According to a survey carried out in 2022, almost half of women in the UK did no vigorous exercise in the previous year, with 38 per cent admitting they’d fallen out of the habit during lockdown. While many blamed a lack of motivation, others felt they didn’t know where to start when it came to exercise – and it seems little has changed since.
Where there is a will, there is a way, and fitness expert and trainer, Luke Worthington, advises that the first port of call is to look at exercise “choices and combinations that give the most bang for your buck. Being smart about how we organize our workouts across a week, the exercises we choose, and how we group them together within each workout means we can maximize the efficiency of our programme, and get back to our best in the quickest time possible,” he says.
This is his three point guide to doing just that. Let’s get fit… and fast.
Organize your week in workouts
“Research shows us that frequency rather than intensity is the most efficient way to build progress when we are either new to exercise, or returning to it after some time off,” says Worthington. “Frequency is best achieved through following a full-body training plan, rather than a ‘split’ routine (those that focus on one body part or muscle group per workout).” The reason for that is that a full body training plan allows for every part of the body (and all muscle groups) to be put through their paces multiple times a week, while a split routine sees them worked more intensely once every seven days. Worthington’s advice is to schedule in three full body workouts on alternate days (for example, Monday, Wednesday and Friday), and then to use the days in between for some low-intensity and longer duration (around 40 minutes) activities, like running, cycling or walking.
Here’s an example of a well-organized week, incorporating the two workouts broken down below.
- Monday: Workout 1
- Tuesday: Low-intensity cardio
- Wednesday: Workout 2
- Thursday: Low-intensity cardio
- Friday: Workout 1
- Saturday: Higher intensity aerobic training
- Sunday: Rest
Choose the correct exercise
“Every movement within our bodies is built up of fundamental movement patterns: push, pull, squat, hinge and lunge,” explains Worthington. “We can think of those as the key ingredients in our cooking cupboard.” He says that the most effective and efficient way to exercise is by focusing on multi-joint or compound movements, which are exercises that use the most muscle tissue – and thus build the most strength and require the greatest energy to perform. Don’t know where to start? See some examples of compound movements, below.
- Push: Push up and shoulder press
- Pull: TRX row and dumbbell row
- Squat: Goblet squat and back squat
- Hinge: Hip thrust and Romanian deadlift
- Lunge: Step up or split squat
How to group your exercises together
How we put exercises together is key. “A technique I often employ with clients when we’re looking for quick results is to pair upper and lower body exercises together in supersets. What this means is you perform one set of an upper body exercise, then immediately perform a set of a lower body exercise, then rest, and then repeat the mini circuit for the desired number of sets,” says Worthington.
Since working our muscles requires both oxygen and nutrients to be supplied via the blood stream, if we group upper and lower body movements into super sets we can use this to our advantage thanks to a phenomena called ‘venous shunt’,” explains Worthington. This means that the cardiovascular system has to quickly move blood from the upper to the lower body as you move through the two exercises, effectively training the cardiovascular system at the same time as the muscular system. Cue greater energy burn, better strength and muscle tone, and improved cardio fitness all in one go – pretty clever stuff.
Some examples of supersets:
- Superset A part I: Back squat
- Superset A part II: Dumbbell row
- Superset B part I: Romanian deadlift
- Superset B part II: Shoulder press (overhead press)
- Superset C part I: Step up
- Superset C part II: Deadbugs
- Superset A part I: Goblet Squat
- Superset A part II: Bodyweight row (TRX row)
- Superset B part I: Hip thrust
- Superset B part II: Push up
- Superset C part I: Split squat
- Superset C part II: Side plank
Originally published in Vogue.co.uk