As a personal trainer at Gold's Gym in Venice Beach, I work with clients who have already found a way to integrate a fitness routine into their daily schedules. But for many of us, there just doesn't seem to be enough time in the day. Demands of family, work, and home leave us with little time and energy to get to the gym. Even when we do, many of us are at a loss as to how to make the time effective, and there is so much conflicting information out there: When to do cardio—before or after strength training? Will training with weights make a woman bulky? And, WHY aren’t I losing weight from doing an hour of cardio, six times/week? Many of us end up frustrated and just quit going all together.
This will make you feel better: It is easy to integrate a few key exercises into the work day. These exercises will tone your body and help energize you throughout the day. The following exercises are notable in that they require no equipment and can be performed with limited space and time. They are efficient for working many muscle groups simultaneously. Do them during your lunch break, or work them in periodically throughout the day when you wish to energize yourself.
Lower Body Exercises\n
1. The Wall Squat: A fairly unobtrusive breakout that requires only a few feet of blank wall space to perform, indoors or out. This is an isometric exercise for the legs, hips and glutes, that progressively recruits more fibers of the muscles—creating a dense, lean look to the muscles of lower body (think: tennis players), along with increased muscular endurance. Slow, rhythmic breathing stimulates cardiovascular benefits. Start with 30 seconds and improve on your last personal-best time until you can hold it for two minutes without shakiness. This exercise can be performed multiple times in the day.
2. Glute Isolation: Stand at your desk or next to a wall, using one or both hands to balance, if necessary. Bend one knee, lifting the foot up and flexing, then pushing it back behind you, isolating and squeezing the glute. Repeat 15 times, using tight, controlled movements. Do three alternating sets on each side.
3. Hamstring Curl: Same position as Glute Isolation, but lifting and lowering the foot with toes pointed. Much as in the performance of a bicep curl, isolate and feel the hamstring with each repetition. Repeat 15 times, alternating three sets on each side.
Upper Body Exercises\n
4. The Plank: This requires a little more floor area and is a bit more conspicuous if you don’t have a private office. A conference room is an excellent place to grab a few minutes alone. Squat until you can lower your hands to the floor in front of you, then step the legs out behind you until the body (from the top of the head to the heels) is in a straight line—a plank—as though you are about to perform a push-up. Pull the belly button toward the spine, tightening the abs and breathe deeply, while holding the position for 30 seconds. This exercise can also be performed on the knees, if necessary until you get strong enough to do it on your toes. Just keep practicing!
Intermediate Plank: For a more intermediate progression, increase the exercise to one and a half minutes by lifting the right foot off the ground for 30 more seconds, without taking a break. Switch feet, lifting the left foot off of the ground for 30 seconds.
Advanced Plank: For the advanced progression, perform push-ups (on the toes or knees) for 30 more seconds with no break for a total of two minutes of exercise. Your heart should be pumping and you should keenly feel the muscles of the core, shoulders, chest, and back. This exercise can be performed more than once on days you focus on upper body exercises.
5. Chair Dips: Position your hands at the front of a strong chair or bench with feet in front of you as though you are in a seated position. Keeping the back close to the edge of the chair seat, bend the elbows and straighten them, squeezing the triceps hard at the top of the repetition. Complete 15. Repeat three times.
6. Lateral Shoulder Raises: Bend the elbows and lift them out to the side to shoulder level (like a bird flapping its wings—or like you're doing the "Chicken Dance"), squeezing the caps of the shoulders at the top. Attempt to keep the neck relaxed and uninvolved in the movement. Perform 15 reps x 3 sets.
Throughout the Day
7. Active Sitting: A core disk (also known as instability disk or cushion) on your office chair will allow intermittent or continuous tilting of the pelvis which engages the muscles of the core while you are working.
8. Stretching: Always stretch after exercising—and whenever you want to take a break. Stretches oxygenate and bring nutrients to the muscles by increasing blood flow and relieve tightness in the joints.
9. Walking or Taking the Stairs: Add some higher intensity exercise for additional cardiovascular benefits: When stairs are available and breaking a sweat is not a problem, add walking or running flights of stairs (or speed-walking around the block) to this routine and you will receive all the benefits of a full-body workout, without the additional time and effort required to visit the gym.
Bonus: Packing a healthy lunch of clean food (chicken, fish or lean beef with a complex carbohydrate and green vegetables) and some healthy snacks (nuts, seeds, cut veggies, whole fruit, and yogurt) will accelerate your progress.
So there it is. No equipment to purchase, no embarrassing jumping around, no looking for a parking place at a crowded gym. Just some basic, tried-and-true exercises that have been helping people stay in shape for centuries.