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Your Full Marathon Training Plan – 20 Weeks

If you’ve decided this is your year for taking on the challenge of the marathon, you’ll need to make sure you plan your training effectively. This guide is here to help you prepare for this exhilarating event, and includes an example 20 week marathon plan to get your started.

WHAT IS A MARATHON?

A marathon is a road running race that covers a demanding distance of 26.2 miles (42.2km), usually undertaken in one go. Marathon events take place throughout the year, all across the U.K., as well as in most countries across the globe. The event is technically a race, particularly for the professional runners who take part, but for many runners it’s seen as a personal challenge and a demanding goal to aspire towards. Some participants take part with a goal of simply completing the course, whether that’s by running, walking or by wheelchair, while others focus on finishing in a particular time, perhaps even improving on their last marathon time.

In recent times many marathon events have been cancelled, but that hasn’t stopped enthusiastic runners from continuing their training and running their own marathons. Even without the official events, there are many ways to challenge yourself, and you can still enjoy all the benefits that come from running a marathon.

WHY IS TRAINING FOR A MARATHON IMPORTANT?

Running 26.2 miles is no walk in the park, and even some of the fittest runners find it to be an intense challenge. This event will take its toll both physically and mentally, so it’s extremely important to prepare your body and your mind before taking part. Your muscular, cardiovascular and energy systems need to be built up over time so they’re in the best position for running continuously for (on average) four to five hours straight. Proper preparation means you’re less likely to experience injury or exhaustion, and your body will take less time to recover afterwards.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO TRAIN FOR A MARATHON?

This very much depends on your starting fitness and ability levels – if you’re a complete running newbie, then you’re best starting with training for 5k and 10k events, and even considering a half marathon before you jump straight to the full marathon. For first time marathoners, you should generally expect to spend around five to six months training for the big event. This may seem like a long time, but as mentioned above, it’s vital to take the time to gradually strengthen and prepare your body for such a long-distance run. We’ve set out a 20 week marathon plan below, but you’ll need that running experience before getting started.

WHAT IS THE BEST TRAINING PLAN FOR A MARATHON?

There are a host of different types of training plans available to suit different fitness levels, time frames and objectives, so finding the perfect one for you starts with working out what you want from your marathon.

A good rule of thumb for marathon training is to run three times a week, including one long run a week that builds up over the months. You should also include a couple of days set aside for strength or functional training and at least two rest days to recover (which could include some gentle yoga or stretching to work on your flexibility and mobility). This will ensure that while you’re building up your running ability, you’ll also be strengthening your muscles so they’re in the best shape possible to power you forward for the entirety of the run.

Also, when the weather is bad, you might be tempted to do all of your training on a treadmill, but it’s worth factoring in plenty of outdoor runs so you can acclimatise to the different types of conditions you might face on the day. Running inside can be very different to running against the wind, through rain, or in hot sunshine, so ideally you’ll want to have a good idea of what to expect should you face any extreme weather on the day.

Likewise, think about the route your planned marathon will be taking. If, for example, there are hills or different types of terrain on your marathon route – then try to factor these into your training plan, so your body can get used to tackling different gradients and ground types.

Before getting started, make sure to read our ‘what to know about training for a marathon guide’ – it includes tips to ensure your health, preparation and diet are working in your favour.

TRAINING TO BOOST YOUR MARATHON PERFORMANCE

For those looking to improve speed and beat a previous marathon time, you’ll want to integrate tempo runs (also known as threshold runs). These are runs where you boost your speed or energy output, pushing yourself harder to improve your body’s capabilities. One way to do this is to set your running tempo to around 80-90% of your maximum heart rate – which is where your lactate threshold usually falls. This will be much faster than the pace you run the actual marathon, but is a great way to enhance your fitness levels. It works by helping to boost your lactate threshold and helps your body to become more efficient at clearing the by-products of lactate production which cause fatigue.

THE FREE PUREGYM 20 WEEK MARATHON TRAINING PLAN

Our 20 week marathon training plan is targeted at first time marathon runners but also assumes you are already able to run 10km. If you’re not at that fitness level yet, we suggest checking out our guides to training for a 5k or running a 10k before picking up with this plan. Likewise, a safe starting point could also be our 13 week half marathon training plan, before you immediately start on a full marathon.

