- 101 Bodyweight Exercises You Can Do Anywhere
- 101 Bodyweight Exercises
- Don’t have weights or don’t have time to hit the gym? Consider a bodyweight workout.
- Total Body Extension
- Total Body Extension – Exercise Library
- 1. Squat
- 2. Feet-Elevated Hip Raise
- 3. Push-Up
- 4. Rear-Foot-Elevated Split Squat (Right)
- 5. Rear-Foot Elevated Split Squat (Left)
- 6. Tricep Dip
- 7. Mountain Climber
- 8. Elevated Leg Extension
- The 6 Exercises You Need To Be Doing
- 5 Exercises You Should Be Doing But You’re Not
- Single legged squats
- Dead Bugs
- Wall Press-offs
- Farmer’s Carry
- The 5 Most Underrated Exercises You Should Be Doing
- 5 Creative Body-weight Exercises
- Table -top Bridge
- Side Plank Get-up
- Single-leg Flextension
- Mountain Skater
- Dancing Squat
- How to Use These Exercises
- Do Bodyweight Exercises Build Muscle?
- Why Bodyweight Training Works
- Skyrocket Your Metabolism with Bodyweight Exercises
- Discover the Best Cardio Bodyweight Exercises
- 4-Minute Bodyweight Tabata Workouts
- Get Creative with Your Routine
- What’s the Best Bodyweight Workout for Mass and Strength Gains?
- Get the Most Out of Your Bodyweight Workout
- The Best Exercises for Your Lower Abs
101 Bodyweight Exercises You Can Do Anywhere
We’re 2 months away from the New Year (already?).
We’re also 2 months away from the influx of a gagillion new gym memberships, with 60% of those memberships dropping off by February.
There’s a reason why so many fail at their New Years’ resolutions of getting fit. It takes a LOT of effort and intrinsic motivation to change a habit… some say 3 – 4 weeks!
Is the gym really necessary to achieve the habit of getting fit, though?
In fact, you can save yourself the time and money of joining a gym, and use the tools you already have: Your BODY. 🙂
I’m a huge fan of body weight exercises – especially heading into my 6th month of pregnancy, because…
1. They’re as challenging as you want them to be. Depending on your level of fitness, you can scale exercises or make them even harder. For instance, if you’re a beginner, modify push-ups by doing them on your knees, or modify squats by doing them on a chair. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you can ramp it up with spiderman push-ups and squat jumps.
2. There are infinite combinations of workouts – in structure, intensity, and time. With 101 choices, you can pick and choose different combinations from the upper body, lower body, core, and plyometric exercises below. You can also choose different structures and lengths of workouts; like these workouts under 15 minutes or the 4-minute tabata method.
3. You can do them ANYWHERE. I’ve done burpees in a hotel room, squats in an airplane bathroom, workouts on playgrounds, and even workouts in the woods. Still struggling to find time to fit exercise in your busy shedule? I’ve got you covered with these 19 ways to add in exercise to your day.
Now, onto the exercises! Note: Many of these work more than one part of the body, but I categorized them by the muscle group most used. Also, if you have questions about how to perform an exercise, click on the exercise for a YouTube demonstration.
