Written by Angele Satariano.

20 minutes of exercise per day is all you need to keep you fit and healthy! High intensity interval training is a great way to improve your cardiovascular fitness, burn fat and build strength! We put together 8 exercises which are guaranteed to get your heart rate up and your muscles burning!

All you need for this workout is a set of dumbbells and 20 mins of your time. There’s a video clip of each exercise together with a detailed explanation. We’ve also provided low impact/lower pressure exercises which are pregnancy safe and also more suitable if you’ve recently had a baby and are recovering post-birth (always get clearance from your doctor prior to starting an exercise programme if you’re pregnant or in the early post natal days).

Download a timing app on your phone, and set it to 30 seconds work time, 15 seconds rest x 8 exercises with 20 seconds rest between each round x 3 rounds.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us if you need help with any of the exercises!

Enjoy the sweaty fun!!

Squat + shoulder press

This is a great full body exercise, working the quads, glutes, shoulders and core. That twist at the top also fires up the obliques!

Instructions:

Hold your dumbbells at shoulder height and sit back into a squat. Lower yourself with control, inhaling at the same time. As you exhale, power back up through your glutes to a standing position, twisting your upper body at the top and pressing the dumbbells overhead. Remember to switch on your core to support you as you lift the dumbbells.

Russian Twist

This is a great rotational core exercise working the abdominals and lower back, though not suitable for pregnancy, or if you’ve recently had a baby or have diastasis recti. In that case you can perform the quadruped arm and leg reach which is much more gentle but still a great core control exercise.

Russian twist instructions:

Holding a dumbbell (or anything weighted), sit on the floor with your knees bent and your feet either resting on the floor (easier) or slightly lifted (more difficult). Lean back slightly so that your upper body is inclined. You should already feel your abdominal muscles firing up to hold you in that position. Rotate from side-side with control, looking behind you each time and directing the effort to your obliques.

Quadruped arm and leg reach instructions:

Start in an all fours position. Ensure that your hips and knees are stacked, and that your shoulders and wrists are also stacked. In the first few seconds of the clip you can see that I arch my lower back, and then tuck it back up by engaging my abdominals. The tucked up position is what you want to maintain throughout the whole exercise and at the same time reach out with one arm and extend the opposite leg. While I’m doing this, I’m exhaling and I’m also keeping my hips very stable (i.e. no rocking). It helps if you imagine that you’re balancing a glass of water on your lower back and you cannot spill any water.

Dumbbell Plank + 2 Jacks + 2 Rows

This is another exercise for a full body burn. This plank variation is quite complex, so feel free to leave out the jacks or the rows if it feels too difficult.

You’ll also find an elevated version in the second clip. This is more suitable if you’re pregnant, recently had a baby or need to be gentle with your core (incl. pelvic floor). If you’re at home, you can use your dining table, a cupboard or even your bed to elevate your hands instead of the box.

Instructions:

Set yourself up in a plank position over your dumbbells. Be sure to keep your shoulders and wrists stacked and your hips in line with your spine (i.e. no dipping or over arching of the lower back, and also on the contrary, don’t leave your hips too high up). Hop open both feet at the same time, twice (kind of what you’d do in a jumping jack), and when you return back bring each dumbbell up to your arm pit one at a time, keeping your elbow close to your body. Try not to rotate your hips too much as you perform the rows. It helps to keep your feet slightly apart for better balance.

2 Switch Lunges + 1 Squat

The ultimate plyometric leg burn, working all your leg and glute muscles!

High impact is not recommended during pregnancy, and should also be avoided if your core (which includes the pelvic floor) is recovering post birth. We’ve provided a low impact variation.

Instructions:

Jump into a split stance (lunge position) and lower your back knee to the floor with control. Jump and switch sides to descend into a lunge again, this time on the other leg. Jump into a squat stance and slowly lower into a squat. Jump back up into a lunge position and repeat.

As explained above, choose the low impact option (see second clip) if you’re pregnant or recently had a baby. You could also switch to the low impact option if this is too much for you, your knees hurt or you get tired half way through.

Bicep Curl + Shoulder Press

An upper body combo of biceps and shoulder work, but also involves the core (like most exercises do!)

