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Tone Up At Home With Olympian Max Whitlock’s Cushion Crusher Workout

If you’re a dedicated couch potato take a deep breath before you read this.

Max Whitlock is using your living room sofa, normally devoted to horizontal  lounging, snacking, and snoozing for… exercise!

The double Olympic gold gymnast has revealed it as a brilliant piece of kit for toning and stretching and even a cushion can help build abs.

His work-out sessions in his own home, accompanied by his adorable 17-month-old daughter, Willow, are already a huge online hit and they’re in his new book, The Whitlock Workout.

“People are so busy and it’s easy to make excuses not to look after your body – the restrictions of the lockdown haven’t helped – but it’s so important to stay fit and active,” enthuses the 27-year-old whose routines and user-friendly exercises can be done at home or in a park.

So don’t let a lack of fancy kit hold you back. Rise up from that sofa – you have nothing to lose but some flab – grab a cushion and start toning up with his five-step Cushion Crusher Workout.


“Remember, you’re doing each exercise for 30 seconds and trying to do as many quality reps as possible.  Work as fast as you can but don’t sacrifice form or technique,” says Whitlock.

Before a workout he advises doing a five to 10 minute warm up and stretching exercises to raise your temperature and heart rate – then after your workout, finish with a five minute cool-down.

“For your first go, aim for two cycles through but, if that feels too easy, crack on for a third or maybe even a fourth,” he advises.  “Aim to do these workouts at least three times a week but no more than every other day.”

Four minutes per cycle
2-4 cycles
30 seconds for each exercise
10 seconds rest between exercises
1 minute rest between cycles

1:  One Leg Balances

An excellent exercise for developing balance and body awareness, with the cushion adding instability.

(Dan Jones/Headline Home/PA)

With your arms outstretched to the side, stand on the cushion and taking a deep breath, raise one leg. Balance, keeping your supporting leg straight but not locked.

It helps to look at a fixed spot in front of you. Hold for 15 seconds and then change legs.

Safety Note: When you first start, stand beside a wall on one side and near enough that you can touch it for support if you need to.  If you’re struggling with balance, try without the cushion.

2:  Leg Touches

This works on trunk strength and also hamstring flexibility.

(Dan Jones/Headline Home/PA)

Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you and toes pointed. Hold the cushion out in front of you at shoulder height.  Holding your trunk stable and without leaning back, raise one leg towards the cushion.

Don’t worry if you can’t quite reach it, just go to the point where you feel a slight stretch on the back of your leg.

(Dan Jones/Headline Home/PA)

Lower the leg with control, replicate the movement with your other leg and keep alternating.

3:  Cushion Twists

Hitting your obliques on the sides of your torso and increasing rotational mobility.

(Dan Jones/Headline Home/PA).

Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you and toes pointed.  Hold the cushion out in front of you at shoulder height.

(Dan Jones/Headline Home/PA)

Twist fully to one side from your waist, don’t just turn your shoulders.

(Dan Jones/Headline Home/PA)

Return to the centre, pause briefly and twist the other way.  Keep alternating.

4:  Dish Hold

A static hold that targets your abs.

(Dan Jones/Headline Home/PA)

Lie on the floor with your legs out to the side at 45 degrees and legs elevated and bent at 90 degrees.  Balance the cushion on your shins.

(Dan Jones/Headline Home/PA)

Contract your abs and lift your arms, head, shoulders and upper back off the ground.  Hold this position by maintaining tension in your abs.

5:  Air press-ups

This might look easy but by the end of 30 seconds I guarantee the front of your shoulders will be burning.

(Dan Jones/Headline Home/PA)

Stand with your feet hip width apart and hold the cushion in both hands at chest height.

Without leaning backwards or forwards, push the cushion away from you by straightening your arms.

(Dan Jones/Headline Home/PA)

Bring the cushion back to your chest and repeat the movement.


Exercise routine from The Whitlock Workout by Max Whitlock (Headline Home, £20).

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