Missing your gym class? Eaten your body weight in biscuits? Don’t worry, A-list trainer and top UK fitness expert Matt Roberts has devised the easiest and most effective at-home workouts ever, exclusively for YOU.
It would be all too easy, in these days of lockdown, to slump in front of the television, binge watching series after series, while eating and drinking mindlessly. But I feel that would be a wasted opportunity. While the government has said that you’re ‘allowed’ to exercise once a day, I’d go so far as to say you ‘must’ exercise daily. Exercise not only boosts mental health, but also helps maintain a strong immune system, both of which are hugely important.
Over the following pages, you’ll find routines devised especially for YOU readers, starting with eight of my favourite resistance (weight-bearing) exercises, which will give you a full-body workout. If you can spend just 30 minutes a day, three to four times a week, working on activating the major muscle groups, your body will thank you for it. If you find the suggested amounts for each exercise too much to begin with, start small and work up to the full amount.
And, as with any new fitness regime, check with your doctor before starting, especially if you haven’t exercised in a while. Also, before you begin working out make sure you warm up your muscles first by walking or jogging on the spot for a few minutes. Of course, strength is only one part of keeping fit. You also need cardio – something that will get you panting. And while you can still head out for a brisk walk, run or cycle, Anya Lahiri, master instructor at Barry’s UK, has devised an at-home workout based on one of its classic upbeat exercise classes. Known for its high-intensity interval training workouts, Barry’s sweaty sessions, accompanied by nightclub-style sound and lights, have proved hugely popular since the fitness chain arrived here from West Hollywood in 2013. To get the full Barry’s experience, put on some up-tempo music – turn the page for some playlist suggestions – and prepare to feel the burn.
Finally, Mia Togo of London’s Triyoga studio has created a series of moves to ensure you feel supple and stretched, as well as physically – and mentally – relaxed.
Matt’s Mayfair gym is currently offering virtual personal training sessions on his website (mattroberts.co.uk). Matt will also be hosting a live Q&A session at 12pm today (Sunday 12 April) on his Instagram (@mattroberts_lifestyle).
The easy strength-builder
‘Resistance workouts are all about building strength,’ says Matt. ‘In a gym, you might do that by lifting weights or using bands that you work against, but you can also use your own body weight with these exercises. Do them in two sets of four and complete each set three times for a workout that will not only build strength in your upper and lower limbs, but your core, too.’
1. Bird dogs x 20
On your hands and knees, keeping your stomach muscles engaged, raise an opposite arm and leg to a horizontal position and then return to the floor before repeating on the other side. This is great for working the glutes and rear core muscles as well as engaging the middle back and shoulder area.
2. Side planks x 2
Lie on your side with your knees bent, raise your body while keeping your pelvic muscles engaged. Straighten your legs out with one foot in front of the other for balance and then hold the position. Aim to hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
3. Single leg glute bridge x 15
Keep your body weight on the heel and raise your body up and down with the elevated leg at an angle of around 45 degrees throughout. Push up using your glutes and keep your back straight, pivoting at the hip joint. Aim to do 15 on each leg.
4. Plank rotations x 20
In a plank position (resting on your forearms and toes with back straight), raise one arm and rotate the body through the trunk, keeping both feet on the floor. This is one of the best exercises for core muscles. Start with 10, working on alternate sides, but aim for 20.
Repeat steps 1-4 twice
5. Reverse fly x 20
You can use tins of beans for this. Bend over from your hips, keeping your back flat and sticking your bottom out. Arms stay slightly bent throughout, raise from the start position to a ‘T’ position and squeeze your shoulder blades together as you lift up. Keep your head neutral throughout.
6. Single leg deadlift x 15
Pivot on one leg and raise the other leg behind you (and relatively straight). Reach down with your hands towards the floor for balance as you perform the movement. Do 15 times before swapping sides. This is great for the backs of the legs.
7. Half windmill x 15
Start by kneeling with your right foot forward for balance. Reach up with the right arm and weight and keep that arm elevated while you reach down towards the floor with the other hand and bend from the waist to work the core muscles. Return to the start position with the arm elevated. Repeat 15 times then swap sides.
8. Slide side lunge x 15
On a smooth surface, place a foot on a towel and from a standing position slide the foot sideways, keeping your weight on the other leg until your standing leg is around 90 degrees. Then slide the foot back to the start position. Repeat 15 times then swap sides.
The high-energy cardio boost
Get your heart pumping with this workout by Anya Lahiri from Barry’s UK. Aim to do as many of each move as you can in 30 seconds, but always work at your own level. ‘The main thing is to have fun!’ says Anya. ‘Try to give yourself no more than 10-15 seconds of recovery between each exercise.’ For Barry’s virtual classes, go to instagram.com/barrysuk.
From a standing position, move into a squat with your hands on the ground. Kick your feet back into a plank position, while keeping your arms extended, and lower your chest to the floor. Immediately push back up into a squat position. Stand up from the squat position and jump with your arms above your head.
