Personal trainer Terry Ho performs a side plank at the Human in Motion exercise studio. [Photo/China Daily]
Being homebound is no longer an excuse to pile on the winter weight.
Personal trainer Terry Ho, of Beijing's Human in Motion exercise studio, explains how to create a challenging and rewarding home workout with absolutely no equipment.
The regime may not chisel a hunky beefcake, but it will definitely aid blood circulation, stretch muscles and, hopefully, prevent a snowman-like shape come springtime.
A gentle start
For beginners and those who haven't made a trip to the gym in a while, Ho is suggesting weight training that makes use of the body's own weight rather than free-weight training - which can stress the muscles.
Beginners and the mildly out-of-shape should take it easy at first, he advises not to shoot for a full-body workout right away.
The exercises listed below can be performed for about 30 minutes every two days, but don't exercise again until soreness from a previous session has subsided.
Beginners should start with three sets of 10 repetitions, while those of intermediate and advanced abilities can hit three sets of anything from 12 to 20 repetitions - whatever feels comfortable.
If it feels wrong, opt for a different movement that targets the same muscle group. Above all, to avoid injury or undue stress, Ho urges exercisers to use controlled motions.
"Pay close attention to form and movement, and always keep the spine aligned and the core (abdominal) muscles engaged," he said.
"Warm-up the core first. Stretching beforehand is difficult because muscles are cold. Save the stretching for after when muscles are loose."
Legs and bum
To work the lower regions, Ho suggests squats and lunges.
The squat is simple: first, practice sitting on a chair and getting up to understand the movement, then remove the chair and continue the movement with feet a little wider than hip-distance apart.
The squat is straightforward and the lunge is equally uncomplicated: take a big step forward with one leg and bend the back leg down, almost touching the floor. Stand up and repeat by alternating legs. Those with access to a long room can do walking lunges by pacing back and forth while alternating the lunging leg.
For this part of the body, Ho suggests two exericses: abdominal crunches and planks.
Use ab' crunches to work core muscles by lying on the ground with legs up and bent. Pull the upper body up slightly and hold the position for about three seconds. Use a controlled motion to descend and repeat.
Advanced workouts can be achieved by using the left elbow to touch the right knee and alternating the pattern.
A well-executed plank position can work the core, shoulders and back. The trick is to keep the body in a straight line, engage the core, keep the bum down and the feet together.
A front plank starts out like a push-up but instead of having the hands on the ground, put them together and balance on the elbows.
A side plank can be achieved by putting one foot on top of the other and turning the body to balance on just one elbow. Hold the free arm up high in line with the chest.
For an even more challenging plank, try the rotational plank: it is a side plank that uses the free arm to rotate in under the body.
The upper torso
And finally, the most basic exercise: the push-up.
Push-ups work shoulder, arm, chest and core muscles when done properly.
Like the plank, the body should be aligned and the bum kept down. Spread the feet hip-distance apart and try a variety of push-ups to find the one that's most comfortable.
The hands should be kept wider than the shoulders and directly under the shoulder blades.
For a tricep workout, position the hands closer together.
Taking it further
For anyone looking for a challenge, Ho suggests alternating exercises instead of pausing between sets of the same movement - similar to a circuit-training workout - to burn more calories and body fat.
He suggests to use these exercises in combination with each other, or to restructure them into a session that can concentrate on a single muscle group.