Runs are split between:

  • Easy runs (Mondays) – keep at a relaxed pace throughout
  • How you like (Wednesdays) – choose if you’d like to incorporate a few minutes of faster paced running, or make this a tempo run – or just stick to an easy run if that’s working best for you
  • Long runs (Saturdays) – longer distance-based runs that will build up to a maximum of 20 miles, with some ‘shorter’ long runs to allow for recovery

We’ve also recommended two ‘workout’ sessions each week. Use this time to focus on building strength – through activities like functional training or strength training (check out our guide to learn more about strength training for runners) – or for low impact cardio like cross training, that won’t put too much additional pressure on your joints and knees.

As always, don’t forget to warm up before each training session (a brisk 5 – 10 minute walk, or some dynamic stretches can do the trick here) and to cool down afterwards (ideally some static stretches to promote blood flow, reduce stiffness and boost your flexibility).

And finally, we’ve included two rest days each week. These are very important – don’t be tempted to skip these. You need to allow your joints time to recover and your muscles time to heal and strengthen. If you still want to stay active on these days, maybe consider some yoga or light stretching to work on your flexibility or mobility without impacting on your overall recovery. Find out more about rest days with our ‘why rest days are important’ article.

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Marathon Training Guide For (Total) Beginners

Are you considering taking on the challenge of a marathon, but not sure where to start? Are you looking to set yourself a mammoth goal, despite being a total running beginner? Then this guide is for you. We’ll help you with everything you need to know to go from couch(ish) to running a 26.2 mile marathon over the course of several months. Even if you’re not signed up to a marathon event, you could still consider running a virtual marathon with this plan.

CAN BEGINNER RUNNERS COMPLETE A MARATHON?

This is a big question, with lots of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ to consider. Could someone who has never run before jump straight into running a marathon? Well, they could try, but it’s incredibly unlikely they’d finish without causing themselves major injuries or health issues. Can a total beginner train over time to run a marathon? Absolutely, if they’re prepared to commit to months of dedication and preparation.

Training is the key here – we’d recommend training even if you’re simply looking to walk a marathon, as you’d still need to prepare your body for the long distance and different weather conditions. So it’s even more important if you’re aiming to run the whole thing.

This may sound intimidating, but by creating a month-by-month plan and committing time each week to training, it is totally possible to go from couch to marathon in the space of a year.

WHY WOULD A TOTAL BEGINNER WANT TO RUN A MARATHON?

A marathon is a huge challenge, and an incredible goal to work towards. As places in marathon events are limited, once you know you’re taking part, you know you’ll be part of something special and exciting, but also difficult and strenuous. So why might beginners want to run a marathon?

  • Personal achievement – knowing you’ve spent time and effort preparing for such a challenge, is an incredible feeling in itself, let alone the fantastic pride when you finally cross the finish line.
  • Motivation – having a set goal to work towards means you might be more likely to stick to your fitness routine. Committing to a big event gives a purpose to your training that can boost your motivation and keep you running, even on days where you’d rather stay home
  • Health – running is a fantastic way to boost your physical and mental wellbeing – in fact, even running for 30 minutes can help to battle health issues, boost your mood, improve your sleep, strengthen your heart and lungs and give you focus. Learn more about some of the incredible benefits of training for a marathon with our guide.
  • To raise money for charity – most people who run in official marathon events tend to be raising money for a specific charity or cause. In some cases, your entry is secured through charities, and you commit to raising a certain amount for them in order to participate. In others, runners might be raising money or awareness for a cause close to their heart.

HOW TO TRAIN FOR A MARATHON AS A TOTAL BEGINNER

If you’re thinking about starting your marathon training from total beginner level, then the key is to take it gradually. If you rush your training, you’ll be putting your body under a strain it’s not fully prepared for and you’ll risk injuring yourself, which in turn will prevent you from training. By easing your way through a training plan, you’ll build up your strength, fitness and endurance in a measured way that means you’ll be fully prepared to take on the challenge of a marathon.

