as much stress on your back as a full sit up. Make sure you keep your lower back rounded into the floor and keep your chin off your chest too – imagine you’re holding an orange (or you could try really holding one!) under your chin – this prevents stress on your neck.

Modifiers:

Easier – If you struggle with crunches, try tucking your toes underneath a sofa or armchair to stop your legs coming up from the floor.

Harder – Try raising your feet off the floor so your shins are parallel with the ceiling. You could also try holding something heavy, such as a book or dumbbell, over your head or on your chest to add extra weight to your crunch.

Plank

Planks are the ultimate core exercise – they target all your ab muscles, as well as other areas of your body, all whilst helping strengthen your back. The good news is there’s hundreds of variations of them too, which means you’ll never get bored! The key with a plank is to find a variation that ensures you’re using the right muscles – your core should be tight and engaged, and your bum should be in a straight line with the rest of you. Planking just on your hands is harder than your forearms, so start with what feels best for you.

Modifier:

Easier – Doing a plank on your knees is a great beginner’s way to get used to the position needed. Just like with your push ups, make sure your knees are elongated away from your hips and your body maintains a straight line. Don’t be afraid to take a quick break too – it’s better to hold a great position with consistent breaks than to injure yourself trying to push through.

Harder – The possibilities are endless when it comes to building on your plank. Try raising alternate legs, or raising opposite hands and arms. You can add an extra core element by bringing alternate knees up to your elbow, or add a cardio element by jumping your legs in and out like a jumping jack.

Cardio

Star Jumps

These might be considered a basic, but there’s a good reason for it. They keep your heart rate up, and they work a surprising number of muscles too – your calves won’t know what’s hit them.

Modifier:

Easier – Try decreasing the speed of your jumping jacks if you feel like you’re struggling to keep going, or remove the arm element and just jump your legs in and out until you build up your stamina. You can also slow it right down and alternate stepping each leg out to the side and back in, then repeat with the other leg.

Harder – Grab something heavy – it can be anything from a football to a heavy weight – and each time you jump your legs out, press the object above your head with both hands.

Burpees

Don’t worry, we all hate burpees. However, there’s a reason they’re so tough – they’re using every muscle in your body, and give us the quickest and most effective cardio workout. In essence they are a squat, a push up and a jump combined into one, which means they can be easily modified to increase or decrease intensity as needed.

Modifier:

Easier – Instead of incorporating a full push up element, squat down and use a raised surface like a bench or table to do your push up, then push back up and jump.

Harder – As you’re in your push up position, you could include a quick set of mountain climbers, or bringing alternate legs to your elbows in a side crunch before you leap back up to add an extra ab workout in.

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