The all-round fitness circuit that requires only an exercise mat

Because sometimes the gym is closed.

Image: Shutterstock/Syda Productions

THERE ARE MANY (semi-legitimate) reasons for not being able to get to a gym.

Whether it’s the 25-minute commute on the train after work or travelling overseas a lot, it can be hard to prise open enough time in the day to get your workout in.

But if you follow this 10-exercise routine using just an exercise mat, you can do a quality session from the comfort of your own bedroom, and be back on the couch before you know it.

1. Push-ups

Position your hands wider than shoulder-width apart. Maintaining a straight line through your shoulders, hips, knees and ankles, flex your elbows and bring your chest down to the floor, holding for a moment at the lowest point that’s tolerable. Extend your elbows to return to the starting position. This is one rep.

Sets 3; Reps 10-15; Target muscles; Shoulders, chest, triceps and core.

2. Planks

Either resting on your elbows or on the palms of your hands, hold the position for as long as you can and repeat three times. Again, keep your shoulders, hips, knees and ankles in a straight line.

Sets 3; Reps As long as possible, but aim for a minute; Target muscles; Core muscles

3.   Jumping squats

Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart on the mat, squat down and keep your knees over your ankles as best you can.

Bring your bum as close to the backs of your heels as possible. Now rebound upwards, extending your knees and hips fully, concentrating on a strong, controlled upward movement.

One rep is complete when you bring your knees back to 45 degrees.

Sets 3; Reps 20; Target muscles; Quads and core.

4. Side plank

Back onto the floor for this and again, you can rest on your elbow or hand.

Keep one foot on top of the other and extend the ‘free’ hand into the air.

Hold this for as long as you can and repeat three times. Remember, the key is to brace your core and really engage your muscles here to get maximum benefit from the exercise. If you can’t hold it for long, flex your bottom leg and rest on the knee closest the floor.

Sets 3; Reps As long as possible but aim for a minute on each side; Target muscles; Obliques.

5. Side plank with a twist

To progress this you simply do something of a ‘swivel’. Starting in the side plank position, rotate forwards and bring your ‘free’ hand under your body and reach as far as you can, holding for a moment at the top of the movement and returning to original side plank position.

Sets 3; Reps As long as possible but aim for a minute either side; Target muscles; Obliques.

6. Clams

Lie on your side and keep both knees bent and flex the hips slightly. While keeping your heels together, open your knees by contracting your glute medius. This is a very slow and specific movement. Close again.

To make it harder, keep your heels from touching, holding your top leg free of any support.

Sets 3; Reps 20 either side; Target muscles; Glutes

7. Burpees


Stand with your feet hip width apart and your arms down by your side. Lower into a squat position with your hands flat on the floor in front of you. Kick your legs backwards into a press up position and lower your chest to the floor. Push your chest back up to the press up position and thrust both feet forward so you are back in the squat position. Jump up and raise both hands over your head.

Sets 3; Reps 25; Target muscles; Total body workout

8. Alternate lunges

Standing with your feet together take one step forward and drop your other knee to the floor. Now, with your hands on your hips, jump upwards and switch legs mid-air, bringing the other leg forward.

To make it harder, place your hands behind your head. There should be no rest between lunges; the movement should be fluid and controlled for the duration of it.

Sets 3; Reps 20 either side; Target muscles; Calves, glutes, hamstrings

9. Single leg squats

Balance on one foot and squat down, bending at the knee and sitting your hips back as if you are going to sit in a chair. Once down to about a 90 to 115 degree angle in your knee, extend your leg back up to standing. If this is too challenging allow the toes of your hovering foot to lightly rest on the ground.

Sets 3; Reps 8-12 either side; Target muscles; Calves, quads, glutes, hamstrings

10. Donkey kickbacks

Position yourself on all fours, your back straight. Now raise your left leg behind and bring your shin perpendicular to the floor, the soles of your feet parallel with the floor.

Now you really need to focus on lifting or kicking your knee up as high as possible but remembering not to ‘swing’ or ‘rock’ from side to side. Hold for a second at the highest point, squeezing your glutes and bring back down again to the floor. Switch legs.

Relax your neck during this exercise.

To make it harder, instead of bringing your legs back down to starting position, ‘pump’ them (individually) when they’re in that tabletop position, ie. kick them up towards the ceiling, keeping a 90 degree bend in the knee.

Sets 3; Reps 8-12 either side; Target muscles; Glutes

You want quads and you want quads fast, right? Here’s the plan

The blood and sweat is pumping as Katie Taylor prepares to take 7th European title

About the author:

Brian Canty

Read next: