How to get your body fit for the beach in just 30 minutes a day

Head off for your summer holiday looking leaner and feeling fitter with our half-an-hour-a-day exercise program.

Jim Subbs

Two weeks is a long time in exercise – if you do the right things. “Abbreviated training” is a way of exercising to the maximum in a short space of time. This program is designed to use the largest amount of muscle mass possible to increase your metabolic activity, both during and after your exercise sessions.

So here’s the deal. For my “Beach-fit in 14 days” program to be effective, you need to commit to exercising for 30 minutes a day for the next two weeks.

Starting tomorrow, I need you to get up an hour earlier each day, and get your workout out of the way before you go to work. Sounds gruelling – but at least this way, you’ll have a better chance of sticking to the regime and achieving your goal.

This program alternates resistance exercises that you can do easily at home (or in a gym, if you prefer), with some cardio-vascular activity. If you cannot walk, jog or run, try an alternative, such as cycling or swimming.

The key to effective exercise is intensity – which is why it is important that you work hard at each element of this program, rather than just go through the motions.

When you perform these exercises – in the combinations outlined opposite – they should leave you out of breath and sweating. You should find that you can speak but that a conversation would be difficult. Be honest with yourself: you should be working at about seven-out-of-10 effort, where one is sitting down with your feet up and 10 is running away from a rabid dog.

I’m going to assume that you have no medical condition that might prevent you from training. At the end of your 30-minute workout, make sure you stretch.

Ready? You will be in just a fortnight…



Kickstart your regime by heading out into the morning sunshine for a warm-up.

Start with some simple, steady shuttle runs – jogging to the end of your garden and back, or between two trees in the park – for 10 minutes. Work to a level where you are out of breath, but not gasping for it. Remember to take sips of water to keep yourself hydrated.

Next, we’re going to start getting your midriff in shape for the beach. Neurologically, the best way to work your abdominal muscles is to engage the deepest layer of muscle first, before working the more superficial ones.

So, for the first week of this program, we are going to focus mainly on the lower abdominals, before moving on to the obliques (sides) and finally the upper abdominals. By engaging the deep muscles first, you will be able to achieve a flatter-looking stomach, which will instantly make you feel more confident in your beachwear.

Do the following exercises in “supersets”, which means alternating between two sets of exercises until you have completed the required number. Rest for 30 seconds between each superset before moving on to the next.

Superset 1

Perform the Alphabet once, then 15 repetitions (reps) of the Ball Cobra.

Superset 2

Perform 15 Reverse Crunches, then assume and hold the Plank position for 30 seconds.

Superset 3

Perform two sets of Oblique Ball Crunches, 10 per side, then 15 Medicine Ball Sit-Ups With Twists.


The body works at a higher intensity for longer if you have regular but short rests, which is the thinking at the heart of interval training.

Rather than aiming for a certain number of reps of a given exercise, you perform as many as you can against the clock. After a timed rest, move on to the next exercise.

You should also stick very closely to the rest times since the rest time effectively dictates the workload on the muscles in this instance.

With today’s routine, beginners should do the exercises for 20 seconds and then rest for 15 seconds; those already in good shape should work for 20 seconds and rest for 10 seconds. In total, you should complete eight sets of each exercise before taking 60 seconds’ rest and starting on the next exercise. Now complete these exercises in the order shown.

Body weight squats


The Lunge

Standing Rows

The Cobra


Time for cardiovascular interval training. For this, you’ll need to head outdoors. Take five minutes to warm up with a gentle jog, then alternate running hard for one minute and walking for one minute as recovery. Repeat this minute sprint, minute rest 10 times, before spending five minutes cooling down.


Repeat routine from Day One


Repeat routine from Day Two


A day off!


Repeat routine from Day One



1. THE ALPHABET: Lie on your back, arms by your side, feet together in the air and stomach pulled in tight. Now “draw” the letters of the alphabet in the air with your toes.

2. BALL COBRA: Face down on the exercise ball, hips in the two o’clock position, with toes on
the ground, hands behind the ears. Now raise your body up off the ball so that your spine is straight. Pause, and return slowly to the start position.

3. REVERSE CRUNCH: A good exercise for the lower abdominals. Lie on your back, legs straight up in the air, arms by your side. Slowly lower your legs down towards the floor until you feel your lower back rising from the floor. Keep your feet a few inches off the floor and hold, before slowly returning to the start position.

4. THE PLANK: Assume a press-up position but with your arms bent and your elbows pulled in directly below the shoulders, so you assume a straight line from ankles to shoulders. Hold your abdominals in tight in this position for 30 seconds.

5. OBLIQUE BALL CRUNCHES: Lying sideways over the exercise ball, with your feet against a wall and your hip on the ball in the two o’clock position, cross your arms over your chest and drop sideways over the ball until you feel a stretch in your sides. Pause, and return to start position.

6. MEDICINE BALL SIT UP AND TWIST: Lie on the floor, with your knees bent and your feet flat. Take the medicine ball in both hands and hold it o nthe floor above your head. Now sit up and rotate your upper body slightly to touch the outside of your left hip with the ball. Return slowly to the start position and repeat, this time turning to the right.

7. BODY WEIGHT SQUAT: Stand with your feet just wide of hip-width apart, with your feet slightly turned out. Bend the knees and sit back as if you were going to sit on a chair, until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Keep your spine straight, your head up and chin tucked in. Try to keep the weight in your feet between the mid-foot and the heel.

8. PRESS-UPS: On your toes, facing the floor with your hands beneath your shoulders, slowly lower yourself down so that your elbows bend at 90 degrees. Pause at the bottom and then push back to the start position. If you cannot do a full press-up, try pushing up from your knees rather than your toes.

9. THE LUNGE: From a standing position, and with your hands on your hips, take a long step forward with your right foot. Drop your left knee until it is just off the floor, keeping your right knee directly above your right ankle. Push back off your right foot and return to the standing position. Repeat on the left leg.

10. STANDING ROW: Select a resistance band that will challenge you to maintain good form for the required number of repetitions. Run the middle part of the band around a secure fixing such as a door handle or table leg, and then hold one end of the band in each hand. Sit back into a half-squat position with your weight in your heels, your spine straight and your chest proud. Slowly pull the band towards you, squeezing your shoulder blades together until your fingernails are pulled into your rib cage. Hold the squeeze briefly and return to the start position.

11. THE COBRA: Lying face down on the floor, elbows bent and your middle fingers at your temples, squeeze your shoulders back and buttocks together. Gently lift your chest as far away from the ground as you can, keeping your chin tucked in to your chest. Pause at the top, and return to the floor.


Exercise ball

Also known as a Swiss ball, this giant inflatable is handy for perfecting abdominal crunches. Can also be used in place of a weights’ bench to perform upper body and arm exercises. Available at most sports shops, from £10.


Resistive exercise bands that can be used to give a full body workout in place of dumbbells or barbells. Colour-coded according to strength, you should purchase three pairs of differing resistance – one light, one medium and one heavy – to challenge a range of muscle groups. £12 a pack from John Lewis

Skipping rope

These days, this piece of PE equipment comes in many guises – some count how many reps you’ve performed, some are weighted – but just about anything rope-like can be used to get your heart rate up.

Medicine ball

Forget the huge, leather-clad affairs we used to throw at each other in the school gymnasium. For this program, you’ll need a simple sand-weighted ball that clocks in between 3kg and 5kg; one with handles might make some of the exercises more comfortable. Most high street sports will stock them, from around £20.

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