101 Bodyweight Exercises
Upper Body Exercises
- Plank up-down
- Standard push-up
- Walking push-up
- T push-up
- Spiderman push-up
- Staggered push-up
- Wide grip push-up
- Negative push-up
- One foot elevated push-up
- Hindu push-up
- Incline push-up
- Feet elevated push-up
- Tricep push-up
- Tricep bench dip
- Elevated tricep bench dip
- Lying triceps lift
- Handstand hold
- Inch worm
- Shoulder circles
- Lateral raise
- Pike shoulder press
- Jumping pull-ups
- Straight arm shoulder raise
- Air boxing
- Shoulder stabilization series
Lower Body Exercises
- Walking lunge
- Forward lunge
- Side lunge
- Reverse lunge
- Single leg front to back lunge
- Single leg lunge on stair or bench
- Curtsy lunge
- Lunge pulses
- Wide sumo squat
- Air squat
- Squat with side leg raise
- Squat pulses
- Single leg squat
- Wall sit
- Straight leg lift
- Donkey kickbacks
- Inner thigh lift
- Outer thigh lift
- Leg up lift
- Single leg deadlift
- Hamstring curl
- Standing hamstring curl
- Bridge hold
- Single leg bridge
- Calf raise
- Plank hold
- Side plank hold
- Spiderman plank
- Reverse plank
- Side oblique crunch
- Side oblique leg raise
- Oblique core crunch
- Single leg crunches
- Bird dog
- Cat dog
- Row the boat crunch
- Lying leg raise
- Straight leg toe touches
- Bicycle abs
- Scissor kicks
- Butterfly sit-up
- Russian twist
- Lying windmills
- Low belly double leg reach
- Swan dive
- Standing crunches
- Lying leg circles
- Supine twist
Plyometric/High Intensity Interval Exercises
- Jumping jack
- Jumping lunge
- Squat jump
- Butt kick
- High knees
- Up Down
- Frog jump
- Box or stair jump
- Mountain climber
- Star jump
- Bear crawl
- Tuck jump
- Lateral jump
- High kick
- Army crawl
- Side-to-side jump
- Forward backward jump
- Quick feet
- Plank jack
- Plank side jump
- Plank cross crunches
- Power skip
- Alternate leg bounding
- What’s your favorite kind of bodyweight workout?
- How do you fit exercise into your day?
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Lifting BIG weights feels awesome and there is NO denying that being a BEAST under a Barbell is critical for strength.
You just can’t deny squats, deadlifts, cleans, military pressing and the bench press.
Sometimes, the barbell just doesn’t fit your needs anymore.
Sometimes, your body craves the need for strength with JUST your own body.
Sometimes, you get strong under a bar but can’t move athletically otherwise.
Enter Bodyweight Training for developing lean muscle mass and Brute strength…..
If you’ve got decades of lifting experience, you can relate to feeling banged up from the endless years of heavy lifting.
Some lifters fight the transition of using less heavy weights / free weights and more bodyweight workouts.
I embrace it!
Those who excel are those who embrace getting STRONG with Bodyweight workouts.
Ever since I released my best selling training course, Bodyweight Bodybuilding, I’ve been getting a lot of questions regarding bodyweight training.
Here is a GREAT question regarding bodyweight training & probably the most frequent question I get.
Check it out….
QUESTION: Zach, can someone get endless strength gains from Bodyweight Training?
ANSWER: Awesome question!
I use Bodyweight training for my own workouts & it is a large portion of how I train my athletes at The Underground Strength Gym.
Bodyweight training is a HUGE part of what we do, but, NOT the ONLY part.
We use a variety of training tools and methods to push for reaching maximum potential in overall performance as you’ve likely seen through our training videos.
Here Is The BIG Mistake Most People Make With Bodyweight Workouts
Most people make the mistake of using Bodyweight exercises as an after thought to their workouts by throwing in a few half hearted sets of pull ups or push ups or some weak bodyweight circuit.
That is a HUGE mistake as you can use Bodyweight Exercises for the following Benefits:
– Improve Your Speed & Explosive Power
– Add Lean Muscle Mass
– Add Functional Muscle Mass
– Improve Your Stamina & Muscular Endurance
– Improve Your Mental Toughness
– Improve Your Body Kinesthetics & Overall Athleticism
“If you think you can’t get stronger using Bodyweight exercises, think again….”
Test Yourself Against The 10 Bodyweight Exercises Listed Below
If you CAN crush these exercises you are a Bodyweight BEAST.
If not, then you CAN step up your commitment to Bodyweight Training and pursue greater strength and performance through Bodyweight Workouts.
Don’t hide from bodyweight training, attack it!
1) Pistols x 10 ea. leg
2) 1 Arm Push Ups x 10 ea. arm
3) 1 Arm Pull Up x 1 rep ea. arm
4) Muscle Up On Bar / Rings x 5 in a row
5) 100 Consecutive Push Ups
6) 10 Handstand Push Ups
7) Handstand Walking
8) 20′ Rope Climb With OUT Leg Assistance
9) Parallel Bar Dips x 50 reps
10) 20 Pull Ups (Overhand or Underhand Grip)
The above list of bodyweight exercises are the toughest movements for bodyweight training and some of the best bodyweight exercises you can & should use when looking to improve athletic performance as well as pack on lean muscle mass.
