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8 Simple Fitness Mat Exercises

Have a fitness mat lying around and don't know where to start? Here are 8 simple exercises great for any fitness level that you can do anytime and anywhere.

8 Simple Fitness Mat Exercises
Push Ups

1. Push Ups

Push ups are a highly effective exercise to engage your upper body muscles! If done well, a push up will work your upper arm muscles, shoulders, core and lower back.

Positioning:

1. Start in a plank position

2. Place your hands on the floor, on both sides of your mat

3. Spread your feet, pelvis width apart.

Point to note: Ensure that your shoulders, spine and hips are in a straight line at all time.

Movement:

1. Take a deep breath in and slowly bend your elbows out to the side as you lower your body toward the floor

2. Exhale and return to the starting position

3. Ensure that your movements are slow and controlled.

Do 1 to 3 sets of 8 to 15 reps, depending on your fitness level

Simplified Option: If you are unable to do a standard push up, you may drop your knees to the mat. This will help to take some weight off your upper body. However, always ensure that your shoulders, spine and hips are always in a straight line when you are doing this exercise.

Back Extensions

2. Back Extensions

Also known as the baby cobra or chest extensions, this exercise is as popular as it is simple. By doing back extension exercises regularly, not only do you improve your coordination of your lower back, but it helps to strengthen your back. This way, you'll naturally see an improvement in posture. Who wouldn't want to stand tall all the time?

Positioning:

1. Lie down on your belly and stretch your legs straight

2. Place your arms on either sides of your shoulders, ensuring that your arm is bent at 90°.

3. Place your forehead on the mat.

Point to note: There are many variations you can do based on your fitness level, but this is just one example of how to do it.

Movement:

1. Take a deep breath in

2. While exhaling, lift your chest off the mat while keeping your belly flat on the mat. Ensure that your head, neck and chest remains in a straight line at all times

3. Inhale and return back to the start position, slowly.

Challenging Option: While lying face-down, lay your arms on the sides of your body. Using only your back muscles, do this same exercise.

Cross Crunches

3. Cross Crunches

Want a amazing waistline? What if we told that can get that with one simple exercise?! This exercise focuses on your abdominal and oblique muscles to strengthen your core, shape that waistline and tone the abdominal wall.

Positioning:

1. Lie down on your back

2. Lift your legs till they are perpendicular to the ground and bend your knees 90°

3. Flatten your lower back

4. Bend your arms, such that your hands are just touching your ears.

Movement:

1. Inhale

2. While exhaling, raise your upper torso to do a crunch

3. Stretch out your right hand to reach the outside of your left ankle

4. Inhale and return back to the starting position

5. Exhale, do a crunch and now, reach left hand across your body to the outside of your right ankle.

Simplified Option: Place your feet on the ground with your knees bend. Complete the same movement but with your feet grounded.

Planks

4. Planks

Another great exercise for that belly! This is because this exercise gets all your core muscles working together. And because your core is stronger, your posture gets a little better too! So make sure to add planking in your workout routine.

Positioning:

1. Lie down on your belly, like you are going to do a back extension

2. Bring you arms closer to the centre, about shoulder width apart

3. Straighten your back, neck and head.

4. Lift your hips to make your back parallel to the floor.

Point to note: Ensure to stack your shoulders directly over your elbows. This is the most effective way to get the core muscles working

Movement:

1. Ground your toes and lift your hips

2. Neutralise your spine

3. Maintain a straight line from your feet to the top of your head.

4. Squeeze your glutes and abs.

Simplified Option: For more stability, bring your feet wider than hip-distance apart.

Squats

5. Squats

Whether you love them or not, squats are the most effective exercise you can do. Squats are so easy and are very versatile. You can do them with just your body weight or with additional weights. You can do them alone or multitask with other exercises like bicep curls. You can do them anywhere too!

Positioning:

1. Step on your mat

2. Stand with your legs slights more than hip width

3. Point your toes outwards

4. Straighten your legs

5. Hold your hands in front of your chest

Movement:

1. Inhale and bend your knees, pushing you buttocks back

2. Put your whole body weight on your heels

3. Exhale and stand up while contracting your glutes

Simplified Option: Hold on to a railing or your bed frame lightly as you squat. This will help you to stabilize throughout this exercise.

Hip Abductions

6. Hip Abductions

This is one exercise we do every day without realising. We do hip abductions whenever we do a side step, get out of bed, step out of the car, etc. Therefore, this exercise should be a breeze!

Positioning:

1. Lie on the mat, on your right side

2. Straighten your right arm, and place it under your head

3. Straighten your entire body, so that you feet, legs, hips and chest are aligned

4. Place your left hand on the floor, in front of your chest

Point to note: Use your right hand to cushion your head, and ensure that your neck and head are straight too.

Movement:

1. Bend your knees to 90°

2. Lift your left leg, while keeping your foot relaxed

3. Return back to starting position, slowly

4. When you are done with the right side, roll over to your left side and repeat the process for your right leg

Challenging Option: Do this with some ankle weights to increase the difficulty.

Bridge

7. Bridge

The bridge is a great exercise for your glutes and hamstrings. When done correctly, it can be strengthen your core and lower back. It is an easy exercise and you can adapt it to your fitness level by adding extra weight (like a dumbbell or sand bag) on your pelvis.

Positioning:

1. Lie down on your back

2. Bend your legs till your heels are almost touching your buttocks

3. Place your arms on other either sides of your body

Point to note: Put your palms on the floor to give you more stability.

Movement:

1. Lift your hips off the mat, to create a plank

2. Squeeze your glutes as you lift your hips

3. Return back to the starting position, while still contracting your glutes

Challenging Option: Squeeze a pilates ball between your knees as you do your bridges.

Mountain Climbers

8. Mountain Climbers

Climbing upstairs can really be tiring. But what if we said you can climb horizontally? Mountain climbers work the entire body and get your heart rate up. With just one exercise, you can build your cardio endurance, core strength, and agility. We've left the best for the last!

Positioning:

1. Get into a plank position

2. Ensure that your feet, hips, torso, and head are in a straight line

Point to note: Remember to stack shoulders over your hands to get the full effect.

Movement:

1. Bring your right knee to your chest

2. Return to the starting position

3. Bring your left knee to your chest

4. Return to the starting position.

Challenging Option: Make this exercise a little more challenging by putting on ankle weights. This will give your glutes a better workout.

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