If last week’s aborted Cape Cycle Tour has anything to teach us, it’s that we should give up outdoor sports and stick to the gym. With that in mind here’s a slew of fitness exercises worth working into your workout.
The granddaddy of gym equipment, the treadmill is 200 years old this year, but when it comes to burning fat and building cardio, it’s probably more efficient when it’s turned off. When the instructors aren’t looking, pull the plug, hop on and grab the handrail — then use your legs to drive the belt, pushing at full tilt for as long as you can. It’s like doing hill runs indoors or pushing a weighted sled and gives similar hamstring-strengthening benefits. A note of caution: it may wear out the motor.
Difficulty level: intermediate
The rowing machine is ideal for high intensity interval training that strips away body fat. But when perfecting your stroke loses its appeal, get creative and use the sliding seat for an abs workout. Stand behind the rower and put your hands (or forearms) on the saddle, then push it forward, letting your body form a straight line. Aim to bring your hips high as you reverse the movement, keeping your core tight. Mix up sets of 500m rows with 12 to 15 repetitions: your abs should emerge.
Difficulty level: entry-level
THE HUMAN FLAG
Is there a gym move that cries louder to be put on Instagram? Holding yourself parallel to the ground off a nearby pole is flashy, technically difficult and, almost as an afterthought, will chisel your obliques into #nofilter shape. It takes a mixture of strength and technique to master: crucially, you’re “pulling” with your top arm while you “push” with the lower one.
Start by assuming the position by a pole, using your arms to bring your feet slightly off the ground, then graduate to the tucked-legs version, the straddle and — finally — the full Y-shaped flag.
Difficulty level: advanced. Very advanced!
Scuttling about on all fours builds co-ordination and conditioning, but also hits your muscles from angles they’ll never experience using gym machines, making it perfect for dynamic warm-ups.
Start with a bear crawl — hands and feet on the floor, hips high, moving forwards, then backwards and eventually in great loping bounds. When you’re ready to graduate, move to the crab crawl or alligator walk … or just copy what your eight-month-old is doing.
Difficulty level: entry-level
Gymnastics rings are big right now: you can put up a set almost anywhere, and more gyms now have them. Skin-the-Cats — in which you hang from the rings and slowly rotate the entire body up and over and back again — improve shoulder mobility but also increase straight-arm strength. For those who can manage them, they’re also an entry point to flashier moves.
Start in a hang, then tuck in your knees and bring them over your head, straightening your legs as you rotate and point your toes towards the ground. Feel the stretch in your shoulders as you settle into the bottom position, technically known as the German Hang, then reverse the whole movement, trying not to bend your arms. Await nods of approval from fellow gym-goers.
Difficulty level: advanced — The Daily Telegraph
•This article was originally published in The Times.