THE BEST PLAN FOR BEGINNERS’ MARATHON TRAINING

As a beginner, we recommend starting with a smaller goal and stepping your way up to a marathon. Give yourself a set amount of time to reach 5K, then 10K, and even a half marathon distance, before pushing on to achieve the full marathon. As such, the best plan is actually a combination of three of our popular training plans:

  • Start with our 5K training plan – it takes 6 weeks and will guide you to running for around 30-40 minutes without stopping.
  • Then pick up with our 10K training plan, which starts focusing on building up distance rather than time, taking you from 5K to 10K over the space of 8 weeks.
  • Finally, move on to our 20 week full marathon training plan, which picks up where the 10K plan finished, guiding you from running 5 miles right through to completing your first 26.2-mile marathon.

If you’re not sure about aiming for a full marathon, our half marathon training plan is a good follow up to the 5K plan and includes a blend of focusing on time and pace for some runs and distances for others. You build up to running the 13.1 miles or 21 kilometres of a half marathon over 13 weeks. This could be a good starting point and, from there, you can see if you’d like to continue to the full marathon or not.

HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO TRAIN FOR A FIRST MARATHON?

Our plans above will take you around 8 months, from complete novice runner right through to crossing the finish line of your first marathon. This might seem like a long time, but you have a long way to go, and it’s important to pace your training carefully.

We also recommend factoring a little extra time into your training for any times you may be ill or have other commitments that might interrupt your plans. So we’d recommend planning around 8 ½ – 9 months to train for your first ever marathon.

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How To Get Back Into Weight Training And Lifting After A Break

Ready to return to weight training after a long break? Getting back into lifting after a while away from the gym? Here’s a guide to help you plan your return to the gym safely and effectively, so you can get your strength and fitness back.

START SMALL

After an extended break, it’s normal to have lost some strength and in your fitness levels, but the good news is, you can build up to the strength and fitness you had prior. Whilst you may feel like you lost all the hard work you put in before your break, those efforts were not all in vain. If you were regularly weight training or lifting, you’ll likely reap the benefits of muscle memory to help you get back on track.

You may be tempted to get straight back to your usual weight training routine but it’s important to restart lifting at a reduced capacity, particularly in the first few weeks to allow your body to get used to weight training again and to prevent injury. How much you reduce this by will depend on how long you’ve been away from the gym. 

As a general guideline, if you’ve not been weight training for 4 weeks or more, you can start at give or take 50% of what you would have normally done in the first session. This session should primarily aim at getting used to being in the gym again and focus on your movement pattern when lifting weights, not about going hard and seeing how much you can lift. Reflect on the session over the next few days, checking in with how you’re recovering, and make sure to allow enough time for your body to recover.

By starting small you can always gradually build up and continue to make progress, which can also boost your confidence and build you up mentally in getting back into your weight lifting routine.

Remember to work at your own pace – keep in mind that getting back into things faster doesn’t necessarily mean that your results will be better or more sustainable.

SET SOME LIFTING GOALS

When getting back into weight training, it’s useful to set some goals you really want to achieve to help you stay motivated and allow that to direct what you do in the gym. Whether it’s a performance based goals such as achieving a 100kg back squat, an aesthetic goal such as building muscle on our back, or a goal based on neither – set ones that you want to achieve or gives purpose, and set some timeframes for when you can realistically achieve them by. Try to avoid spreading yourself too thinly by setting loads of goals – pick key ones you want to focus on now and break those down into smaller goals that you can implement into each session or on a weekly basis.

If you need some help with this, check our how guide on how to set fitness goals

CREATE SOME STRUCTURE

Now that you’ve decided on the goals you want to work on, you know your reason to train ( i.e. your purpose) and you’re prepared to get back into lifting, it can be helpful to give some structure to your weight training, based around your weekly schedule and needs.

Have a think about what commitments you might have, what your priorities are – taking into account things like your work life, time for family and friends and any other things that are important to you. Build your fitness routine into this so that you can address all your important things, and also do your fitness alongside.

Whilst we all may have 24 hours in a day, we all will have different priorities, needs and things going on in our lives. What matters is how you fit fitness into your life, not the other way around. If you can only realistically make it to the gym 3 times a week whilst you used to be able to go 5 times a week  – allocate 3 days in your diary for weight training. Ideally you would want to leave a rest day in between for this case if you can, for example training on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Having these set days to train, which fit around your schedule can help you get back into your lifting routine, and you can always adjust if necessary.