I’d like to add an 11th exercise…..
The Front Lever.
Since writing this list of top bodyweight exercises I have come across this exercise and it is TOUGH and awesome on not just the abs but the entire body.
Here is a front lever tutorial from Little BEAST who is in our Bodyweight Bodybuilding Bonus: Bodyweight BEASTS.
Remember, strength is a skill and it must be practiced regularly, and bodyweight training gives you the power to practice anywhere, anytime and with no equipment.
So until you are able to perform the above list of 10 Bodyweight Exercises I honestly believe you are NOT strong enough in Bodyweight Training.
Can I personally perform the entire list above?
Not ALL of them, so this tells me I CAN & Need to get stronger in those Bodyweight movements and that comes through more practice in bodyweight training and also reduction of body weight and better overall body composition.
Obviously, being heavier will not make the performance of those 10 bodyweight exercises easier, but, this is NOT an excuse as I have shown you many videos of myself and my own clients performing many of these feats, even at 250 plus pounds we have athletes climbing rope, performing 10 + handstand push ups, etc..
So if you’ve been thinking you’re strong enough with bodyweight exercises and the only exercises you’ve been doing with your own bodyweight training are push ups, pull ups and dips…..well, it looks like you have your work cut out for you.
This is an opportunity for you to set a goal, plan your course of action and get after it like a MadMan (or Woman!).
It’s time to get busy because we ALL need to become stronger.
You CAN maximize your physical potential by making bodyweight training an integral part of your workouts, not just some half hearted after thought.
Respect Bodyweight Training and the results will come.
Let’s DO this!
Live The Code,
TOP Resources for Those Who Want to Become Bodyweight BEASTS
Convict Conditioning Workout – Perhaps The Most Powerful Book I Have Ever Gotten My Hands On For PURE Bodyweight Training & Calisthenics.
Bodyweight Bodybuilding Training Course – Develop Explosive Athleticism, Pack On Lean Muscle Mass, Increase Your Mental Toughness & Raw Strength
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Don’t have weights or don’t have time to hit the gym? Consider a bodyweight workout.
Question: Which weighs more – a ton of gold or a ton of feathers?
Answer: They both weigh the same.
That’s right – a weight is a weight, and your muscles don’t care what you’re lifting. This is what a bodyweight strength-training workout is all about.
Instead of using weight machines or free weights, you use the resistance of your own bodyweight to build and strengthen muscle. You can perform these exercises anywhere – at home, on vacation, or on your lunch break at work. If you find yourself struggling to find time to drive to the gym, give bodyweight exercises a try.
Sound intriguing? Read on.
While it’s safe to do bodyweight exercises daily, work different muscles each day. Try working your core on Monday, upper body on Tuesday, and lower body on Wednesday. Then repeat. Just like with weights, your muscles need one to two days to recover from the damage and stress of strength training. Without rest between workouts, your muscles are prone to injury and won’t grow as quickly.
For an effective bodyweight workout, begin with a short warm-up. Then perform sets of the exercises below for 5 to 10 reps. Transition to another exercise without resting too long between sets. Continue exercising for 20–30 minutes, and then spend a few minutes stretching.
Sit-ups. Lie on your back, bend your knees, and place your feet flat on the ground. Lightly support your head with your fingers. Lift your shoulders a few inches from the ground, keeping your head up. Hold for two seconds, lower back down, and repeat.
Superman. Lie facedown and extend your arms and legs. Raise both your arms and legs a few inches off the floor, hold a couple seconds, and lower them back to the ground. You can also alternate lifting only your arms and only your legs.
Planks. Get on the floor in the push-up position, supporting your body with your hands and toes or elbows and toes. Keep your back straight and your abdominals tight. Stay in this position as long as you can.
Push-ups. With hands and toes on the floor, back straight, and abdominals tight, lower your body toward the floor. Rise back up. Vary the impact by placing your hands wider or closer together, higher or lower, or using only one arm. Or switch out lowering all the way to the floor with only lowering halfway.
An even more challenging pushup is a handstand pushup. Get in handstand position with your feet against a wall. Lower your body toward the floor until your head touches the ground, and then push yourself back up.
