Thanks to Demmy James of Muscle & Strength for this action packed post on quick exercises to do in the morning!
Five Quick Morning Exercises
Training early in the morning is not something that most people enjoy doing – in fact some people don’t enjoy training at any time! Studies have shown that training in the morning can be more difficult than in the evening – due to your circadian rhythms (although luckily caffeine can counteract this loss of power).
But if you’re dedicated enough (or you are a “morning person”) then you might find that training early fits into your schedule perfectly.
Now, if you are happy to get into the gym at 6 am and train, you will have access to all the equipment you need and you will have a lot of space available. This means that you could pretty much perform any exercise that you want to.
This article is aimed at those people who want to train first thing in the morning but don’t have access to a gym. We will provide you with an at-home workout, that will be exclusively focused on body weight exercises. If you want the best results possible then it would be a good idea to combine this exercise routine with a more complex strength building workout, once or twice a week.
The workout will involve a couple of lower body exercises, an upper body exercise, a cardio exercise, and an isometric abdominal exercise. So it is a decent all-over workout.
If you want better results (and you rather don’t go to a gym) we recommend you to get a suspension trainer or some dumbbells. This is because it is really difficult to train your upper back with body weight exercises (unless you have a pull up bar available to you – and are able to perform pull ups).
We will first look at the individual exercises, what muscles they work, how to perform them, and what benefits they offer. Then once we have covered all five we will put them into a program and assign reps, sets and rest periods to them.
Exercise #1. The Glute Bridge
Main Muscles Worked: Glutes, Hamstrings
Accessory Muscles: None
Benefits: Increase glute size, improve squat performance
How to perform: Lie on the floor with your feet flat and knees bent, place your arms either side of your hips with palms flat on the ground. Take a deep breath and then drive your hips forward as far as you can. There should now be a straight line going from your knees to your head. Pause, and then lower your hips back down to the ground. That is one repetition.
If you have any dumbbells or a barbell available, you can place them on your hips which will increase the resistance of the exercise, improve your strength gains and calories burned.
Exercise #2. Mountain Climbers
Main Muscles Worked: Abdominals, Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Gluteals, Trapezius
Accessory Muscles: Adductors/Abductors, Deltoids, Latissimus Dorsi
Benefits: Improved cardiovascular fitness, strengthened abdominals
How to perform: Place both hands on top of a bench. Then stretch your legs out until you stand on your toes. You should be standing in a (more or less) 45 degree angle. That is your starting position. Then drive one of your knees as far as you can towards the bench and then return it. When you are back in the starting position, switch to your other leg. Do this at a fast pace, switching from one leg to the other.
If you don’t have a bench you can use most raised surfaces instead (sofa, table, desk), alternatively you can perform the exercise with your hands on the floor.
To make this exercise heavier you can choose to rest on your forearms instead of your hands. If you choose to try out this form, please make sure that you keep your back straight and tighten your abs during the entire exercise.
Exercise #3. Push Up/Squats (Elevens)
Main Muscles Worked: Pectorals, Deltoids, Triceps (push up) Gluteals, Quadriceps (squats)
Accessory Muscles: Trapezius (push up) Hamstrings (squats)
Benefits: This exercise will strengthen the muscles mentioned whilst also being an effective fat-burner
How to perform: To start a push up you should place your hands flat on the floor, stand on your toes and nearly touch the floor with your chest (see picture). Then push your body off the ground until your arms are fully extended, make sure that your hips are flat and aren’t sagging or raised too high. Pause, and then slowly lower yourself back down until your chest is nearly touching the floor. You can make the exercise easier by placing your knees on the floor instead of your toes.
To perform the squat you should stand with feet shoulder-width apart and toes pointing out slightly. Then with your chest pushed out and shoulders pulled back, you should slowly squat down until your quadriceps are parallel with the floor. If you can manage to squat lower, we won’t stop you! Once you reach this position, pause, and then return to the start. You can increase difficulty by holding a dumbbell between two hands, placed in front of your chest.
This exercise involves performing both push ups and squats. To perform it you start with ten push ups and then perform one squat (or vice versa). With no rest in-between, you would then perform nine push ups and two squats, continually decreasing the number of push ups while increasing the number of squats until eventually you are performing one push up and ten squats. This is known as “elevens” as it always involves eleven repetitions in total (9 push ups + 2 squats = 11).
Exercise #4. Split Squats
Main Muscles Worked: Quadriceps, Gluteals
Accessory Muscles: Hamstrings
Benefits: Excellent exercise for toning your thighs, strengthens Quadriceps and Gluteals
How to perform: To start the split squat you should stand upright, bring your left foot forward and your right foot backwards. Your back foot should be on your toes while the front foot is flat on the ground. This is your starting position.
Lower your right knee to the ground keeping your chest pushed out and shoulders back, this will put you into a lunge position. Pause and then return to the starting position, then lower your knee back down again. Perform the designated number of reps before switching legs.
You can increase the difficulty of this exercise by adding in a dumbbell or barbell to increase resistance. You can also increase difficulty by placing your front foot on a slightly raised surface. This increases the range of motion.
Exercises #5. Planks
Main Muscles Worked: Abdominals, Erector Spinae
Accessory Muscles: Trapezius, Deltoids, Quadriceps, Gluteals
Benefits: Increased Core Strength
How to perform: Start with your forearms resting on the floor and legs straight. Then get onto your toes. Next you want to push your chest off the floor so that all that is touching the ground is your forearms and your toes. Your chest should be pushed out, shoulders back, and your back should be straight. This is the plank position.
Instead of holding the position for as long as possible (which is what most people do) you are instead going to hold the plank for 30 seconds before relaxing. However you are going to tense every muscle as hard as you can whilst doing so. This is going to turn your plank into a much more intense exercise. It will also prevent you from performing it with bad form.
Your Morning Training Program
This program should take around 20-30 minutes max, if you want to make it shorter then remove an exercise or two. If you want to make it longer then you can perform the exercises as a circuit, or just add an extra few sets of mountain climbers.
· Glute Bridges 3 sets of 15 reps (30 seconds rest between sets)
· Mountain Climbers 4 sets of 30 seconds work (30 seconds rest between sets)
· Push Ups/Squats (11s) Perform once
· Split Squats 2 sets of 12 reps [each leg] (30 seconds rest between sets)
· Planks 3-4 sets of 30 seconds (30 seconds rest between sets)
So there you have it, five exercises that you can perform early in the morning in a nice and simple training program. Complete this either alongside a regular training program (if you’re super-fit) or as part of your morning routine as a replacement for a gym membership.