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The Benefits of Being Active

There are many benefits when it comes to staying active. From improving mood to getting better sleep, here’s why staying active is the best thing you can do today…or any day.

WALK YOUR WAY TO FITNESS

Walking for just 25 minutes a day can add a whopping 7 years to your life, according to the European Society of Cardiology Congress. Walking can be a way to take a break from work if you are working from home. At the time of writing, in the UK, we are allowed to go out once a day (alone or with members of household) to exercise provided we have at least 2m distance from anyone. This could change so please make sure that you are check the latest Government guidelines before stepping out the house.

GRAB A BUDDY

We know that working out with friends is one of the best ways to stay motivated. Whilst it may not be possible in the current situation to see a friend, you can always do a video call and spur each other on through a workout together! Not only is it more fun exercising with friends, research suggests we work out for six minutes longer with friends than when alone, plus we burn an extra 40 calories. That’s because time flies when you’re having fitness fun with friends! If there is someone at home you can workout with, then you can encourage them to do your workouts together too.

ON SMALL STEP, ONE GIANT LEAP FOR FITNESS

You don’t have to make huge changes to your lifestyle to reap the benefits of exercise. Here are a few of our favourite healthy habits that are easy to implement and will make a big difference to your physical and mental wellbeing.  

Every step counts. Never forget that some movement is better than no movement. Even if you don’t have 30 minutes free for a full workout, short bursts of movement throughout the day will bring immense health benefits. The problems of sitting for long periods are said to include an increased risk of diabetes or heart disease, and shorten your lifespan. So, try setting an alarm to go off hourly but keep the alarm in another room or away from your desk, forcing you to get up and stretch your legs just to turn it off. Walking also makes us happier as it releases feel-good endorphins, so your three sets of 10 minutes will leave you with a natural high throughout the day.

Say goodbye to shortcuts. Sure, when you’re in a hurry, shortcuts are your best friend, but there are no shortcuts to getting fit. So, where possible, when going somewhere by foot take the long way round so you’re moving for longer. Sure, it might take a little more time to get to your destination but all of the extra steps will turn into healthy benefits.

Stairway to fitness.  Climbing stairs increases your core muscle strength, helps lower your bad cholesterol level, and burns 15 calories for every three flights of stairs, according to research by The University of New Mexico’s Health Sciences Center. If you have stairs at home you can use this as a tool to get your steps in! 

Stand up for fitness. Try and sneak more reasons to stand into your day. For example, use a smaller cup or water bottle so you have to get up more to re-fill it. 

Step it up a gear. Once you’ve introduced regular walking and movement into your life, take your fitness up a gear by increasing the speed of your walk or take two stairs at a time instead of one. Just make sure to follow the Government guidelines throughout this period.

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Ab Workouts For Beginners

If you search for “ab exercises” on the internet you’ll probably come across hundreds of ab exercises to choose from, so it can be a little overwhelming and difficult to figure out which ab workouts are best suited for beginners. 

We’ve created this guide to help inform you about this incredible muscle group, as well as providing some advice about how to strengthen your abs (and even strive for a visible six pack). Read on to the end for an example beginners ab workout to get you started.

WHAT ARE ABS?

The abs are made up of four major muscle groups:

  • Rectus abdominis: These are probably the main muscles you’ll think of when considering abs – these two bands of muscle run from the sternum down to the pelvis over the front of the stomach. They have a distinctive ‘six pack’ or ‘eight pack’ look thanks to bands of connective tissue and these muscles help to flex you forwards.
  • External obliques: Positioned on either side of the upper stomach, these muscles help to support your torso as it performs twisting motions. 
  • Internal obliques: Work with the external obliques to support turning and twisting movements. They’re positioned on the lower, outer part of the stomach. 
  • Transverse abdominis: These muscles sit deep below the obliques, wrapped around the spine and help to stabilise and strengthen the torso. 

When working together, these muscles help to move your torso and support upper body motion. 

WHY SHOULD I WORK OUT MY ABS?

For many people, the goal for ab training is to either achieve a flatter-looking stomach or a muscular ‘six pack’ physique. If that’s your objective then great, but there are so many other benefits to strengthening and working out your abs than just how it physically shapes your body. These muscles support your entire upper body. If you play other sports, or enjoy running or weight training for example, building up your core strength will be sure to boost your stability and performance. You’ll feel both stronger, and more powerful. 

