You don’t always need to spend hours in the gym to reap the fitness benefits, even when it comes to strength training. Sometimes, less is more.
The benefits of strength training are numerous, from supporting bone health to improving blood sugar regulation and healthy cholesterol levels. And there’s nothing quite like feeling strong – it boosts confidence and self-esteem (think back to the last time you were able to open a jar that your mates struggled with), but sometimes it just feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day to fit in a strength session.
Don’t stress – we’ve got you covered. Here, PTs share their five-minute hacks for boosting strength – perfect for those days when you really are pushed for time.
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Focus on grip strength
“Adding five minutes of grip strength work into your regime can really aid your ability to train harder next time around,” says Ben Simpkins, head personal trainer at London Fitness Mamas. “So many times, when trying to go heavier and push yourself, your grip can be the thing holding you back, so adding simple things like farmer carries can really improve the rest of your training.”
How to do farmer carries
Kirsten Whitehouse, trainer at Wolf Approach Fitness advises: “Take a heavy kettlebell for a walk; once it starts getting uncomfortable, KEEP GOING. This is where grip training kicks in. For an extra kick, try working your core at the same time by holding just one kettlebell in one hand at a time, as opposed to having one in each hand.”
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Compound training moves
“Another good hack is to work bigger and smaller muscle groups at the same time. We call this compound training,” explains Whitehouse. “Great examples are lunges with bicep curls, squat and presses or renegade rows. It means you are engaging more muscles in the same amount of time, forcing fast adaptation and maximising overall change in the shortest possible time.”
How to do a renegade row
- Place your dumbbells on the floor, shoulder-width apart.
- Get into plank position, holding onto the dumbbells instead of having your hands flat on the floor. The further apart your feet are, the easier it will be to balance. If it’s too tricky on your feet, feel free to drop to your knees.
- Ensure that there’s a straight line between your wrists, elbows and shoulders – body weight should be over the wrists.
- Slowly bend the right elbow to bring the dumbbell up towards your hip.
- Lower the weight back down and repeat on the left.
- No other part of the body should be moving – only the single arm.
“The basics never fail,” explains Simpkins. “If you want to improve your upper body strength then get used to adding a set of push ups to each workout. Break the exercise down to get the technique right and move forward from there, even if you can’t do one rep right now, keep at it.”
How to do them
- Start by taking a high plank on your hands and toes, making sure your shoulders are stacked over your wrists.
- Make sure your core is activated so you’re pulling in your belly button and squeezing the glutes.
- Slowly lower yourself to the ground, letting your arms and elbows come out to 45 degrees.
- Stop when you’re about halfway down.
- Exhale, squeeze your muscles and drive back up into a high plank position.
“If you’re really pushed for time, prioritise a core workout as a strong foundation is needed for heavy lifting – ensuring your core can support you is essential when building strength,” explains Simpkins. You can choose your move, but you can’t go wrong with the classic plank.
How to do a plank
- Make sure your body stays parallel to the floor.
- Tuck the pelvis in, making sure it’s rotated to the front – don’t arch the lower back.
- Keep your legs straight and glutes engaged by squeezing your bum.
- Make sure your shoulders are over your wrists with your shoulder blades away from each other.
- Pull your belly button in and hold.
Try a superset
“A great five minute hack is to do a superset of opposing muscle groups,” says Whitehouse. “For example, a bicep curl combined with a tricep dip. Perform these exercises back-to-back for maximum impact.”
How to do a bicep curl
- Hold your dumbbells by your sides, arms straight, palms facing forwards.
- Keeping the elbows close to the sides of your body, bend the elbows to bring the weights up towards your collarbone.
- Slowly bring the weights back down by straightening the arms – making sure to maintain contact between your elbows and body the whole time.
How to do a tricep dip
- Sit with your back to a sofa, chair, bed or any raised surface. Place your hands on the surface, shoulder-width apart, fingers facing the same way as your toes.
- To begin, bend the knees so your legs are at a right angle. A more advanced variation is to keep the legs straight with your heels touching the floor.
- Open up through collarbone without overextending the chest.
- Slowly bend elbows to lower down. Push back up through your hands.
- Keep the shoulder away from the ears, and the bum close to the bench.
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