The best home exercises

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The new year provides plenty of opportunity to take a new approach to your lifestyle, and top of the list for many people is a gym membership.

However, with some gyms being costly and others being located too far away to feasibly travel there most days, it is not always possible to sign up.

If you are struggling to find a way to get fit in 2016, try these simple yet effective home exercises, which require zero equipment but can achieve maximum results.

The plank

No, not the craze that swept the world a couple of years ago that involved lying face down on random landmarks.

Instead, the plank is an excellent core exercise that can help to tighten your stomach muscles, boost your posture and provide an excellent base for activities targeting other parts of the body.

Begin by lying on the floor face down, with your elbows tucked into your ribs beneath you and your toes pointing downward. Keeping your forearms parallel to the floor, raise yourself up so that your body is now fully elevated apart from your forearms, fists and toes.

Try to keep your body in a roughly rectangular shape and do not lift your bottom, then hold the pose for as long as you can, while taking regular, slow breaths. You will soon begin to feel the burn in your arms, thighs and torso, which will tell you that the exercise is working.

Burpees

Although they may sound funny, burpees are anything but, and can rival any activity that you could do in a gym. There are five core components of a burpee, which starts with placing yourself in the squat position, as if you were sat in a chair.

From there, quickly drop into the press-up position, with your palms flat on the floor, your arms straight, and your toes touching the floor, but nothing else. Push your pelvis towards the floor – known as a squat thrust - and then follow it into an actual press-up, bending your arms at right angles until your nose almost touches the floor, then pushing up again.

Next is the frog jump - with your palms still flat and your arms straight, pull your feet up under your torso in one fluid motion. From there, shift your body weight onto your legs and, from the crouching position, propel yourself into the air, pointing your arms toward the ceiling like a gymnast doing a pike.

Now repeat the five steps immediately and continue until you’re not capable of doing anymore. There’s a handy visual tutorial here to help you perfect your technique.

Chair push-ups

Why invest in an expensive bench, barbell and weights when a couple of chairs can do the trick? Chair push-ups work much the same as regular ones, except you are increasing your range of motion by allowing your body to drop below what would normally be a solid surface.

Simply place two fairly sturdy chairs opposite each other, with a gap of about 12 inches between them. This will vary depending on the width of your shoulders, but you should roughly be able to place your palms flat in the centre of each chair with your arms extended.

Next, take a third chair and position it about 5 to 6 feet away from the first so that your toes would be in the centre of it if your palms were still touching the first two chairs and you were in the press-up position.

Next comes the press-up itself; place your palms flat on the first two chairs with your arms straight, lift your feet onto the third chair so your toes are pointing downward, and then execute the press-up. To really feel the burn in your triceps, shoulders and back, lower yourself slowly as far as you can go, then push up in a fast motion. Repeat until you can’t do any more, and aim to do three sets.

Leg raises

You don’t have to do crunches at the gym for hours on end to achieve a toned stomach. In fact, the predominance of stomach muscle is more a result of low body fat than endless sit-ups, but if you want to sculpt your abs then leg raises are a simple yet effective activity.

Lie flat on the floor with your arms by your side then – without moving your upper body and keeping your legs straight – slowly raise them up til your body is at a right angle. Now slowly lower them to the floor to target the whole range of stomach muscles.

To add an extra focus to your obliques – which run down the sides of your body below your ribs – lift your head off the ground while your legs are raised and then make a cycling motion with your legs. You’ll soon begin to feel the soreness in your stomach and sides, but as the old adage goes – no pain, no gain.