HOW DO BEGINNERS GET ABS? 

If ‘getting abs’ means seeing a visible six pack, then there’s no getting around the fact that this look takes a lot of work and perseverance, but if you’re willing to put in the time, then you’ll both look and feel stronger and more muscular. Incorporating exercises into your workout that focus on the rectus abdominis is the best place to start, and that means movements that flex your pelvis and lower ribs towards and away from each other, like crunches and sit ups. It’s also important to include total core strengthening exercises as well, as this will enable you to build a stable, strong foundation for your abs, so make sure to include movements like planks and twists as well. 

If you carry weight around your waist then you may not be able to see the effect of your ab training reflected in your physique, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have strong abs, they might just be hidden from view. To overcome this, you’ll need to combine your workouts with a sustainable, healthy diet and aim to reduce your body fat percentage so the sculpted muscles are more visible. For men, this will most likely be between 6-13% and for women, you’ll need to lower your body fat to around 14-20%. 

IS IT OKAY TO WORK YOUR ABS OUT EVERY DAY? 

As with any kind of training, rest days are essential to building strength and fitness in a healthy way. Your muscles will undergo tension that causes tiny, microscopic tears – it’s the process of repair and recovery from these that helps you to become stronger.  If you don’t allow time for rejuvenation, you could increase the risk of muscle injuries that could set back your training. So make sure to rest your abs for at least 24 hours after giving them a full workout, perhaps instead focusing on gentle stretches or yoga to ease any sore muscles. Check out our ‘Why Rest Days Are Important’ guide for more information.

WHAT SHOULD I EAT TO GET ABS? 

A healthy diet is an important part of achieving any fitness goal, so it’s vital to fuel your body in the best way possible. To strengthen your abs and work towards a six pack, you’ll need to supply your muscles and core with the nutrients and energy they need to strengthen and sculpt. If you’re aiming for a six pack, you’ll also need to make sure your diet focuses on controlling your body fat percentage so your toned muscles are more visible. 

In general, we recommend focusing on a nutritionally balanced, well rounded diet plan that includes plenty of fibre, protein and healthy fats. Types of food to consider including as you build up your ab strength include:

  • lean protein such as chicken, fish, lentils or chickpeas to help build and maintain muscle growth
  • high fibre whole grains like quinoa, oats and barley – they’re packed full of vitamins and minerals, can aid in digestion and are filling, helping with your body composition
  • heart-healthy fats like salmon, nuts and avocado
  • Low calorie, nutrient rich fruit and vegetables such as broccoli, apples and sweet potatoes

Our Nutrition and Diet hub is packed full of advice pieces and healthy recipes that are the perfect accompaniment to a beginners ab training plan. 

HOW TO START TRAINING YOUR ABS

We recommend starting your ab training by integrating ab-focused exercises into your regular workouts, starting with 10 to 15 reps and increasing the intensity over time either by including more sets or by adding additional weights. As your body improves, you can begin to devote entire sessions to focusing solely on your abs, so you can give them your full energy and see greater, faster results. 

Crunches are not just a good way to start ab training, but they’re also one of the best exercises for building up these muscles. The most effective approach is to focus on slow, controlled movements, rather than solely on increasing your reps, as muscles grow best after spending time under tension. Regular crunches will focus on the upper section of your abs, and reverse crunches will focus on the hard-to-target lower abs. You can find out more about each of these movements in our guide to sit ups

Other exercises to include are core-strengthening movements such as planks, Russian twists and mountain climbers (as featured in our Functional Ab Workout guide). These will help to strengthen your abs, and also improve your balance and stability.

WHAT IS A GOOD AB WORKOUT FOR BEGINNERS? 

To help you get started, we’ve come up with a five move ab workout that’s both effective and beginner-friendly in building a solid foundation to a strong core.

All you need for this ab workout is a mat so you can try this out at home or in the gym. This workout roughly takes 10-15 minutes.

Watch the video below to see PureGym Insider @peterpuregym perform all the ab exercises in this workout so you can see how to do them and give the workout a go!

