If you aspire to achieve a toned physique … or at least improve your fitness and stamina with exercises, but aren’t quite sure how to realise this goal, you’re not alone! You’re probably aware of some of the most popular options available …
However, frequenting a gym religiously might not suit your schedule. And the costs of working out with a personal trainer may overstretch your budget. If this is the case, fear not; there are simpler, lower-cost alternatives available.
In fact, if you arm yourself with a winning attitude, a little insider knowledge and a good quality gymnastics mat, it’s very possible to achieve impressive results – all without shelling out for gym or trainer’s fees.
Want to know how? Then, keep reading! We’ve put together a list of six high-impact exercises you can try with just your gymnastics mat right now. Each of these tried-and-true routines will help to fortify your core strength and set you on the path to peak fitness. Ready to achieve your personal best? Let’s get started …
Single Leg Stretch
Begin lying face up on your gymnastics mat. Next, bring your knees inwards, towards your chest and lift your head up from the floor. Extend one leg at a time, alternately. Use your hands to steady your knees as they come in towards your chest.
The single leg stretch is a powerful Pilates exercise that helps to strengthen the core and improves flexibility of the hip and the back part of the leg using a controlled motion.
Lateral Leg Lift
Lie on your mat, on your right side and place a dumbbell just above your left knee (on the quadriceps). Now, lift your left leg up and down in a smooth, controlled motion. Alternate both sides to give both legs an even workout.
This impactful bodyweight exercise works numerous muscle groups – including the core, hip flexors, lower back muscles and hamstring. If you’re a novice, this exercise may take a little while to perfect, but trust us, it’s well worth the effort. Add this exercise to your regular routine and once you have the movement down, you should notice some serious core strength improvements!
If building your core muscles is a priority, the humble plank should definitely be part of your fitness repertoire. To do the plank, place your hands under your shoulders (as you would when doing a press-up). Raise your feet, grounding your toes into your gymnastics mat. Lift your head so that it’s aligned with your back; find a spot in front of you to focus on as you hold the position.
Practising the plank on a regular basis can bring about numerous benefits, including improved posture, balance, coordination, flexibility and metabolism. As a beginner, you should aim to hold the plank for around 20-30 seconds – and should be able to increase the hold time for several minutes (and possibly beyond) with regular practise.
This exercise trains the entire body (with particular emphasis on the glutes, quads, stomach and hamstrings). First, stand at the front of your mat, with your feet together. Next bend, your knees, placing your hands on the mat. Jump into the ‘shelf position’ (hands on the mat, toes on the floor, back held straight). Now, jump back to your feet and make a small leap into the air, raising your hands over your head.
To add challenge and variety, you can add a push-up to the routine, once you reach the ‘shelf position’.
To perform this classic Pilates exercise, begin by lying on your back, with your legs in a ‘tabletop’ position (holding your hips and knees at right angles). Next, engage your abs, so that your lower spine pushes into the mat.
Now, exhale and lift the upper back off the mat, until your shoulder blades touch the floor. Straighten your legs at 45°, whilst keeping your back connected to the mat. Stretch your arms out towards your feet. Ideally, your arms should be around 2 inches (5cm) from the floor.
Now, ‘pump’ your arms in an upward and downward motion, whilst keeping your elbows straight. Breathing is important here – try inhaling for one set of arm pumps, then exhaling for the next five. This makes up one set. Complete 10 sets in this way to perform one Pilates 100!
Remember to keep your upper body steady, whilst performing this exercise.
We could hardly publish a list of powerful mat exercises without giving the mighty push-up its due! Love it or hate it, the push up is one of the most effective exercises out there. It targets a variety of muscle groups, including the shoulders, triceps, abs – and the ‘wing’ muscles (under the armpit).
Now that we’ve covered some of the benefits, let’s clarify how to perform a push up. To begin, lie face down on your mat, with your hands placed a little wider than shoulder-width.
Next, push your body up from the mat by extending the arms, whilst keeping your upper and lower body in a straight line. Then, bring the body towards the floor once again by bending your arms. Rinse and repeat!
Thanks for Reading!
When it comes to honing a strong physique, we think you’ll agree, your gymnastics mat is your best friend!
We hope you enjoyed our latest article and now have plenty of ideas for how to supercharge your mat routine. No matter what your personal fitness goals, we wish you the best of luck in 2022 and beyond!