No-frills fitness routines to support any New Year health plan

Here are two back-to-basics workouts which anybody can try as part of their healthy New Year lifestyle.

Part of the Christmas and New Year health and wellbeing campaign, #LboroExperts

These simple plans, for cardio and weights, are based on established principles which will support a variety of goals, regardless of experience or fitness level.

The first looks at improving endurance, which could give a boost to performance in sports such as football, netball or rugby, which all have a large cardiovascular element.

The second, takes you through a complete weights routine, one which targets the whole body.

Both sets of these step-by-step instructions have been put together by Loughborough University gym instructor Barry Shine and are accompanied with demonstration videos.

Warm up

Warm ups are there to do exactly that, increase muscle temperature and prepare the body for exercise - if you ignore the warm up you place yourself at greater risk of injury.

The way you should warm up is to concentrate on the areas of the body you will be using in your workout.

For example:

  • If you’re using a treadmill, gently jog for seven-to-10 minutes first
  • If you’re performing a chest press, then a few press ups will do the job


Cardio refers to any exercise that you do that uses primarily your heart and lungs to fuel your work.

The following plan can be carried out on indoors or outdoors, providing you have the correct equipment for running, cycling or rowing.


Before you start, establish you maximum speed on the bike, treadmill, road or rowing machine – whatever you intend to use.

Then, after a gentle seven-to-10 minute warm up, you can begin the routine.

  • First, do 3:00 mins at 50%-60% of your max speed
  • Then, 2:30 mins at 60%-75% of your max speed
  • Finally, 0:30 seconds of >85% of your max speed – as hard as you can
  • Repeat

Repeating that short plan seven times will total a 45-minute workout.

“This is not a sport specific workout but it will give you a decent grounding in where you want to take your cardio,” said Barry.


It’s important not to go too heavy with weights. Your form and technique is much more important than straining with large dumbbells and trying pack on muscle.

If the weight is too heavy you’ll more than likely injure yourself, and because your form will be poor and you won’t be lifting correctly you won’t make the gains you imagine.

So, here is a simple plan for the whole body. With each exercise you should be able to perform between eight and 12 repetitions.

Barry said: “Again, we're not going to go too deep or technical on this.

“This is not meant to be a complete technical or bible like workout plan, it's a nice simple plan in nice simple language to get someone started in the gym using the basic stuff.

“But it works.”

Warm up to target specific body parts:

  • Bodyweight squats and calf raises, heel and toe walks, lunges
  • Press ups on your knees progressing to full press ups
  • Light bent over rows or seated rows

It should take around 7-10 minutes to complete and should be treated as part of your workout.


  • Squat or leg press and calf raise: 8-12 reps – 3 or 4 sets
  • Lateral pull down or pull ups: 8-12 reps
  • Barbell row or seated low row: 8-12 reps – 3 or 4 sets
  • Chest press: 8-12 reps – 3 or 4 sets
  • Chest flyes: 8-12 reps – 3 or 4 sets

Rest between sets should be 90 seconds.

Barry said: “This is a simple full body workout which hits all of the major muscle groups.

“The progression is from fixed weights (machines) onto free weights.

“Beginners should start with fixed weights because it is a safer way initially to workout.

“Any fitness instructor should be able to show you how to use these machines in the correct manner and there are plenty of you tube videos by the manufacturer of the machines on how to use them.

“Free weights are more advanced and need to be performed with good technique, but ultimately this is where you want to end up in the gym regardless of your sport as it is more functional.

“The reason why we do 3 or 4 sets is time – and how much of it you have. Is it better to do 4 sets?

“It depends, but one thing is certain, something is always better than nothing.”


  • Sit ups: 30 seconds
  • Side plank: 30 seconds (each side)
  • Crunches: 30 seconds
  • Leg raises: 30 seconds
  • Full plank: 30 seconds

Repeat two or three times.

Loughborough University’s Christmas and New Year health and wellbeing campaign is aimed at using the knowledge and experience of academics and professionals to give advice about physical and mental wellness over the festive season and into next year.

Follow the latest campaign content by searching for the #LboroExperts hashtag on Twitter, or on our Facebook page and YouTube channel.


Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 18/05

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