20-minute workout wonder!

Raphael Calzadilla
Chief Fitness Pro

"If you have made mistakes... there is always another chance for you... you may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call 'failure' is not the falling down, but the staying down."
- Mary Pickford

Life just gets too busy to go to the gym sometimes. So I’ve put together this quick and hassle-free workout that’s designed for those who need to perform brief exercise sessions in the privacy of their home - with absolutely no equipment.

So, if you've suddenly been hit with a busy schedule, or just need something quick, I have the workout for you. The workout is simple, quick and absolutely effective. No hour-long sessions in the gym or long bouts of cardio, and no dreading the thought of exercise. Just a realistic alternative to all the noise in the world of fitness that makes us hate exercising. No anatomy lessons today, simply something you can do in your living room or office. The only weight you'll need is your own body.

This series of movements will take about 20 minutes or even less. Yep, you're reading correctly... just 20 minutes. You can do them three to four times per week. Your entire body will be stimulated and you'll feel rejuvenated, without all the added stress of having to go to the gym.

I've designed this routine so that one exercise stimulates multiple muscle groups. This way you'll get the best bang for your buck in the least amount of time. Perform each exercise in succession. After completing one movement, immediately continue to the next one. After you've completed all the movements, perform them one more time. Attempt 12-15 repetitions of each movement. Don’t worry if you can’t perform all the reps… it will come. If you're a beginner, take your time and go at your own pace.

Okay, let's go!

1. Bent knee push-up
Start with your hands and knees on a mat. Your hands should be shoulder-width apart and your head, neck, hips and legs should be in a straight line. Do not let your back arch and cave in. Maintain a slight bend in the elbows. Lower your upper body by bending your elbows outward, stopping before your chest touches the floor. Contracting the chest muscles, slowly return to the starting position. Inhale while lowering your body. Exhale while returning to the starting position. After mastering this exercise, you may wish to try the full push-up.

2. Lunge
Find yourself two tins from your larder – baked beans, tomatoes or soup weighing around 400g. Stand straight with your feet together. Hold a tin in each hand with your arms down at your sides. Step forward with the right leg and lower the left leg until the knee almost touches the floor. Contracting the quadriceps muscles (front of the thigh), push off your right foot slowly returning to the starting position. Alternate the motion with the left leg to complete the set. Inhale while stepping forward. Exhale while returning to the starting position. The step should be long enough that your left leg is nearly straight. Do not let your knee touch the floor. Make sure your head is up and your back is straight. Your chest should be lifted and your front leg should form a 90-degree angle at the bottom of the movement. Your right knee should not pass your right foot and you should be able to see your toes at all times. If you have one leg that is more dominant than the other, start out with the less dominant leg first. Discontinue this exercise if you feel any discomfort in your knees.

3. Abdominal bicycle manoeuver
Lie on a mat with your lower back in a comfortable position. Put your hands on either side of your head by your ears. Bring your knees up to about a 45-degree angle. Slowly go through a bicycle pedalling motion, alternating your left elbow to your right knee, then your right elbow to your left knee. This is a more a more advanced exercise so don't worry if you can't perform a lot of them. Do not perform this activity if it puts any strain on your lower back. Also, don't pull on your head and neck during this exercise. The lower to the ground your legs bicycle, the harder your abs have to work.

4. Bench dips
Using two benches or chairs, sit on one. Place palms on the bench with fingers wrapped around the edge. Place both feet on the other chair. Slide your upper body off the chair with your elbows nearly but not completely locked. Lower your upper body slowly toward the floor until your elbows are bent slightly more than 90 degrees. Contracting your triceps (back of the arm), extend your elbows returning to the starting position, stopping just short of the elbows fully extending. Inhale while lowering your body and exhale while returning to the starting position. Beginners should start with their feet on the floor and knees at a 90-degree angle. As you progress, move your feet out further until your legs are straight with a slight bend in the knees.

5. Abdominal double crunch
Lie on the floor face up. Bend your knees until your legs are at a 45-angle with both feet on the floor. Your back should be comfortably relaxed on the floor. Place both hands crossed on your chest. Contracting your abdominals, raise your head and legs off the floor toward one another. Slowly return to the starting position, stopping just short of your shoulders and feet touching the floor. Exhale while rising up and inhale while returning to the starting position. Keep your eyes on the ceiling to avoid pulling with your neck. Your hands should not be used to lift the head or assist in the movement.

There you have it! Five exercises performed for two cycles in just 20 minutes. You'll begin to notice a tighter feel in your muscles in a few weeks and you will naturally perform more reps as time progresses - all in 20 minutes or less.

Please remember to check with your doctor prior to beginning any exercise programme.

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