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Spring into fitness

Shape up in 30 minutes a day

By Cory Maxwell

Every day you make investments. Besides financially, you invest in your spouse, children, or other family and friends. As you know, the investment of time, resources and effort pays huge dividends. But are you investing sufficiently in your health? If not, why not?

The most common response I hear to such a question is usually a lack of time, willpower or know-how. That’s understandable. We live busy lives and have umpteen things vying for our attention. But what if I told you that if you exercise 30 minutes a day three to five times a week you can control your weight, maintain and build lean muscle mass, and promote strong bones?

Would you start exercising?

Some people would. Some wouldn’t. But what if I told you doing 30 minutes of exercise three times a week can transform your life in ways you never expected? Would that get you to the gym?

Well it’s true. But I have even better news — you don’t need the gym or any expensive equipment to get in shape. As a matter of fact, you can get in the best shape of your life at home. The only cost to you is time, determination and effort. John, a former client of mine, made the decision to do a workout similar to this and lost more than 30 pounds for his investment. And he’s only one success story of many I could tell you.

But let me say this up front. Before you begin any exercise program it’s extremely important to get a physician’s approval. That’s just good sense.

The warm-up

You must warm up for at least 10 minutes before beginning the following program. This will elevate your heart rate, increase blood circulation and warm up your muscles.

To start, do 10 to 20 repetitions of each of the following exercises in this order:

• Regular jumping jacks

• Double leg hops

• Double leg hops forward and backward

• Double leg hops side to side

• Skip in place bringing knees toward chest

• Outstretch arms to 90 degrees and rotate right, then left

• Windmill exercises: With legs slightly more than shoulder width apart, bend over and touch your right hand to your left foot, then stand upright and touch your left hand to right foot while keeping your legs straight.

• Heel kicks: Alternately kick the glutes with your heel, stretching your quadriceps.

The workout

Now that the muscles are warm, you’re ready to perform body-weight resistant exercises. There are many body-weight (with little or no external weight) exercises to choose from that produce great benefits in building lean muscle mass.

Execute the following exercises by doing three sets of 10-15 repetitions per exercise and resting for at least 30 seconds between sets. As you perform your exercises it is best to have a full-size mirror to assess correct body mechanics for safety and better results.

• Body-weight squats: Squat, making sure your feet are at least shoulder width apart. Your head should be up and your chest out. Do not bend your back. Squat as if you were sitting in a chair.

• Bicep curls: Hold arms down to your side and slowly raise just your forearm to 90 degrees. You can use soup cans or milk jugs for resistance.

• Alternating lunges: Stand with feet together and step out with right leg extended and drop straight down. Then, pushing your outstretched front leg, push back through your heel. It is important while performing this exercise to not let your knee go over your toes.

• One-arm row: Place your right knee and right hand on a solid chair with your opposite arm hanging down. While holding a small can or a milk jug, pull your elbow up to your side, then back down to its original position.

• Shoulder press: Stand with feet shoulder width apart and elbows bent as you hold cans or milk jugs above your shoulders. Press straight up, keeping your head in the forward position. Then return to the original position.

The core

With every workout it is extremely important to work on the abdominals. As you perform the following core exercises always remember to engage your abdominals and breathe. If you have any discomfort in your back, stop and reassess. The following core exercises should be performed for at least 15 seconds, or for about 20 repetitions. That’s if you are performing each exercise with correct body mechanics at a steady pace.

• Crunches: These can be performed with your knees bent or straight, with your arms crossed over your chest. The idea is to raise your head enough to look down toward your feet while tensing all of your abdominal wall.

• Crossover crunches: Touch the opposite elbow to the opposite knee. Lie on your back with your right ankle crossed over your left knee. For support stretch your left arm out as you place your right hand behind your right ear. Now as you engage your abdominals raise your chest toward the ceiling, and then rotate to the left. It is advisable to perform all repetitions on one side before starting on the next side.

• Knee-ups: With both knees bent, and abdominals engaged, lift both knees to about 90 degrees. As you lower your feet do not allow your back to arch or your feet to touch the floor.

• Bicycles: While on your back, hold both knees at 90 degrees. As you keep one knee bent extend the other knee, without touching your foot to the floor. Repeat by alternating legs. Remember to keep your back flat by engaging your abdominals.

• Leg holds: With both legs bent, extend legs to 45 degrees and hold as you engage your abdominals.

• Planks: Start out on your stomach. Raise your body up in a push-up position and then rest your weight on your elbows. Keep your back straight as you tighten your abdominals with your legs raised on your toes. Hold yourself in that position.

• Side planks: On your side, with an elbow under a shoulder, raise your body and hold yourself in that position.

• Superman: With your arms and legs straight while on your stomach, extend your legs and arms up toward the ceiling.

The cool-down

You need to cool down by stretching. Each of the following stretches should be done for 15-20 seconds, progressing to 30 seconds for two to four repetitions.

• Slowly bend your head from side to side, bringing your ear as close to your shoulder as possible.

• Extend your head backwards.

• Bend your neck, bringing your ear to one shoulder followed by bending your neck as you bring your chin to your chest. Repeat the exercise in the other direction as you hold for a stretch at each position.

• With arms apart, bring your arms across your body as if you are hugging yourself, stretching the mid-back. Then open your arms wide to stretch your chest, or pectoral muscles.

• Using a step or staircase, while holding unto a handrail, drop your heels off the edge of the step to stretch the back of your leg.

Grab a towel

Remember to make plans to exercise at least three times each week. But don’t get frustrated and give up if you miss a day. Just start again. Your dedication not only helps increase self confidence and self-esteem, but also decreases the risk of negative health issues, such as Type 2 diabetes and hypertension.

Along with your commitment to exercise, nutrition and a proper diet will help decrease your weight and health risks.

To add variety to your workout, you can incorporate the following exercises into your program depending on your interest and skills: walking, jogging, swimming, aquatic exercise, cross-country skiing, elliptical training, running stairs, rock climbing, rowing and hiking.


CORY MAXWELL is a sports performance coach and manager at James River Fitness Center, a ministry of James River Assembly of God in Ozark, Mo.

TPExtra: Additional photos of Cory Maxwell demonstrating his workout.

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