As winter draws in and portion sizes get bigger, it's easy to get out of shape. Given the 'summer' we've just had, you might not be in peak fitness right now anyway. A great way to combat seasonal fatigue, glumness and general lack of wellness is to start working out.
Improved self-esteem, reduced fatigue, more positive moods and social benefits are just a handful of reasons why it pays to put in a little effort when it comes to keeping in shape. We know it can be tricky to get started, so we have teamed up with top fitness expert Mandie Nugent for this workout anyone can do. That's not to say it's not challenging, but it's a great way to ease (back) into fitness. Before you know it, you'll be working on rock hard, six-pack abs and perusing ways to get big arms.
Don't let a lack of knowledge put your plans on the back-burner. We have enlisted the help of ex-competitive swimmer and current bodybuilder, personal trainer ambassador for leading sports nutrition brand USN, Mandie Nugent (opens in new tab), to show you the way.
"When starting out with any new fitness routine, it’s important to understand what your goal is and your reason for training," she says. "Whether you want to lose weight, tone up, build muscle or improve fitness, your program should be tailored to your specific goal.
"As an ex-competitive swimmer, bodybuilder and personal trainer, I have trained for all different purposes and worked with clients with a wide set of goals and needs. But this workout is perfect for any beginner looking to start a new program and should help anyone build confidence and fitness."
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A bit about Mandie's workout
Mandie's workout will reap the best results if you split it over three separate days, with rest days in between to allow the muscles to repair and energy levels to replenish.
"Each workout is designed to focus on a specific area of the body," Mandie explains.
"This program is great for those looking to tighten and tone up all over, and if followed correctly alongside proper nutrition, should start to see effective changes to their bodies within the first couple weeks," she adds.
A large chunk of the exercises here require specialist equipment that can usually only be found in the gym, unless you're lucky enough to have the budget and space to create the king of all workout zones at home.
That said, it is possible to replace some of the exercises with alternatives that can be carried out using a good set of the best dumbbells.
But as Mandie explains later, progression is key to visible gains, so it pays to have a range of weights at home that you'll be able to work up to.
The most important thing here is to ease yourself in to any new fitness regime and make sure you don't overdo it and cause injury.
"A big thing I tell my clients is the rule of two, Mandie explains. "A lot of exercises will be performed for ten reps, but if you cannot hit 8 reps (two reps below) then the weight is too heavy, and if you can easily hit 12 (two reps above) with the capability to continue, then your weight selection is too light.
"It’s all about finding that sweet spot, which allows you to work at your optimum level. You’ll find yourself being stronger on certain exercises over others, so it’s important to track what your weight selection is and then try improve this in some way the next time you go to attempt the exercise," she adds.
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A word on nutrition
Good nutrition is just as important as exercise and if you are bingeing on Pukka Pies after every workout, you aren't going to see positive results in a hurry.
"Most people like to cut out carbohydrates to lose weight, but it’s so important when starting out to have a balanced diet of healthy fats, protein and carbs," Mandie says.
"Protein consumption should be high, around 1.5-2g per kilogram of body weight. So if you are 10st (63kg), you should be consuming just under 140g of protein a day," she adds.
To put this into perspective, a chicken breast is about 30g of protein, so your average Joe will be wolfing down at least four chicken breasts a day, which can be expensive and inconvenient.
"Understandably, that’s a lot of protein to physically eat, which is why a lot of us turn to protein powder and shakes to rack up our numbers," says Mandie.
"Whey protein is much easier to consume and isn’t as filling, allowing you to eat your regular meals per day. USN Blue Lab Whey is my favourite protein as it's a high protein concentrate with low carbohydrates and the flavour is really rich and delicious," she adds.
We have a list of the best protein powders, should you find it difficult to inject the correct nutrients into a busy schedule.
How to perform Mandie's workout for beginners
The workouts should take around 45 minutes each and they are best performed with minimal rests between sets.
Consider a set complete when you have finished the stated number of repetitions - the number of times you repeat one exercise - and rest for around 60 seconds between each set.
It's a good idea to kick every workout off with a warm up, which can be 5-10 minutes of light to medium cardio work on a treadmill, exercise bike or by running on the spot, performing jumping jacks or butt kickers.
"Stick at this routine for four-to-six weeks, increasing the weights after you can comfortably complete ten reps of the exercise in question," explains Mandie.
"With some hard work and a commitment to a healthy diet, you'll definitely start seeing results quickly," she adds.
Day one - lower body
Sets: 3 Reps: 12-15
These can be performed with a bar on the back or by holding a small plate on the chest.
Standing with feet hip-width apart and keeping the chest up, you are going to bend the knees and slide the hips back as if you are sitting on a chair.
Keeping the back nice and flat, avoiding an arch through the spine, you’re going to squat down so your glutes are on a level with your knees and drive through the heels to return to standing position.
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Sets: 3 Reps: 10-12 per leg
Start by standing with the right leg in front of the left leg about a torso length apart.
The left heel should be raised up so you are on your toes, keeping the right heel placed firmly on the floor.
Similar to the squat performed earlier, you’re going to bend the knees so your left knee lowers towards the floor, keeping the heel up while your right leg bends into a 90 degree angle.
