The tea towel is an ordinary kitchen cloth, used mostly for the washing and drying of hands and dishes.
It wouldn’t be the first item in most people’s gym bags, but fitness expert Laura Williams says that tea towels can be just the ticket for rinsing out those abdominal muscles – and much more besides.
“A tea towel can add a sliding surface to your favourite moves and help minimise impact, and works the body in all planes of movement,” confirms Williams. “It also enables you to create highly-effective full-body exercises in your front room, for which you would otherwise need sturdy gym kit.”
Here are four of her favourite moves guaranteed to change your relationship with your tea towels…
1. Pike – works your core, hip flexors, chest and shoulders
Position the balls of your feet in the centre of two tea towels in a push-up position, with your body in a straight line from shoulders to bum. Look down at the floor as you slide your feet (and towels) towards your palms, ‘jack-knifing’ your hips into the air while keeping your legs straight.
Extend your legs back behind you to the start position and repeat eight to 10 times.
Acceptable cheat: Bend your knees to bring your legs into your chest if you can’t do this with straight legs.
2. Single-leg hamstring curls – works your hamstrings and bum
Lie on your back, arms by your sides, with each foot resting on a tea towel. Lift your lower back and hips off the floor, so you’re resting on your shoulder blades in a bridge position.
Lift your toes off the floor so your weight is on your heels, and slide one leg out in front of you. As you bring that leg back, extend the other leg, so both of your legs are moving at the same time. Repeat for a total of 20 curls.
Acceptable cheat: You can push your fingertips into the floor to help give the move ‘grip’.
3. Pec flies – works your chest, shoulders and core
Position yourself on all-fours, with the tea towels under the palms of your hands, and then roll forward so you’re in a half push-up position, with your weight distributed between the bottom of your thighs and the palms of your hands.
You should have a straight line running from shoulders to bum – avoid arching your back and/or sticking your bum in the air.
With your stomach pulled in (though don’t hold your breath!), lower your chest towards the floor, extend your right arm a little way out to the side with a small bend in the elbow, and slide your left arm a few inches out to the side, and back in again.
Keeping your right arm still, move your left arm in and out for 12 reps, then switch sides.
Acceptable cheat: Bring your supporting arm closer to your side – this should make the exercise less intense for your upper body.
4. Plank-jack-pulse – works your inner thighs, back and core
From a push-up position with your feet on the tea towels, slide both feet out to the side and pulse for a count of two. Then slide them halfway in, so that your feet are in line with your hips, and pulse for two more. That’s one rep – aim for 12-15.
Acceptable cheat: Stick your bum in the air so that your body forms a ‘V’ shape, if you feel your back arching.