There's a lot more to training effectively than just working out. Focussing on one specific area may work if you're an athlete, but for most people, it's about balance. That's why exercising efficiently means multiple areas at the same time: strength, cardio, mobility and endurance.
Most HIIT classes are good for offering a range of benefits. A 45-minute session will increase your heart rate and the range of movements means that you won't be neglecting muscles ‚Äď something that many of us tend to do in the gym.
Classes aren't the best option for everyone though, for some of us there just might not be any close by and for others carving out an hour to go is just not feasible. That's when you need to take matters into your own hands.
- Want more: Try out the best exercises to build stamina
When it comes to efficient, smart workouts, F45 Training knows a fair bit. F45 is a global functional fitness franchise, with 36 classes that combine high-intensity interval training, circuits, and functional training.
We spent some time with Sam Gregory, a PT and qualified strength and conditioning coach with 20 years of experience. He‚Äôs the owner of F45 Stratford, a top fitness studio in London. Sam took us through his choice exercises for ticking your cardio and muscle building off in one fell swoop.
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For each exercise, you should be able to comfortably perform the exercises for at least 45 seconds, so make sure the weights are manageable but taxing.
It may not be the most exciting or creative exercise in the world, but when it comes to movements that do a hell of a lot, the humble push-up is firmly at the top of the list. But, although it may be one of the most common exercises in workouts around the world, it‚Äôs often done incorrectly.
Muscles worked: Chest, triceps, shoulders, core
How to do it: Start with your hands shoulder-width apart and the arms fully outstretched below the shoulders. With your elbows held against the body and whilst maintaining a completely straight back, lower yourself to the ground. Once you‚Äôre down, well, push up into the starting position again.
Tip: Keep your feet hip-width apart to help maintain balance throughout the movement.
Dumbbell Goblet Squat
A squat, like a push-up, is an exercise that‚Äôs ridiculously effective. Not only does it work a lot of muscle groups but it also trains some of the biggest in the body. That means you‚Äôre burning more calories as well as working more efficiently.
Muscles worked: Legs, glutes, hamstrings, calves
How to do it: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and, keeping your heels firmly placed on the ground, place a dumbbell vertically between your pals. Lower yourself so that your thighs are parallel with the floor, maintaining throughout the movement, then push back up to a standing position, tensing your glutes as you come to the top.
Tip: Keep your back as straight as possible, ensuring it doesn‚Äôt arch.
Dumbbell Renegade Row
Sometimes when an exercise is particularly tough, fitness people like to give it a slightly daunting name to warn you (see ‚Äėmanmakers‚Äô). Tough workouts don‚Äôt exist purely to make people‚Äôs lives hard though, normally they‚Äôre actually quite effective. The dumbbell renegade row is a compound movement that incorporates a lot of muscles.
Muscles worked: Back, shoulders, triceps, biceps
How to do it: Holding a dumbbell in each hand with your arms outstretched under the shoulders and your legs hip-width apart, pull back one of the weights whilst keeping your elbow as close to the body as possible. Once you‚Äôve moved the dumbbell back to the ground repeat with the alternate arm, maintaining a straight back and avoiding any movement in the body as the arms are moved.
Tip: Hold the dumbbells at 45-degree angles on the ground with the top of each touching. The modification will aid with shoulder activation as well as add more focus to the core element of the movement.
It may not look like a tough exercise, but do bodyweight glute bridges properly and you‚Äôll know about it. It‚Äôs by far one of the best exercises for isolating the glutes as well as hitting the stabilising muscles around them. It also has the added benefit of being used as a safer alternative to squats and lunges if you suffer from back, hip or knee pain.
Muscles worked: Glutes, abs, lower back, hamstrings, hip flexors
How to do it: Lying with your back on the floor, bend your knees and put your feet underneath them ‚Äď you should be able to touch your heels with your hands. With your feet hip-width apart, raise your hips into the air whilst maintaining a straight slope all the way down the body. Control the movement downwards and repeat.
Tip: If it‚Äôs too easy then keep one leg off the floor to complete the movement with the other.
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Dumbbell Squat into Overhead Press
We mentioned that the squat was one of the best exercises for working a number of muscle groups in one go. Well, throw in an overhead press and you‚Äôre taking it to the next level (there‚Äôs a reason why CrossFitters love doing thrusters).
Muscles worked: Legs, glutes, hamstrings, calves, shoulders
How to do it: With the dumbbells resting across the top of the chest and feet shoulder-width apart, lower into a squat position. With them parallel to the floor, move back into a standing position, pushing the dumbbells up above the head as you‚Äôre fully stood up. Repeat by lowering back into a squat position, controlling the movement downwards.