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HIIT Workouts You Can Do At Home

Over this year, many of us will have turned to HIIT training, tuning into Instagram lives and workout apps to stay active and get our hearts pumping while gyms were closed. Read on for some examples of a few of our favourite HIIT exercises for home. 

BENEFITS OF HOME HIIT WORKOUTS

  • You don’t need any kit – HIIT workouts can be completed using just your own bodyweight
  • They’re not weather dependent – you can work out come rain or shine
  • Easily fitted into your lifestyle – perfect for busier times
  • You can workout in a small space – you don’t need huge studios for these exercises
  • Tailored to suit you fitness levels – whether beginner or advanced, you can shape your home HIIT workout so it’s right for you

As a form of exercise which ticks all the boxes, it’s no surprise that this method of training has become a popular workout of choice. Even though gyms can now remain open across all three tiers in England, we know that there are days when you can’t make it to the gym, or maybe you’re not ready to return to the gym but you still want to break a sweat. HIIT can help you achieve this in the comfort of your home. The convenience of rolling a mat out and getting a workout done in a short amount of time, makes this workout an easy choice to fall back on.

If you’ve tried HIIT workouts before, you’ll know it doesn’t take long to work up a sweat, even with just your bodyweight. HIIT training can help to tone and strengthen, and improve cardio fitness so if you fancy doing a workout at home, here are some workouts you can try!

Ready to HIIT it? Let’s go!

5 MINUTE HIIT AT HOME

Being tight on time is no excuse not to squeeze a little HIIT into your day – this 5 minute workout will get you sweating in the time it takes to make a cup of tea.

  • 30 seconds Jumping Jacks (start with your hands by your side and feet together. Jump so your feet spring out to the sides and lift your arms above your head, then jump back to the start position)
  • 30 seconds Mountain Climbers
  • 30 seconds Jumping Jacks
  • 30 seconds Alternating Forward Lunges
  • 30 seconds Jumping Jacks
  • 30 seconds Alternating Reverse Lunges
  • 30 seconds Jumping Jacks
  • 30 seconds Plank rows (holding a dumbbell in each hand, form a regular plank. Keeping your arm at a right angle and moving from the shoulder pull your right arm back until your hand is level with your body. Lower, then alternate with the other arm)
  • 30 seconds Jumping Jacks
  • 30 seconds Squats

7 MINUTE HIIT AT HOME

This 7 minute HIIT workout is a quick and efficient way to work out at home. Squeeze a few of these sessions in throughout the week and you’ll be sure to feel the benefit.

  • 30 second Jumping Jacks (start with your hands by your side and feet together. Jump so your feet spring out to the sides and lift your arms above your head, then jump back to the start position)
  • 10 second rest
  • 30 second Press ups
  • 10 second rest
  • 30 second Squats
  • 10 second rest
  • 30 second Dips (sitting on a chair, with your hands holding either side of your seat towards the front, keep your knees and move your torso and bottom forward off the chair. Bend and straighten your arms to raise and lower your  body)
  • 10 second rest
  • 30 second High knees (stand, holding your hands out at around waist height. Alternating legs and keeping energy high, jog while aiming to reach your hands with your knees)
  • 10 second rest

Repeat and for the last 20 seconds finish with a plank hold.

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Ab workouts for a stronger core

Want to build a stronger core? Try these ab workouts which have been tried and tested by personal trainers!

When it comes to training abs, it’s common for people to focus on training this body part because they want to achieve a six pack or get defined abs. If that’s your goal, training your abs can help make them stronger but it doesn’t necessarily mean you will automatically get defined abs. Getting defined abs requires a low body fat percentage which will be different from person to person, so a full-body training approach along with a healthy balanced diet is recommended.

Whilst having aesthetic goals is fine, let’s not forget that there are many functional benefits that comes with training your core. This includes maintaining correct posture, helping to reduce strain on your back and improving your functional performance so including some ab exercises as part of your overall fitness routine, can help you develop a stronger core and reap aforementioned benefits. 

AB MAT WORKOUT BY @KAYPUREGYM, PUREGYM INSIDER

  1. Cat cow (warm up) -10 reps
  2. Deadbugs –  3 sets of 5 reps each side
  3. High Plank, toes in and out
  4. Bird dog – 3 sets of 5 reps each side
  5. Leg raise holding a plate 3 sets of 20-30 seconds

Rest for 20-30 seconds in-between each set.