Pull-ups. Find a sturdy door (place a towel over the top), chin-up bar, or playground equipment. Hold the bar or door with your hands, palms facing away from you (toward you for chin-ups), and let your body hang down. Pull your body up until your chin is over the bar. Lower and repeat.
Squats. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your legs and lower your bottom as if you’re sitting in a chair. Use your thighs to push your body back up, keeping your back straight and perpendicular to the floor. Repeat.
Lunges. Take a long walking stride and bend your front knee at a 90-degree angle and your back knee almost to the floor. Raise your body back to the starting position and take another step.
A variation of the basic lunge is a jump lunge. Get in the lunge position with your legs bent. Then jump high and switch the position of your legs while in the air. When you land, lower your back knee to the ground and then spring back into the air, swapping the position of your feet.
With bodyweight exercises, you can get a full body workout no matter where you are and with little or no extra equipment. So whether your upper body, lower body, or core could use a little more workout, bodyweight exercises take away all your excuses!
Don’t Think Bodyweight Is Enough?
Consider this: Hershel Walker’s daily regimen of 3,500 sit-ups, 1,000 push-ups, and 8-mile runs each day was enough to propel him to being one of the NFL’s best all-time rushers and part of the 1992 American Olympic two-man bobsled team.
If you live in the Gilbert area, treat yourself right by calling or emailing today to get started on an exercise program that will change your life for the best.
Proper nutrition plays a key role in your journey to a healthy lifestyle and to meet your fitness goals. Planning a well balanced diet can be extremely overwhelming and time consuming. That is why I have teamed up with Personal Trainer Food to help make it easy for you. for more information and when prompted, please type Trainer ID# 8170. When you are ready, you may . The quality of the food is second to none.
Please email me with any questions and visit: https://z-physique.com
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Total Body Extension
Total Body Extension – Exercise Library
• Start in a position like you were going to do a basic bodyweight squat.
• Have feet shoulder width apart and hand by your sides
• Squat down into a quarter squat and swing your hands down by your sides.
• Then explode back up standing up straight and tall, swing your arms forward and rise up onto your toes
• You should be trying to reach up as high as you can without leaving the ground
• Return back to the start position
• This is a great exercise for anyone who is unable to do any of the jumping exercises and is a low-impact replacement
Disclaimer: Make sure to contact a Registered Exercise Professional with Fitness Australia or Physical Activity Australia or an Accredited Exercise Physiologist with ESSA to provide you with instructions on correct form for all exercises.
Total Body Extension Video – Exercise Video Library
For more exercise variations and other great exercises, visit the ‘MV Fitness Exercise Library page or check out or Exercise Video Library.
For more information on Moonee Valley Health & Fitness please come into our Personal Training Ascot Vale Studio or call our team on (03) 9996 0790.
We are a personal training studio near Essendon and Ascot Vale, located at 378 Mt Alexander Road, Travancore 3032 VIC offering one on one personal training, private group training, boot camps and corporate fitness and wellness programs.
Personal Training in Ascot Vale, VIC
Moonee Valley Health and Fitness
378 Mt Alexander Road, Travancore, 3032 VIC
When it comes to working every part of your body, you don’t need an expensive gym membership or fancy machines in your basement. Anywhere you’ve got a chair, you’ve got a way to build muscle and get stronger.
Strength training should be an important part of your regular exercise routine in order to help tackle tough rides and prevent injuries from popping up.
“ is a quick, full-body circuit that incorporates a chair for a strength and cardio workout,” says Charlee Atkins, C.S.C.S., founder of Le Sweat. Because you don’t need a ton of time or equipment, it makes it easy to fit this workout into even your busiest days. Alternatively, you can add it to the end of a longer strength session, cardio workout, or bike ride.
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How to do it: Atkins put together this eight-move workout for three levels: beginner, intermediate, and advanced.
- Beginner: Perform two to three rounds with 8 to 10 reps of each exercise.
- Intermediate: Perform three to four rounds with 12 to 15 reps of each exercise.
- Advanced: Perform five or more rounds with 12 to 15 reps of each exercise.
Tip: Like Atkins does in the video below, place your chair on an exercise mat so it doesn’t slip while you’re working out.
Start with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, toes turned out slightly. Keep your back flat, making a straight line from head to tailbone. Lower down and come right back up. Drive your knees out as your lower down, and push straight through the ground to come up.
2. Feet-Elevated Hip Raise
Start by placing your feet all the way on the chair (toes up, heels pressing into chair), and your shoulders and head at the mat. Press through your heels, lifting the hips up. Don’t overarch your back and keep your core engaged. Pause at the top before slowly lowering down, and repeat.
Make it easier: Take feet off the chair and do a traditional hip raise from the floor.
Make it harder: Single-leg elevated hip raise where you extend one foot into the air.
Start with both hands on the chair, shoulders right over the wrists. Your body should form a straight line from head to heels. Slowly lower down and come right back up.
Make it harder: Perform a regular push-up on the ground.
4. Rear-Foot-Elevated Split Squat (Right)
Start by elevating your left (rear) foot, shoelaces down on the chair. Your right (front) foot should be in standing position with your hip right over the heel. Slowly lower down, angling your back slightly—your body should form a straight line from head to tailbone. Lower down to front hip in line of slightly above the front knee and drive through the front heel to return to standing.
Make it easier: Perform a split squat on the ground.
5. Rear-Foot Elevated Split Squat (Left)
Start by elevating your right (rear) foot, shoelaces down on the chair. Your left (front) foot should be in standing position with your hip right over the heel. Slowly lower down, angling your back slightly—your body should form a straight line from head to tailbone. Lower down to front hip in line of slightly above the front knee and drive through the front heel to return to standing.
Make it easier: Perform a split squat on the ground.
6. Tricep Dip
Start by placing your hands on chair so that your elbows point backwards, not out, and maintain a straight line from head to tailbone. With your knees bent, slowly bend your elbows until they are at a 90-degree angle. Keeping your torso straight, extend arms back to starting position.
Make it harder: Extend your legs so they are straight.
7. Mountain Climber
Start by placing your hands on chair, shoulders right over wrists. Keep your back flat, forming a straight line from head to heels. Bring one knee up to hip height, then bring it back to starting position. Repeat, alternating legs each time.
Make it harder: Place hands on floor instead of chair.
8. Elevated Leg Extension
Start with both feet on the chair, toes tucked under, holding yourself up with your hands. Your shoulders should be directly over wrists. Keeping your back flat, bend knees to 90-degrees. Extend your legs at the knee to straighten your legs.
Make it easier: Complete exercise off the chair.
Danielle Zickl Associate Health & Fitness Editor Danielle specializes in interpreting and reporting the latest health research and also writes and edits in-depth service pieces about fitness, training, and nutrition.
The 6 Exercises You Need To Be Doing
Walk into the gym, and you instantly have exercise options too numerous to count. Heck, you’ll find a whopping 135 different shoulder exercises on this site alone!
So…which one do you do? Plenty of people go the “as many of them as possible” route, but that takes a major time commitment and the willingness to train for an hour or more nearly every day without exception. The rest of us—those who want to spend our time playing sports or just, well, playing—have to be more selective.
Whether you’re looking for the ingredients for a perfect total-body workout, or you’d just like to cherry-pick a move or two to insert into your current routine, this list of essential exercises has you covered. Get stronger at them, and you will get stronger, period. Use them in a muscle-growth rep range of 8-12 reps per set, and you will get more muscular (provided you’re eating enough).
Seriously, training doesn’t have to be complicated. Get better at these six movements first, and see how far they can take you!
Major muscles worked: Chest, front delts, triceps
This is a quintessential move, and not just for powerlifters. Research shows that the pectoralis major is activated significantly more during this exercise than moves like the fly, push-up, and cable cross-over.1 But here’s the thing: Have someone show you how to bench correctly, and you’ll feel it in far more than your chest. Your upper back, legs, and even glutes are getting worked.
“It requires movement at the glenohumeral and ulnar-humeral joints, which means more muscles have to be involved,” says Michael Urti, CSCS, from Retro Fitness in New York City. “Plus, the barbell must be stabilized to execute the movement properly, which activates even more musculature. Your whole body, from head to toe, is working together to move that weight.”
Have someone show you how to bench correctly, and you’ll feel it in far more than your chest. Your upper back, legs, and even glutes are getting worked.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot that can—and does—go wrong with this perfect movement.
“I always see people in the gym gripping the bar too wide, which increases the risk of shoulder injury,” says Urti. He also stresses the importance of squeezing your pecs hard during the peak contraction. “People often limit their range of motion to crank out more reps or give the illusion that they can lift more weight,” he explains. “But that diminishes the effectiveness of the move.”
You’re going down low enough if the bar grazes your chest, but it shouldn’t bounce.
Some people will tell you that a bench press isn’t “functional,” but we’d counter that the strength and muscle it will produce definitely are. So do it, and don’t apologize for it.
Major muscles worked: Quads, glutes, hamstrings
You know the squat is a killer leg move just by the uncontrollable shaking you experience afterward. “Because there’s so much neuromuscular activation when performing this exercise, your body’s hormonal response is heightened, which is ideal for strength gains and fat loss,” says Urti.
The science backs him up. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that squatting increases both testosterone and growth-hormone levels significantly more than leg presses do—and the boost continues post-session, too.2
The squat is too important to do wrong. Have someone who knows their stuff look at yours and give it an honest assessment. If your hips or shoulders are keeping you from being able to do a quality squat, work on your mobility there and do front squats or goblet squats.
Major muscles worked: Biceps
It’s a classic gym image we’ve all seen: Arnold (or someone like him) struggling to curl a huge loaded barbell. Sure, it looks cool, but for most of us, a far better choice is right over in the dumbbell section.
“Using a barbell allows you to lift heavier weight, but it can also lead to muscle imbalances if the stronger side takes over,” says Parker Hyde, MS, CSCS, a doctoral candidate at The Ohio State University. “Using dumbbells can help (or prevent) strength and muscle imbalances and give you enough stimulus for muscle growth.”
“Using dumbbells can help (or prevent) strength and muscle imbalances and give you enough stimulus for muscle growth.” – Parker Hyde, MS, CSCS
As many lifters can tell you, barbell curls—particularly with a straight bar—can also wreak havoc on your wrists. Not so with dumbbells. “Dumbbell curls also allow for a more natural movement, as well as a greater range of motion,” Hyde says. “They give you the option of varying your hand position. Each position alters the activation of the different heads to slightly different training stimulus.”
To get the most out of every rep, select the right load. “The biggest mistake guys make is going too heavy,” adds NYC-based trainer Gerren Liles. “Choose a weight that doesn’t require you to swing and use momentum to lift.”
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Major muscles worked: Upper back, shoulders
One of the classic rules of the weight room—one that gets forgotten all too often, unfortunately—is to pull as much as you push. In other words, for every pressing motion, like a bench or overhead press, make sure you include a pulling motion, like a row variation.
So why this one, rather than, say, a bent-over barbell row? The barbell row is a great movement, but for many lifters, it works the lower back as much as the upper one, so your lumbar cramps up and craps out long before your upper back and shoulders get worked.
This chest-supported row variation simply checks off a ton of boxes without that basic flaw. Along the way, it strengthens crucial posture muscles like the traps, rhomboids, and lats, as well as the perennially neglected rear delts.
In fact, when researchers at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse compared the muscle activation of eight different shoulder exercises, they found that the 45-degree incline row stimulated more activity in the middle and posterior heads than other popular exercises like dumbbell raises and upright rows.4 If our goal is to pick the exercises that offer the most bang for the buck, you could do a lot worse than this one.
Why does this matter? The front or anterior head of your delts will getting plenty of work in overhead presses, bench presses, and even curls. The other heads need love, too.
“If one head is stronger than the other, it can look odd,” says Joe Kekoanui, CSCS, the owner and head coach of Huddle Relative Sports Training in Philadelphia. “Plus, muscle imbalance can lead to injuries down the road.”
The genius of this exercise lies in the forward lean. “You’re lifting a weight as you work against gravity,” says Kekoanui. Just remember to watch your tempo. “Do a row, controlled row. Jacking or exploding through the motion with too much weight can diminish the workload on the intended muscle and put you at risk for injury.”