Be sure to not let your right knee travel over your toes. If it does, you need to widen your stance a little more.
Once your back knee is 1-2 inches off the floor, push through the right heel and drive the body up towards standing position. Repeat this on the left side.
Sets: 3 Reps: 12-15
This will require a specialist machine at the gym but sit back into the seat and place both feet against the platform, with a wide stance to engage the hamstrings.
Taking the machine off the safety latches and supporting the machine with the ball of your heels, bend the knees so they come towards your shoulders.
As you reach the bottom of the machine, push yourself back using the heels as your driving force. Try to avoid locking your knees out at the top.
For those without a gym membership, you could try a Sumo squat with a dumbbell. This is similar to the earlier squat but holding a dumbbell with two hands in front of you at chest height.
Jump Squats superset with Pulse Squats
Sets: 3 Reps: 20 each
These are a great way to shred fat at the end of a workout. For the jump squats, you will perform these the same way you performed the squats but without a weight. You will travel down in the same motion but as you come up you will add a small jump at the end to take you back into the next rep.
For the pulse squats, you’re going to drop into a squat and once you’re at the bottom phase with your legs in a 90-degree angle, you’re going to pulse up and down in that position until you complete all 20 reps.
"Finish your workout with 10 minutes of cardio. I would advise doing whatever you enjoy, whether that’s a continual steady pace on one machine or performing multiple short sprints. Whichever method you choose be sure to put as much effort as possible," says Mandie.
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Day two - back and biceps
Bent Over Row
Sets: 3 Reps: 12-15
Using a straight barbell, pick up the bar with hands slightly wider than hips and an overhand grip - knuckles facing away from you.
Lower the upper body by hinging at the hips and slightly bending at the knee.
You’re going to pull the bar up towards your belly button, keeping the elbows tucked in and back. Lower the bar back to starting position with full control and repeat.
Lat Pull Down
Sets: 3 Reps: 12-15
Sit facing the lat pull down machine and, using a wide grip, pull the bar down towards the chest keeping the back straight, leaning slightly back at the hips if required.
Slowly ease the bar back to the starting position with full control and repeat.
This requires a dedicated machine but those working out at home can also try pull-ups on a bar or tree branch to activate similar muscles.
Sets: 3 Reps: 12-15
Using a close grip handle, sit with your feet pressed up against the platform of a seated row machine in the gym. You’re going to pull back to create some tension on the cable but make sure the back is flat.
Pull the handles towards the chest, hold for one second at the top of the move, and then slowly release, ensuring not to let the machine drag you forward. Repeat.
For those without a gym membership, try a bent over fly with a set of dumbbells.
Barbell Bicep Curl Matrix
Sets: 3 Reps: 21
Take a barbell with an underhand grip, knuckles facing towards you. Keeping the elbows locked directly under your shoulder, you’re going to curl the barbell up to the belly button to create a 90-degree bend in the arm then return back to the bottom.
Do this for seven reps then work the top range. Starting at the top of the curl, lower the bar down to the belly button creating a 90-degree bend through the arm and back to the top. Do this for seven reps.
Finish with seven full curls (barbell at thighs, curling up to chest) to complete the matrix.
Finish the workout with 10 minutes cardio of your choice.
Day three - chest, shoulders and triceps
Machine or Shoulder Press
Sets: 3 Reps: 12-15
This can be performed on either a shoulder press machine or with free weights, such as dumbbells or barbells.
If performed on a machine, sit facing away from the handles and press directly above the head and back down so your hands come to just above shoulder level.
Those using free weights should aim for the same range of motion, but be sure to not let your elbows sway forwards or backwards as you press above the head.
Sets: 3 Reps: 12-15
This is similar to the machine press, but you will be pushing forward, away from the body. If using a machine, position the seat so the handles are level with the chest.
Keep the elbows back and push forward so the arms are extended, ensuring you don’t lock out. Bend the elbows to return the handles back to the chest to repeat.
Working out at home? Wheel out a bench and simply perform a bench press with dumbbells or a bar for similar effects.
Sets: 3 Reps: 10
These can be performed on the toes or on the knees for a slightly easier workout. Ensure the body is in a decline from shoulders to ankles. If on knees, lower the hips slightly to engage the upper body and to not let the hips take most of the weight.
Bend the elbows, lowering the body to the ground. The chest should be between the hands during the entire push up phase.
Tricep Push Down
Sets: 3 Reps: 12-15
Using a double-handed rope found on any cable machine in most good gyms - or a short bar - push down towards the thighs with an overhand grip.
Bend the elbow, raising the wrists and keeping the elbows locked into the waist, and then push back down. Make sure you don't let the upper arm move in order to engage the triceps.
For those without a gym membership, either lay flat on a bench and perform skull-crushers with a dumbbell - where you hold dumbbells in a hammer grips and lower toward the side of the head - or with a bar.
Again, finish the workout with 10 minutes of solid cardio work to torch fat in record time.
Mandie Nugent is an ambassador for sports nutrition brand USN, and the USN Trust lifestyle range. To find out more visit USN's website. (opens in new tab)
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