Tip: Use the momentum of moving to a standing position to help push the dumbbells above the head.
Dumbbell Russian Twist
The Russian twist is rumoured to have originated during the Cold War as a training method for Russian soldiers. The idea that no one had successfully developed the exercise before then is fairly ludicrous, but adding the word Russian to an exercise does tend to make it sound better.
Muscles worked: Core
How to do it: Sitting on the floor, lift your legs and back off the ground at about 30 degrees. Holding the dumbbell with both hands, move it to the left and right of the body, maintaining the core and body positioning throughout the movement.
Tip: Keep the back completely straight without craning the neck forward.
Reverse Lunge with Arm Curls
Another killer compound exercise that incorporates multiple muscle groups in the upper and lower parts of the body. Even on its own, a lunge is a formidable part of your workout armory, working a heap of muscles in the lower body. Throw in a bicep curl and you‚Äôre looking at a lot of benefits in a very short time. The reverse lunge is also slightly less intense on the knees, so it‚Äôs a good alternative to the forward lunge.
Muscles worked: Glutes, thighs, calves, core, back
How to do it: From a standing position, feet hip-width apart and dumbbells held by the sides, step with one foot forward landing firmly on the heel, making sure that the knee doesn‚Äôt go further forward than the toe. As you step into the movement, bicep curl the dumbbells to the chest, lowering as you step back to a standing position. Repeat the exercise with the alternate leg.
Tip: A lot of people under-step the lunge and end up with the knee going far over the foot, sometimes even lifting the heel off the floor. To fix, focus on taking a bigger step until you‚Äôve found the right length.
Band Pull Aparts
Resistance bands ‚Äď the secret weapon of anyone wanting to train effectively on a budget. What may seem like a large rubber band can take a run-of-the-mill bodyweight workout and turn it into an extremely effective strength and conditioning session. With minimal equipment, the back is also a very tricky area to train ‚Äď unless you have some bands.
Muscles worked: Shoulders, upper back
How to do it: Stand with feet hip-width apart and hold the ends of the band directly in front of the chest, letting the rest of the band fall in front of you. Pull your arms out to the sides, stretching out the band.
Tip: If the movement is too easy and you don‚Äôt have a stronger band, move your hands closer together to increase resistance.
Try these workouts
Not everyone has time to do a full 45-minute workout every time they train, but even fitting in 10-minutes around your life can have a big impact on your overall fitness. The best thing about these exercises is that they can be modified to make them fit around your schedule, so you have no excuse for skipping a workout.
Workout 1: The whole shebang
Carry out every exercise with 40 seconds rest between each set. At the end of the full workout rest for two minutes then repeat. Complete the whole series of exercises three times.
Note: The majority of exercises focus on good form and controlled movements, not speed.
- Push-up x 10
- Dumbbell goblet squat x 8
- Dumbbell renegade row x 8 each arm
- Glute bridge x 10 (or 8 each leg)
- Dumbbell squat into overhead press x 10
- Dumbbell Russian twist x 10
- Reverse lunge with curl x 6 each leg
- Band pull aparts x 8
- 2-minute rest
Workout 2: The lunchtime sweatfest
You've logged off your last unnecessary Zoom call and you've got one precious hour to train, eat and put the bins out. Pull your shorts on, stick some EDM on the Alexa and smash through this 20-minute session.
Set a 20-second timer on your phone and take a 1-minute break between each round. If you get tired during the round, take a 20-second break to catch your breath and carry on.
- Dumbbell goblet squat
- Dumbbell renegade row (alternating)
- Dumbbell squat into overhead press
- Dumbbell Russian twist (alternating)
- Reverse lunge with curl (alternating)
- Band pull aparts
- 1-minute rest
Workout 3: 5-minute finisher
Whether you've just got back for a run, you've crushed a session on the turbo trainer or you've been curling out the big weights at the gym, this 5-minute finisher will help to work the muscles you may have missed or increase your heart rate to help improve your cardio fitness over time. If you can do the whole round in less than 5 minutes start again until the time is up.
- Push-up x 16
- Dumbbell goblet squat x 12
- Dumbbell renegade row x 5 each arm
- Glute bridge x 10 each leg
- Dumbbell squat into overhead press x 10
- Dumbbell Russian twist x 20
- Reverse lunge with curl x 10 each leg
- Band pull apart x12
Are you a trainer or studio who would like to feature in an exercises series? If so we‚Äôd love to hear what training experience you can bring to our readers. Send us an email at [email protected].