2. Jump lunges
Take a big step forward with your left leg and lunge into it, keeping your front knee behind your front toe and your left knee nearly touching the ground. Jump and switch to the opposite leg and repeat. Use your arms to help you balance.
3. Lunges/burpees combo
Do ten of each one straight into the other. This will really bring the fire!
4. Mountain climbers
Get into a high-plank position on your hands and toes, with your body in one straight line and your hands stacked under your shoulders. Bring your right knee into your chest with your toe pointed and then jump to switch legs. Start slow and build up pace.
Start with your legs slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Bring your left leg behind the right and leave it in the air, while squatting down on the supporting leg. Leap to the side using the left leg to support and move opposite arm to leg in a skating motion. Repeat.
6. High knees
Running on the spot, bring your knees up to your chest.
7. Squat jumps round the world
With feet hip-width apart, bend your knees and push your bum back as though you are about to sit on a bench, keeping your chest up. Straighten legs, power through them and jump in the air, turning clockwise as you go. Land through soft knees on to your heels and repeat.
8. Plank jumping jacks
Start in the high-plank position on hands and toes, making a straight line with your body. Toes should be hip-width apart. While staying in your plank, jump your feet slightly wider apart (shoulder-width) simultaneously and jump back in.
The mind and body stretch
As well as high-energy workouts to keep you fit, it’s important to stretch out after days hunched over a laptop. ‘This sequence helps you stay connected to your body and breath,’ says Triyoga’s Mia Togo, ‘so you feel centred and flexible in a shifting world and able to adapt to our new reality. Try to practise this three times a week.’
In a wide stance, turn the right leg towards the back of your mat and rotate the left foot and hip slightly forward. Right heel aligns with the left arch. On an inhale, reach your arms apart. On the exhale start to shift the hips over the right leg. Place the right hand on the outside of the shin and extend the left arm up. Stay here 5-8 breaths. Repeat on the left side.
2. Wide-legged forward bend
In a wide stance with feet parallel to the side of the mat, press down through all four corners of the feet and firm the thighs. Interlace the hands behind your back. On an inhale, broaden the collarbones and exhale to shift the hips over the thighs. Lengthen the torso and allow this forward fold to stretch the hamstrings. Remain here for 8-10 breaths.
3. Locust pose with interlaced hands behind back
Lie face down. Interlace the hands behind the back. Inhale and roll the shoulders open, lifting the chest away from the ground. Exhale and lengthen the tailbone to the heels and float the legs and feet up, slightly widening the backs of the thighs. Stay in the pose for 5-8 breaths, then repeat twice more.
4. Resting pigeon
Lying on your back, bend the right leg and cross the right ankle above the left knee. Take the right hand through the hole and hold the left thigh. Flex the right foot and draw the left knee towards the left shoulder, with shoulders relaxed, for eight long inhales and exhales. Repeat on the other side.
5. Supine simple twist
Lying on your back, hug your knees to your chest. Shift the hips slightly to the right and roll on to the left hip, dropping the knees to the left. Reach your right arm out, allowing the shoulder to drop. Inhale, allowing the breath to lengthen throughout the torso, and exhale. Stay here for 5-8 breaths, then swap sides.
6. Butterfly pose
Sit upright and press the soles of the feet together. Inhale to lengthen the spine, exhale and fold forward. Continue to think about rolling the inner thighs to the outer thighs and breathe into areas of tightness. Stay here for 8-10 breaths to release the hips and groin.
7. Seated forward bend
Sitting upright, extend both legs straight in front of the body. On an inhale reach the arms overhead. As you exhale, reach forward, placing the hands on the feet or holding a strap or towel to create elongation in the spine and a hamstring stretch for 8-10 breaths.
8. Corpse pose
Lying on your back, allow your legs to roll open and position your arms with palms upwards. Close your eyes, relax the belly and soften the facial muscles. Take a deep breath and on the exhale let it feel like a wave of water clearing out tension, so the body can feel the grounding of the earth. Stay here for 3-5 minutes. Namaste.
Remember, it’s also worth checking out your local gym or class provider, as many are offering interactive classes via video platforms such as Zoom, while others are doing free classes on Instagram Live.
Your power playlists
Whether you’re ramping up or relaxing, these Spotify picks are guaranteed to keep you motivated.
Boost your strength with…
Get your cardio pumping with…
Keep calm and stretch with…
No Kit? No sweat!
These clever swaps work just as well.
2 x 1.5kg dumbbells = 2 x 1.5 litre bottles of water
1x5kg kettlebell = 1 x 5L bottle of screen wash
Exercise mat = large towel (on a carpet or rug so it doesn’t slip)
Yoga block = folded towel or blanket
Yoga strap = sturdy leather belt
Tone up with the fitness A-list
These YouTube-star videos will keep you in shape and upbeat through lockdown and beyond.