Vacation time is here again!! For some, that’s an opportunity to get outdoors and get active. But for many, it’s an opportunity to abandon the exercise regimen and overindulge in local cuisine and rich desserts. Don’t let that be you.
Today, I’m sharing a do-anywhere, no-excuses workout. I’ve designed it to work every single major muscle of your body in a little amount of time. There’s no equipment needed (not even sneakers)…just your body and gravity. You really can do it anywhere, be it in your hotel, a friend’s guestroom or at the park. And it will leave you feeling energized.
This whole routine takes less than 15 minutes to complete, and it will help you build lean, calorie-burning muscles. My workouts always alternate between challenging exercises and stretches. I’ve found it most effective to stretch-as-you-go than to save it all for the end.
The full explanations are below (print it out at keep it in your suitcase)—and here’s a video that you can do right along with me. Here we go…
- Shoulder slaps. Get ready: Stand with feet a bit wider than shoulder distance apart. Go: Breathing deeply, swing your arms out and in, loose and relaxed, gently slapping your opposite shoulders. Do this for about 30 seconds to wake up your muscles.
- Squats. Get ready: Stand with your feet a little more than shoulder-width apart, toes slightly angled out, feet firmly planted. Bring your hands into prayer position in front of your chest. Bend your knees and sit back as if you were lowering into a chair. Go as far as feels comfortable but no lower than quads parallel to the floor. Go: (1) While breathing deeply, do 10 squats. (2) Do 10 more squats extending your arms behind you as you reach the low point. Continue breathing deeply! (3) Stay low, and do five pulsing squats with hands in prayer position. (4) Extend your arms in front of you, and do five more pulsing squats. To increase the challenge: Bend deeper.
- Standing cross-body stretch. Get ready: Stand up tall, lift up your right knee so your thigh is parallel to the floor. Go: Grasp the outside of your knee with your left hand and pull it across your body. Hold about 10 seconds (don’t forget to breath!). Repeat on the other side. Not only does this give you a great stretch, the balance also works your core.
- Standing mountain climbers. Get ready: The motion here builds upon a high-knee jog. With each step, reach up with the opposite arm (when your right knee is up, your left arm extends and vice versa). Go: With each step, really reach your arm up and keep your knees high, but stay soft on your feet. Act like you’re jumping on a sheet of glass so you’re not landing too hard. Do this for 15 seconds.
- Shoulder reach. Get ready: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, arms out raised to shoulder height, palms up. Go: Reach as far as you can to the right and then to the left, keeping your stomach in and moving side to side from the obliques (side abdominal muscles). Your hips should not move at all, and your belly button should stay centered. Don’t forget to breathe deeply. Keep alternating these side reaches for 30 seconds.
- Crisscross Stretch and Drop. Get ready: Stand with your hands on your waist, hips in alignment. Cross your right leg in front of the left, placing your right foot outside your left foot. Ideally, you want the outsides of your feet to be touching and your heels and toes in line (if you can’t match them up, then plant your right foot slightly out in front of the left—you’ll get more limber over time. Go: Reach your right arm up and over your head. Use the other hand to apply slight pressure into your hips. Hold 15 seconds, working to gently extend the reach with each breath. Switch legs and repeat on the other side.
Switch sides again, and this time bend forward, slowly walking your hands down your legs until you feel a stretch in your legs. If you can, walk your hands all the way down until they touch the floor. Completely relax your head and neck. Hold for 15 seconds, breathing deeply into your back. Switch your legs and repeat.
- Sun in Your Eyes Full-Body Stretch. Get ready: Stand with your left foot on the far side of the right, ideally with toes lined up (as in the Crisscross Stretch above). Interlaced your hands and place them with knuckles to your forehead. Make sure hips are lined up straight. Go: Lift your left elbow toward the ceiling, stretching as far as possible from your left knee and pressing your right hip slightly forward. Hold for 10 seconds, taking in deep breaths to release any tight muscles. Switch legs and repeat. Advanced variation: Look up toward the ceiling while in position.
- Fighter’s Twist. Get ready: Put your hands into fists, bend your arms at a 90-degree angle straight in front of you, elbows and hands aligned vertically—you want the same distance between your elbows as between your hands. Go: Twist your torso side-to-side, keeping hips solid (don’t move them!), a slight bend in your knees and your gaze forward. Isolating the movement is what works your core. Repeat 25 times.