  • Cat Cow

This yoga move is a good exercise to start off with as it can help to bring flexibility to the spine, lightly stretch the back, torso, neck, abs and open the chest.

Start on all fours, with your wrists underneath your shoulders and knees underneath your hips. Curl your toes under and slowly arch your back as you inhale and lift your gaze up. As you exhale, round for cat pose by rounding your spin and tucking your tailbone. Drop your head and take your gaze towards your navel as you do this.

Complete 10 reps.

  • Deadbugs

This exercise is great for working the core without putting strain on your lower back.

Lie flat on our back with your arms held out in front of you, pointing the ceiling. Bring your legs up so your knees are bent at 90-degrees. Push your lower back into the ground by using your core and try to maintain this position. Next, slowly lower your right arm and left leg towards to floor as you exhale. Try not to raise your back off the ground. Slowly return back to starting position and repeat with the opposite hand and leg.

  • High plank

Planks are a great exercise not just the core but the entire body.

Plant your hands directly under shoulders, slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Ground your toes into the floor and squeeze your glutes and core – your legs and arms should be working too. Press up into a plank position – keeping your core braced. Really push your hands into the ground to lift your back towards the ceiling.

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The Best Exercises To Lose Belly Fat

If you’re finding some extra pounds seem to be sitting around your waist and you’re interested in shifting your belly fat through exercise, the gym is the perfect place to start. Before we give some examples of the best exercises to lose belly fat, there’s some things we think would be useful for you to know when it comes to achieving fat loss:

  • Focus on your whole body: It can be very difficult to target specific areas of your body when it comes to weight loss, but by working out your whole body regularly, you should see a positive difference across the board.
  • Make the most of compound movements: Make sure your workout includes compound movements such as squats, deadlifts and bench presses to work multiple muscle groups at one time. This will help to build overall strength and size as you focus on your belly.
  • Go beyond cardio: While it may be tempting to stick to cardio to burn calories, you should consider including strength-focused sessions to build and retain muscle mass as you lose weight.
  • Watch those calories: In order to lose any kind of weight or fat, your body needs to be in a calorie deficit. Look at your nutrition and diet as well as increasing your time at the gym. Our guide to beating the belly fat can tell you more.
  • Consider total lifestyle improvements: Don’t forget other aspects of your life that can affect fat loss beyond exercise and diet. How much sleep you’re getting, how stressed you are, the time of year and so much more can affect your weight loss journey.

So now for the exercises themselves – here are five of our top recommendations for battling belly fat and burning calories.

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How to Plan a Weight Training Program

A good weight training program can really help to focus your workouts and assist you in meeting your goals and objectives. But what is a weight training program and how can you plan one yourself? Read on for more… 

WHAT IS WEIGHT TRAINING? 

Weight training is a form of strength training that uses weights machines or handheld weights, such as dumbbells, kettlebells or barbells to add a greater challenge to workouts. It offers fantastic benefits such as improved strength and balance, as well as body shaping and weight control. 

Read our What is Weight Training and What Are The Benefits guide for more detail. 

WHAT IS A WEIGHT TRAINING PROGRAM? 

A weight training program is a plan you make to ensure you’re consistently challenging yourself and reaching for your goals as you work out. This can be as simple as written notes to show what types and size of weights you are starting with and how you intend to progress each week or month, or could be a spreadsheet or app on your phone. Ideally, you’ll have this with you in the gym to refer to as you exercise; which will also mean you can also mark up any differences between your plans and your actual achievements as you go.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO HAVE A WEIGHT TRAINING PROGRAM? 

Creating and sticking to a weight training program means you’re more likely to challenge and drive yourself as you lift, push or pull. You’ll be able to set and meet measurable goals and appreciate all the benefits from challenging yourself and your body in a targeted way. It also means you can easily track your progress and enjoy the successes you’ve achieved.

HOW TO PLAN A WEIGHT TRAINING PROGRAM

So much of creating a weight training program comes down to you – your starting point, your goals, your personal commitment. Whether you’re a complete beginner to weight training or have been working out with weights for some time, it’s important to have an idea of all of the below when creating your program. 

