With the Dubai Fitness Challenge – 30 consecutive days of at least 30 minutes’ exercise – well underway as temperatures steadily drop, many residents are looking to take their fitness routine outdoors. However, the ongoing pandemic has also left some people loathe to leave their homes for non-essential purposes.
This week, Better Health speaks to professor of sport and physical education and strength coach Milorad Ponjavic about a routine you can maintain over a month using basic equipment in your home.
No rest days?
Before outlining his programme, Ponjavic is keen to explain a few things about how our body responds and recovers following certain types of training. “You burn calories during training, even when you only use your own weight.” He adds that, for more intense routines, the calorie burn continues. “Thanks to excessive oxygen consumption after exercise – commonly referred to as EPOC – your body will still be a calorie-burning machine long after you finish the last exercise.”
Ponjavic says that a healthy, balanced diet combined with eight hours of sleep ensures your body can achieve a high-quality recovery while enduring 30 minutes of good exercise a day for a month.
The routine outlined by Ponjavic is based on principles of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which allows the body to maximise calorie burn through rapidly increasing the heart rate over 45-seconds between brief 15-second rest periods.
Even though the exercises involve basic equipment and your own body weight, it’s still important to ensure that you are properly warmed up, both for optimal performance and reducing the chances of injury. To begin the dynamic warm-up, grab a skipping rope and go for 20 hops – this will get your heart pumping and your calves, quadriceps and core muscles ready. Next are jumping jacks.
Twenty reps of this plyometric movement will prep the glutes and hip flexors, while boosting your metabolism. Finally, round out the warm-up with 20 bear walks forward and back. This exercise, a raised crawl with arms fully extended, knees slightly bent and a flat back, will ready the shoulders, core, triceps and parts of the chest.
Ponjavic has devised three routines you can cycle through to work the whole body. It’s not about working towards a fixed number of reps per set, but doing as many as you can over a 45-second period.
The first routine begins with bodyweight squats. Doing these with a narrow stance and knees wide will work the inner thighs; narrow stance with straight knees expends the quadriceps; and a wide stance with knees facing outward targets the glutes.
Moving to the upper body, the next exercise is press-ups. As with squats, your position impacts the muscles worked in a press-up – just be sure to always keep your legs and back straight.
A close grip works the triceps, wider grip the chest and widest brings the shoulders into play. Raising a foot during the exercise also forces your core to work, while the difficulty increases if your feet are on a raised platform, such as a chair.
Next is a bodyweight handstand from the toes. Keeping your knees straight and feet close together, bend down and touch your toes. Stand on the toes, together then alternately. This will strengthen your calves and improve flexibility.
It’s time for some back exercise. Stand on an elastic resistance band with feet at shoulder width, holding the top in an overhand grip, slowly rise up, keeping the core tight and extending your hips.
Finally, Ponjavic rounds out the routine with some core work – a plank (in your preferred variant) and reverse crunches.
Kick things off with some lower-body exercise through walking lunges.
The next three movements will work the arms, but you’ll need a resistance band. The overhead press is an ideal shoulder workout, seated row creates a burn in the muscles of your middle back and bicep curls will strengthen the front part of the arms. Next, place a couple of chairs behind you and put your hands on them to pull off some dips to hone the triceps.
As with the previous day, we end the workout with planks, but this time with a toe tapping variation to force core stability.
You’ll need to get the chairs out again to start day three. It begins with deep press-ups between three chairs. Place your feet on one and hands on two others to start. This variation requires an increased range of movement from the shoulders, primarily works the deltoids and middle chest while also offering a supplementary abdominal emphasis.
Switching to the lower body and glutes, do some alternating chair step-ups next. Standing on your toes at the end of the movement adds in some calf work too.
The bear crawl is next, followed by an advanced variant of press-ups, where you add a clap between quick reps.
The final two exercises will need a mat. First is a rolling squat tuck-up jump, a highly effective legs and core workout. Standing in front of your mat, lower into a squat and roll backwards until lying on the mat. Bringing your knees up, kick your feet forward and stand up, ending the movement with a small jump as you rise.
Again, we end things with a plank. Beginning in the basic position on hands and feet, extend your left arm forwards while raising your right leg upwards. Repeat on the opposite side, ensuring your limbs are always fully extended.