Instructions:

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and create some gentle tension in your abdominal muscles for support. Keeping your elbows pinned into your torso, curl the dumbbells up to your shoulders, and then press them overhead while exhaling at the same time. Bring the dumbbells back down and your elbows back to your sides, and lower the dumbbells all the way back down so that your arms are straight down again. Repeat.

Important: As you press the dumbbells overhead, be sure that your core is engaged so that it will stop you from leaning back and arching your lower back.

21 Crunch or Lying Heel Taps

It’s going to burn, promise! This exercise is not suitable for pregnancy or if you’ve recently had a baby. If you need to be more gentle with your core, you can perform the Lying Heels Taps (second clip – not suitable for pregnancy), which is also explained below.

21 crunch instructions:

Lie down on your back and press your lower back into the mat by engaging the abdominal muscles. With your arms stretched up over your head, lift your legs slightly off the floor WITHOUT arching your lower back and hold them there. If you cannot hold that position without arching your lower back, then lift the legs higher up, to a point where you can maintain that core control. If it’s still too difficult, perform the exercise with your legs resting on the floor.

As you exhale, bring one leg up and crunch up to meet it with straight arms. Inhale to go back down. As you exhale, repeat with the other leg, inhale to go back down. Exhale and this time crunch up to meet both legs, and inhale to go back down. Repeat.

Lying heel taps instructions:

Lie on your back and bring your legs to a table top position. Press your lower back into the floor by engaging your abdominal muscles. As you exhale, lower one heel down to tap the floor and return – ensure that your lower back does not arch off the mat. Keeping your knee bent as you descend will make the exercise easier. If you extend your leg as you lower it, this will put much more pressure on your core and will be more difficult. Keep an eye on your abdominal midline and if you see any ‘doming’ or ‘coning’, stop this exercise.

Push-up / Tricep Push-up

Push-ups are a great full body exercise, working the core, shoulders, chest and even quads. This exercise is however very often performed wrongly, so I advise using a mirror to help you.

If you’re pregnant or need to be gentle with your core, you can elevate your hands to perform the push ups, as seen in the second clip. Alternatively, you can do them on your knees, or if you’re pregnant, against a wall. Make sure to engage your core throughout.

Instructions:

Set yourself up in a plank position: Shoulders stacked over wrists, neck and hips in line with spine, core engaged (very imp!). As you inhale, bend your elbows and lower your chest to the floor with control. Make sure that your head and hips remain in line with your spine as you do this. I see many people drop their head and their hips and ‘fall through’ their shoulders. Exhale to push back up to the starting position.

In this clip I alternated between ‘normal’ push-ups and tricep push-ups. To perform a tricep push up, keep your elbows close to your body as you descend and rise. I needed to drop my knees to the floor as my triceps weren’t strong enough to perform too many reps.

Burpee + 2 Plank Pikes

A fun burpee variation that really gets your heart pumping and lower abs working!

This is not a suitable exercise if you’re pregnant or recently had a baby as it puts too much pressure on the core. Instead, you can perform elevated burpees on an elevated surface. You can choose to step out instead of jump, and you can also remove the jump at the top. Modify the exercise so that it suits your needs.

Burpee + 2 plank pikes instructions:

Place your hands on the floor and jump your feet out behind you so that you’re in a plank position (shoulder stacked up with wrists, neck and hips in line with spine). Keeping your feet together and your legs quite straight, jump your feet inwards towards your hands, imagining a string pulling your hips straight up to the ceiling (this is the pike). Repeat this twice, and then jump to bring your feet on either side of your hands (like a squat position) and power up to the ceiling. Land softly and go straight into the next repetition.

Elevated burpee instructions:

Place your hands on an elevated surface. Step out one foot at a time so that you’re in a plank position. Step your feet back in, one at a time, and stand up straight taking your arms up to the ceiling.

Alternatively, you can jump into the plank position with both feet at the same time and you can also jump at the top. If you do choose to jump, make sure you land softly to minimise impact.

For more workouts like this and an incredibly motivating vibe, join our fitness classes instructed by myself and Leah Camenzuli!

We also have specialised pre-natal and post-natal fitness classes to keep you fit, strong and healthy during these delicate life phases.

Follow our social media pages on Instagram and Facebook:
Instagram @activespiritmalta
Facebook Active Spirit