Major muscles worked: Middle and front delts, trapezius, triceps, upper chest
Standing barbell presses should be a staple of every lifter’s shoulder routine, says Hyde. “They require upper-back and rear-delt stabilization and core activation, as well as strong legs. EMG research suggests that during a standing barbell press, as compared to seated dumbbells, there’s significantly greater muscle activation of both the middle and front delts.3 This is important, since these are the two primary muscles that really create those cannonball, capped delts.”
EMG research suggests that during a standing barbell press, as compared to seated dumbbells, there’s significantly greater muscle activation of both the middle and front delts.
The only downside to the overhead press? It demands a lot of mobility, both in the upper back and shoulders. If you’re not up to the task yet, stick to the dumbbells and work on your mobility until you are. A functional, pain-free overhead press is a goal worth working toward, and it’ll pay off big time when you get there.
Major muscles worked: Hamstrings, glutes, lower back, traps, quads
It’s hard not to obsess over the muscles on the front of your body, since they’re the ones you see most. But neglecting the flipside sets you up for strength imbalances, upping your injury risk. Check multiple posterior muscles off your to-train list in one heavy hit with the deadlift.
“It improves strength and power production in your hips, which is transferrable to many activities,” says Liles. What’s more, your back works hard to stabilize your upper body while you move.
Unfortunately, this exercise is easy to screw up, which sets you up for possible injury. To get it right, maintain a flat back for the entire movement, and let the bar graze your legs as you descend and rise up. As with the squat, get feedback on your form from someone who knows what proper form looks like, or film yourself.
“Barbell deadlifts demand you maintain proper spinal alignment, but this is a skill that’s essential to learn if you want to be safe in the gym, period. It’s worth your time to learn,” says Liles. “But if you’re just starting out or have back limitations, it’s OK to use a hex or trap bar instead of a barbell. You’ll still work the posterior chain with far less stress on the lumbar spine.”
If the conventional deadlift (where your knees are inside your arms) doesn’t feel or look right for you, don’t worry: You have options, such as sumo (legs outside the arms), rack pulls from knee level or lower, or even single-leg deadlifts.
They’re all great choices, and the end result of mastering them will be, as with all these lifts, full-body strength and muscle to make you better at, well, everything!
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5 Exercises You Should Be Doing But You’re Not
Sometimes, in our constant rush to get leaner, faster, and stronger, we forget areas of training that are beneficial to our overall progression. We forget about concepts like stability and symmetry, and forget to work certain muscles that help prevent injury. To combat this, we asked Gold’s Institute Fitness Expert Jay Cardiello to give us five moves that focus on areas you might not think about training but definitely should.
“These exercises are what I call pre-hab, so you avoid rehab,” he says. “They are made for application, not aesthetics. But the funny thing is that when you work these exercises, you achieve better aesthetics because your body is more sound to move big weights in other movements.” By performing these new exercises that focus on overlooked muscle groups, you’ll reduce your chance of injury and increase your quality of life.
Single legged squats
1-3 sets, 2-3 times per week
Begin by standing with your feet together and your hands at your side. Keep your chin parallel to the floor and brace your core. Raise your right foot off the floor, then slowly descend your hips to the floor as low as possible. Return to the original position, then repeat. Perform as many as possible in 30 seconds, then switch to the opposite leg.
What muscle group it works:
Hips and legs
Why you should be doing it:
Performing single leg squats lowers the risk of injury caused by asymmetrical hips. By working each leg separately, you ensure that you build muscle evenly and efficiently rather than letting the stronger side of your body dominate, which can happen when performing traditional squats.
1-3 sets, 2-3 times per week
Lie flat on your back on the floor. Extend your arms up in front of your body, while raising your legs and bending at the knees until they form a 90-degree angle. Brace your core, then extend your right arm back beyond your head while extending your left leg. Keep your left heel off of the floor. Return to the original position. Do as many as you can in a 30-second period, then switch to the opposite arm and leg. Dead Bugs also improve shoulder and hip mobility and range of motion. They also strengthen both important joints, reducing the potential for injury.
Shoulders, abdominals and hips
Dead bugs reduce the potential for injury in your shoulders and hips. Dead bugs are a low impact workout, which is ideal for people with lower back pain, and a great way to strengthen your entire core.
