Does your hectic life mean you don’t have time to go for a run, let alone make it to your local fitness centre for a Zumba class?

While being busy makes it harder to fit in a regular workout routine, there are plenty of exercises you can do at home instead. Even if you’re not meeting government activity guidelines of 150 minutes per week, any activity is better than none at all.

We asked personal trainer Chris O’Rourke, who runs COR Personal Fitness, to suggest a series of quick and simple exercises that can be done individually or as part of a circuit, to strengthen important muscles and improve cardiovascular fitness.

plank
Personal trainer Chris O’Rourke explaining exercises to clients (Chris O’Rourke/PA)

If performed as a circuit, with 40 seconds work and 20 seconds rest per exercise, the full round should only take seven minutes.

Note: Before you start, make sure to warm up to help prevent injury and make your exercises more effective. 

Here are O’Rourke’s quick fitness hacks you can do at home.

1. The plank

The plank (Chris O'Rourke/PA)
The plank (Chris O’Rourke/PA)

What it’s good for
This is one of the best exercises to strengthen the core area of the abdominals, obliques and back muscles, helping tighten and tone your waist too.

How to do it
Start in the press-up position, on your elbows, rather than your hands. Lift your body off the floor so your feet and elbows are supporting your whole body, and try to make your core as straight as possible.

Don’t let your glutes sit too high or too low. Make sure your elbows are underneath your shoulders and hold for as long as possible. Every time you perform the plank, try and beat your previous time.

2. Box steps

box steps
A box step (Chris O’Rourke/PA)

What it’s good for
This can really get your heart rate up if performed at a good pace, and is good for leg strength and all-round conditioning. It will really work the quadricep muscles at the front of your legs, as well as the glutes.

How to do it
Stand just in front of a very sturdy box or stairs and begin stepping on and off at a steady pace. Alternate your leading leg so both legs get an equal amount of work. Increase the pace if you feel comfortable to do so. To add difficulty, thrust your trailing knee as high as you can as you get to the highest point. You can also hold weights in each hand.

3. Lunge

The lunge (Chris O’Rourke/PA)

What it’s good for
Lunges are an excellent move to strengthen and build leg muscles – quads, glutes, hamstrings and calves – as well as the abs and the lower back, which are used for stability.

How to do it
Start with your feet about shoulder-width apart, take a large step forward and keep the majority of your weight on your flat front foot as you lower your hips to the ground, with your back heel lifted and your back straight.

Descend until your rear knee is almost – but not quite – touching the floor. Now push back to the start position with your front foot, and repeat the move with your other leg.

To make it harder, increase the tempo of each lunge, hold weights in each hand or perform a forward lunge followed by a reverse lunge – taking a step backwards as well as forwards. Hold your hands out to the side to aid balance if necessary.

4. Abdominal crunch

Abdominal crunch (Chris O'Rourke/PA)
Abdominal crunch (Chris O’Rourke/PA)

What it’s good for
Strengthening the abdominal muscles.

How to do it
There are numerous ways of performing a crunch, but initially, start slowly. "If you do them correctly you’ll definitely feel them," promises O’Rourke.

Lay on the floor with your feet flat and knees bent. Your back should be flat against the floor. Place your fingers on the side of your forehead and slowly lift your head and upper back off the ground, keeping your lower back flat against the floor.

At the top of the crunch, try to hold the position momentarily, before slowly returning to the start position. This can be repeated for a set time or a set number of reps.

Don’t hold the back of your head or neck, to avoid putting your neck under strain. Concentrate on raising your shoulder blades off the floor, as opposed to trying to get your chin to touch your chest.

5. Tricep dips

Tricep dips (Chris O'Rourke/PA)
Tricep dips (Chris O’Rourke/PA)

What it’s good for
Dips target the tricep muscles and strengthen the chest, shoulders, and back.

How to do it
This bodyweight exercise can be done using a chair, sturdy table or the bottom of the stairs.

Start with your hands safely on the edge of your chosen apparatus and feet flat on the floor with knees bent.

Lower your body as far as you can towards the floor, with your back straight, and then push yourself back up to the start position.

For increased difficulty, shift your feet further away from you before you begin. Increasing the speed of the dips will also increase their difficulty.

6. Mountain climbers

Mountain climbers (Chris O'Rourke/PA)
Mountain climbers (Chris O’Rourke/PA)

What it’s good for
This is a great exercise to get the heart pumping and help tone the legs and stomach.

How to do it
This can be performed with either your hands on the floor, or by using a small step. Start with both hands on the floor (or your step) with your arms straight.

Have both legs extended out behind you, on your toes. Quickly bring one knee up towards your upper body as far as you can, and then push it back to the start. Immediately bring your other leg up the same way.

"Think of it like jogging on the spot bent over, but trying to drive your knees forward as high as you can, as quickly as you can," says O’Rourke.

Perform this for a set time, trying to keep your legs moving as fast as you can.

7. Quick steps

Quick steps (Chris O'Rourke/PA)
Quick steps (Chris O’Rourke/PA)

 What it’s good for
This exercise works leg muscles like quads, glutes, and hamstrings. "If performed quickly enough, this one will definitely get your heart pumping and lungs blowing," O’Rourke says.

How to do it
Using either an aerobic step, or just the bottom step of your stairs, hop on and off the step as fast as possible, one leg at a time.