Helen Mirren's Fave 12-Minute Workout - the XBX Plan
XBX Plan devotee Helen Mirren at the 90th Annual Academy Awards

Dame Helen says she's used this plan for years, here's our review

Helen Mirren's Fave 12-Minute Workout - the XBX Plan

Review by By wlr's resident foodie Joanne Putney


In the news again when a Telegraph reporter gave XBX a go, Dame Helen Mirren’s favourite workout’s no secret to wlr.

Developed by the Canadian Airforce, the XBX plan appeals to busy women because of its simplicity and the small amount of time required.

"It is the exercise I have done on and off my whole life,’ says Dame Helen in the Daily Mail. ‘It just very gently gets you fit."

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All you need to do is start a free trial of wlr using this XBX Book Offer link, or one of the other free trial links on this page.

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Review (22 days in)

(Jo is wlr's designer and unofficial foodie, and a busy mum of two. She followed the XBX according to instructions.)

I simply love this little exercise book...

Believe me I've tried many systems for exercising / getting fit / toning those abs before - but this beats the others hands down...


Because it's sooo simple... it's actually maybe a little too simple at first. I mean, what sort of exercise program gets you to do just 4 sit ups - and these are also 'partial' (read beginner's) sit ups... how am I ever gonna get those toned abs? you wonder...

Do not fear, it's the simplicity of it that really makes this book work.

It's a progressive plan which kind of sneaks you into getting fitter slowly without you even having to think about it.

What I really love is that from day one you feel good.

You know, you've actually started something which makes you feel good, and then it's really quite easy so you feel even better because you might actually succeed this time!

Based on your age you get given a goal level and a set number of days to stick at each level.

And then you simply start at your first level - check the chart and complete the number of each exercise as specified.

What is fantastic about this is you almost instantly can see your progress.

Starting at my first level, I had my day's exercises completed in well under 5 minutes the first day (I'm not so unfit after all!) and couldn't wait for day 2, day 3, day 4 and particularly day 5.

Because, for my age, I'm meant to stick at each level for 4 days before moving on - and even on day 1 I was eager to get to level 2 ...

That's a brilliant bit of thinking right there...

You actually get to feel like you're progressing all the time - you're either ticking your way off through the days at each level or ticking off the levels as you move up through them - and each day you can feel smug at how far you've come!

I started the plan as a sort-of new year's resolution of mine to get fitter...

"Sort-of" because I couldn't wait and started (rather weirdly) 3 days before the new year... now on day 22 and I've already gone from not being able to do 4 sit ups ... to doing 14 with ease ...

Now this is amazing for me - because I've tried those apps which promise to get you to do 100 sit ups a day - yet after day 2 your muscles kill so much you can't even mentally persuade your body to go through it again.

So you take a few days off - which turn into a week or two ... and you never go back. I know you've been there too!

But with XBX there's actually zero pain - I mean no pain???

So there's no resistance and because it's so quick you can't even tell yourself you don't have time.

There's virtually no excuse.

I usually try to do my exercise first thing in the morning before work - because you can't beat starting your day feeling like you've succeeded already! (Sorry, that's just my thing, forgive me!)

But even on the occasional day when the morning has become manic, I've found that this plan is so easy you can't resist just making sure you've squeezed it in before bed.

I've even been known to quickly sneak off to do my XBX whilst my OH is cleaning his teeth before bed (yes, he did think I'd gone slightly mad - but hey, I went to bed feeling like a success!)

Of course, there's more to the book that just building up your sit ups – the plan works your whole body, there’s even a couple of optional bonus exercises for improving your posture ...

Working at a desk all day takes its toll - but I've already started to feel like I'm holding myself straighter, walking taller, I'm just less hunched - because I've started to rediscover the muscles in my shoulders, core and back. Woo hoo!

There's 8 exercises per day (plus 2 optionals for posture) which increase in repetitions at each level.

Once you've completed 12 levels you enter a new stage and the exercises are adjusted to become a little more demanding (my 'partial' beginner's sit up becomes a rocking sit up for instance).

There's 4 stages / 48 levels in total, and depending on your age there's a guide recommended level to achieve .

Once you reach your target level you go to completing the exercises just 3 days a week and still keep your fitness.

I realise I'm only a little way in - but I already can't wait to get on to the 2nd stage and try the slightly more advanced exercises.

The chart says my target level is 22, but I can't wait to see if I can get past that one too.

Blimey, I've never been so enthusiastic about exercising before!!!

See more reviews on the XBX for women shop page

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All you need to do is start a free trial of wlr using this XBX Book Offer link, or one of the other free trial links on this page. If you sign up for full membership, we'll send you the book as a bonus on top of your normal Member's Starter Pack

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Helen Mirren's comments in the Daily Mail

Madeleine Howe tries the plan for the Telegraph (subscription required)

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