Yep, you've read the title right - this isn't a review of the latest studio opening in London, charging upwards of £30 for a body blasting workout with banging music, insane UV lighting and #changingroomgoals. Because, as much as I love these sort of work-outs, I've come to realize there's a key issue that few of us fail to recognise in what has become London's 'class culture'.
What is that, you might ask? Basic training! The thing is, when you go to the majority of these high end boutique studios (Barry's, 1Rebel, F45, Psycle, you name it) they literally work you bone. They blast every muscle in your body, and you leave with such an endorphin rush that you can't wait to go back and do it all again the next day, and the next, and the next.
Which is potentially great for your fitness...but not so much for your poor body and muscles! With these classes focusing on high intensity HIIT, they don't necessarily build the basic muscle strength you need in order to be able to do them injury free. To do this, you need to lift. Yes ladies, you heard right, it's time to get yourself into that weights room! Don't know where to start? I get you, I was the same to begin with too! Whilst there are hundreds of different functional moves and lifts you can do, working on various different splits/sets/reps etc, I've put together a very simple beginner program below. Now, I hold my hands up and state I'm in no way a professional or hold any sort of fitness qualification for giving out this advice, this is simply a routine I put together myself to hit all the key areas I wanted to. Complete three sets of each, with a weight that allows you to do 10-12 reps per set, and be on your way to building a strong and toned body that will enable you to continue smashing out those classes!
Best for: Legs, Core
Stand under the barbell with a grip slightly outside your shoulders (a wider grip may provide more stability if you need it). Adopt a hip width stance, keep your chest up, head forward, and engage your core (very important for protecting your back!). Flex at your knees and begin to lower, keeping the knees travelling forward and refraining from moving the hips back as much as possible. Keep lowering until your hips are aligned with your knees, then reveserve the motion and drive your weight back upwards, ensuring to squeeze your glutes at the top - if you want that peachy ass, that is!
Best for: Back, Core
Now, I admit, this is a bit of a trickier one to make sure you maintain correct form, so I'd advise you go with a lighter weight until you're sure you've nailed that technique. Most importantly, unlike the squat, you should always initiate this movement with your hips. Moving your hips backwards and keeping your weight in your heels, look straight ahead roll the barbell over the tops of your feet so that the bar touches your shins. Keeping your back straight the entire time - don't ever round - rise back to standing positioning, lifting your hips and shoulders as one fluid movement.
Best for: Chest, Arms
Probably my favourite of all exercises, the Chest Press! You can do this using a barbell or Smith Machine (which may allow you to go heavier), however I like using dumbbells as, given there's less support, it engages more of the stabilizing muscles.
Firstly, lie down a flat bench with a dumbbell in each hand (I usually go for around 12kg as a guide). Holding the dumbbells with your palms facing away from you, squeeze your shoulder blades and press your lower back into the bench as you push to dumbbells up until your arms are fully extended (but don't lock out!). Pause at the top of your range, then slowly lower down to the starting position.
To advance the move, you can try pulsing with the arms at 90 degrees (a real killer), or also try the bench in an incline or decline position to target different areas of the chest.
Bosu Ball Plank
Best for: Abs, Core
Ok, so I lied, maybe this one is my favourite! I love this variation on the regular plank as the Bosu ball provides an unstable surface meaning you really have to engage your full body to hold the position, which works the upper, lower and side abs. Basically, nothing gets off lightly!
Placing the bosu ball upside down on the floor (or you can turn it flat side down if you want a more stable surface to begin with) extend your arms and walk your feet back until you reach the plank position. Squeeze your core, glutes and legs, press your heels back and your hands firmly into the bosu ball - and hold, keeping everything tense! Try complete 3 rounds of 30 seconds to begin with, aiming to progress to a minute hold each time.
Arnold Shoulder Press
Best for: Shoulders
Standing with your feet shoulder width apart, hold a dumbbell in each hand. Positioning the dumbbells at your shoulders, with your elbows bent, push the dumbbells upwards and fully extend your arms. Exhale as you push upwards, making sure to engage your core and keep your elbows inline with your wrists as much as possible. Pause at the top, before slowing bringing back to the starting position.
Best for: Back, Core
Again, another favourite of mine as it works both the core and back muscles at the same time - I'm all about efficiency! Choosing a medium dumbbell (I'd suggest around 5-6kg for a female), walk yourself down into the plank position with the dumbbells at your side. With one hand remaining firmly on the floor, use the other one to pick up the dumbbell and slowly row upwards towards your chest, making sure to squeeze your core and shoulder blades on the way up. Gently lower to the ground, and repeat for ten reps, before switching and doing it all again on the other side.
Best for: Biceps, Arms
Stand upright lifting your chest and bracing your core, grasping a bar with an underhand shoulder wide grip. With your elbows to the side of your body (but not touching - that's cheating!), raise the bars until the forearms are reach maximum extension. Being careful not to bring your elbows too far forward - they should stay inline with your shoulders at all time - gently lower the bar back to the starting position. That's one rep done! For an extra blast, try a few pulses at the 90 degree angle to finish off every set - feel the burn!!!
Best for: Triceps
I usually save this exercise for last as, being a much smaller muscle group, I tend to find I can reach failure on my tricpes pretty quicky.... and with the triceps playing a key stabilising role in the majority of the exercises above (chest press, shoulder presses, rows - basically all of them), you don't want them torn up before you begin!
To begin, stand to one side of your weight bench holding a dumbbell in one hand, with your palm facing inwards. Place the opposite leg and hand on top of the bench, maintaining a neutral spine as you bend forward at the waist, keeping your head up and torso parallel to the floor. Holding the dumbbell towards the floor, begin to raise the forearm backwards until the arm is fully extended. Pause briefly at the top, inhale, and slowly lower the dumbbell back to the starting position.
This exercise can also be performed standing up, beginning by holding the dumbbells above your head and gently lowering backwards, however I tend to find it much more difficult to maintain a neutral spine in this position, as there's less support as you lower the weights.
Once your used to the exercises, the above routine should take no longer than 45 minutes - after 60 minutes your bodies ability to build muscle dips greatly. I'd recommend trying to do the above circuit once a week, but also putting an extra focus on any areas that are slightly weaker. I, for example, need to work more on my lower body strength, so will be incorporating heavy squats and band work into my workout week as often as possible.
My other piece of advice would be to seek advice from the members of staff at your gym - they know what they're talking about! It doesn't always mean forking out a fortune for a PT session - the majority of gyms offer a free training program where a qualified instructor will take you through a bespoke program, assessing your technique and noting where you need extra attention.
In the meantime, hopefully the above gives you something to play with! I mean, work with!