Once you’re comfortable that you’re ready to get started, you can start filling out your plan. Here’s a weight training program template that could serve as a useful starting point.

1. Understand your goals

Why are you focusing on weight training? Is it to build muscle, tone your body or lose weight? Perhaps you’d simply like to feel stronger? Maybe it’s to recover or strengthen your muscles after an injury? Or you’re keen to focus on strengthening and shaping one particular part of your body. It could be that you’re hoping to achieve several of these benefits as you train. Understanding your goals is the first step of creating a program, as this could change how you approach your training. For example, working with heavy weights will help to build muscle mass, while lighter weights over more reps is more likely to help build up endurance.

2. Set short and long term objectives

Once you know what you’re hoping to achieve, you can begin to set yourself challenging yet achievable goals to reach. Perhaps you’re hoping to lift a certain weight within 3 months, or would like to bulk up to a certain size. Note this down and aim to work backwards from here when planning your expected progress. It could be that you then realise your goal isn’t quite achievable in your time frame, so you can rework your program, or maybe you might be on track to meet it sooner than you’d thought. Mapping out your objectives will not only help you gain a better and more realistic picture of how and when you’re planning to meet your goals, but it will give you something specific to aim for and successes to celebrate as you achieve them. 

Remember, you won’t build muscle overnight; it might take some time to meet your objectives. Don’t rush yourself and instead enjoy seeing the improvements during your fitness journey.

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Weight Training: What Is It And What Are The Benefits?

WHAT IS WEIGHT TRAINING?

Weight training is a form of physical training, which uses weighted objects, like dumbbells and barbells, or weight machines, like plate-loaded kit, to primarily build muscle or improve strength. It can also help to boost power, muscular endurance, and improve overall health. Weight training causes tiny microscopic tears in your muscles, which are then repaired to build stronger, leaner muscle. Read on to find more about different types of weight training and its benefits. 

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF WEIGHT TRAINING EXERCISES?

There’s a huge variety of advantages to weight training, and many individuals find it benefits them in unique ways. These are just a few of our favourite reasons why you should include weight training in your workout plans:

  • Improved strength: With consistent training, you should be able to see great improvements to how much weight you can lift, push or raise. Not only is it satisfying to feel these improvements in the gym, but you’ll also see the benefit when it comes to your daily routines, as well as confidence in your own abilities and strength. To focus on building strength, aim to complete fewer reps with more weight.
  • Support everyday activities: Weight training in the gym can support your everyday life outside the gym, such as being able to carry heavy items (useful for carrying grocery shopping and perfect for moving house!), walking up stairs, or supporting improvements in other sports and activities, like running, football, rowing or tennis. 
  • Build muscle: Lifting weights consistently and over time can help to increase the size of your muscles, and in turn can help to improve strength and change the appearance of your body – which is why bodybuilders adapt this training method. With weight training, you’re able to target the muscles you want to build through exercise selection. We understand not everyone is training to change their appearance or body composition but if you’re looking to bulk up or tone areas of your body, weight training is necessary. 
  • Strengthen bones: After around the age of 30, you start to lose bone density. Putting force on your bones helps them stay strong and can help to reduce the chance of injuries.
  • Better posture: Regular weight training targeting the full body can help to strengthen areas such as the back, shoulders and core, which can help you to sit and stand more upright, improving your posture and stance.
  • Aid weight loss: When losing weight some of the weight lost can be muscle mass. As muscle helps to support and strengthen your body, you would probably want to retain as much as you can when losing weight so it’s a good idea to include weight training into your fitness routine. Plus, your muscle mass can influence your basal metabolic rate, which influences how many calories you naturally burn at rest. 
  • Improve balance: Keeping leg and core muscles strong helps prevent weak and wobbling limbs. Weight training can help keep us sturdier on our feet and less likely to experience falls as we get older. It can also help to address any muscular imbalances, so for example if one arm is stronger than the other, you can perform exercise on the weaker limb to strengthen it.
  • Reduce anxietyStudies have shown that weight training in particular can help lessen symptoms of depression. On top of the confidence boosting benefits of seeing visible improvements in your abilities and your body, weight training also helps provide mood-enhancing endorphins that can ease anxieties and improve your mental wellbeing.