- Tricep Presses. Get ready: Lie facedown with your hands right underneath your shoulders, palms down and fingertips pointing forward. Your elbows should be flush against your sides and pointing straight up. Completely relax the lower half of your body—it should do no work whatsoever in this move. Go: Push your hands into the floor using only your triceps to lift your upper body a few inches. Go up and down 25 times, keeping elbows locked in at your sides the entire time to ensure that all the effort is in your triceps. (To increase the challenge: Do this move on your knees or, to pump it up further, in full push-up position on your toes.) Then do 25 fast pulses staying higher up. Remember: You should not feel this in your lower back at all (if you do, you’re doing it wrong).
- Superman lift. Get ready: Lie facedown with your forehead resting on your palms-down hands. Go: Lift your upper body and alternate tapping your elbows on the floor. To increase the challenge: Lift knees off the floor, keeping legs pretty straight. Do 20 right/left taps.
- Crisscross Reach. Get ready: Sit on the floor and stretch your legs straight out in front of you. Place your left leg on top of your right and completely relax it there. Go: Gently reach your right hand toward your right flexed foot. Use your left hand to propel yourself forward. Take notice of your flexed right foot. Pretend the sole of your right foot is flush against a board so you aren’t favoring one side over the other. Grab the big toe of your bottom right foot with your right hand, left hand on top of right, and pull straight back toward your knee. Focus on pressing your lower back toward your knees instead of seeing how far you can reach. Hold for five deep breaths. Switch to the right leg on top and repeat.
- Ab Presses. Don’t let the name fool you—this exercise actually works your stomach, legs and arms all at the same time. Get ready: Lie flat on your back and bring your knees up so they are in line with your belly button, making a right angle from your torso to your upper legs. Knees are bent with lower legs and feet relaxed (people often have the tendency to flex their feet on this one; don’t!). Go: Keeping your head relaxed on the mat, place your palms on your upper thighs and press as hard as you can while holding your stomach in and down toward the floor (imagine you are wearing a tight pair of jeans). Your thighs do not move; they resist your hands, causing your abdominal muscles to engage. Continue holding this contraction for about 20 seconds. Make it harder: Use both hands to push on one leg at a time. Harder still: Lift your head up.
- Ab Circles. Get ready: Lie on your back with legs fully extended, shoulder width apart and feet flexed. Put your hands behind your head, resting your head on your interlaced fingers. Go: Engage and contract your abdominal muscles to lift your shoulders several inches off the mat and do 15 clockwise circles with your torso. Repeat counterclockwise. Keep your chin away from your chest and keep your stomach down the whole time. Make it harder: Work up to 25 rotations (or more!)…and/or lift one foot off the ground and then when you switch directions, switch legs.
- Butt lift. Get ready: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground one foot apart. Bend your elbows and cross your hands on your chest, resting hands on your shoulders. Lift your tailbone off the mat as high as you can, then lower it one inch—this is your highest point. Go: Lower your butt and tap it on the mat, then bring it back up for one repetition. Each time make sure to really squeeze your butt and curl your tailbone up. Do 25 times. Then come back to the up position and hold, squeeze, and pulse 25 times. Finally, hold in the center up position and squeeze your butt as hard as you can for 30 seconds.
- Hug and roll. Get ready: Hug your knees in, drop back and turn your head side to side, driving knees in towards your chest. Go: Make a few big circles with your lower legs (keep knees together) circle your feet together a few times in each direction. Next, hold you’re your legs behind your knees and rock back and forth five times, extending your legs as you roll back and bending your knees as you roll forward.
- Cupping. Get ready: Sit up with knees bent and together. Drop knees out about 45 degrees, with the sides of your feet on the floor. Acting like you have tennis balls in your hands, put fingertips on the ground behind your heels. Go: Lift and tap your right heel 15 times, raising your foot straight up (as if you have a string pulling it up) as high as you can. Be sure to hold your stomach in and keep your back straight. Repeat on the left side. Then quickly alternate tapping your heels right and left, as if you’re juggling your feet, for 15 seconds.
- Easy finish. Get ready: Bring the soles of your feet together, put elbows on your knees. Go: Press all the way forward. Lift up. Press your lower back towards your toes. Open your feet up and take, taking deep breaths to elongate your spine.
Check out Joel Harper’s website, or click here to buy his book, Mind Your Body: 4 Weeks to a Leaner, Healthier Life.