1-3 sets, 2-3 times per week
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Bend slightly forward at the hips. Extend your arms in front of your body as if you were hitting a golf ball. Brace your core and contract your shoulder blades together. At the same time, raise your arms slowly overhead as far as possible. Return to starting position and repeat for 30 seconds.
Rhomboids (upper-back muscles) and shoulders
It strengthens the shoulder joint at every angle. This helps increase range of motion in your arms and shoulders, which in turn limits the potential for injury. Improved range of motion in major joints is a frequently overlooked factor to successful workouts.
1-3 sets, 2-3 times per week
Stand with your feet hip-width apart with your back against the wall. Rest your elbows against the wall at shoulder height with your elbows bent at 90 degrees and your hands extended in front of your body. While keeping your upper back against wall, walk your feet forward until they are 6-8 inches from the wall. Brace your core while pressing your elbows into wall as you move your upper back away from wall. Your elbows should never leave the wall. Press until you are as far away from the wall as possible. Then, slowly return your upperback to the wall. Repeat for 30 seconds.
Shoulders and upper back
Wall Press-offs improve posture and range of motion in the shoulder joints. These outcomes have many benefits, including an ability to workout for longer with heavier weights, limiting spine stress, and a decrease in abnormal joint wear.
5-7 full reps, 2-3 times per week
Grab a dumbbell (start with 10 pounds, then increase) in your right hand. Walk 25 paces. Turn around while switching the dumbbell to your other hand and walk back to the starting position. Make sure to keep your chin parallel to the ground. Walk slowly with your normal stride, and don’t rush. “This move improves balance, symmetry and coordination in the hips and throughout the entire core region,” Cardiello says. The Farmer’s Carry helps you keep your body aligned correctly during your daily life and when you’re lifting heavier weights.
The Farmer’s Carry improves body symmetry, an essential factor in limiting injuries. Strengthening both sides of the body separately builds muscle evenly, tightening your core and keeping your spine aligned correctly.
The 5 Most Underrated Exercises You Should Be Doing
There’s no shortage of exercises you can do to target any muscle you want to work. Just turn to Google and you’ll find lists of the best moves for abs and videos of more lunge variations than you knew existed and don’t forget all the Instagram stars posting challenges for you to try.
It’s not bad to have options … but all of these exercises can make it seem like the only way to work out is to do complex moves that have you flipping upside down, hanging from one leg, holding a kettlebell and doing a fusion yoga-boxing-cycling maneuver.
It doesn’t need to be — and it shouldn’t be! — so complicated.
“The more complicated an exercise, often the less muscle engagement you have, and that decreases the effectiveness,” says Tom Holland, exercise physiologist and author of “Beat the Gym.”
When we favor these moves, we tend to forget about “old-school” exercises like the pushup or squat, which have been standards for years because they work.
“Simple stuff works — but you need to do them correctly,” Holland says. “Just because they are simple doesn’t mean you don’t have to focus and connect to your muscles.”
Try these five underrated exercises that are more effective than we tend to think. You may be surprised at how hard they are when you perform them properly.
“The squat is a functional movement,” says exercise physiologist Fabio Comana, a faculty instructor for the National Academy of Sports Medicine. “We do it all day,” he says. Think about picking up your kids or lifting heavy groceries, sitting in a chair and standing up or hovering over a public toilet. They’re all squats.
Since we squat so often in daily life, we should squat at the gym, too. Plus, contrary to what you think, squats strengthen the muscles around your knees and lower back.
Nail it: Start off with your bodyweight until you perfect your form, then add weight. In both cases, follow Comana’s instructions:
- Engage your abs, which will stabilize your low back and help prevent back pain.
- Push your butt back, hinging at the hips first, then bend your knees to lower toward the floor. Allow your knees to travel forward. It’s OK if they move past your toes, but don’t go too far — your torso and lower leg should be parallel.
- Lower as far as you can without compromising this alignment, making sure the arches of your feet don’t collapse inward.
“Pushups have all the criteria of an amazing exercise,” Holland says. “You can do them anywhere, anytime, you can modify them in infinite ways, they work for everyone from beginner to advanced, they work multiple muscle groups at the same time and they’re super effective.”
As if that’s not enough, Holland adds that many people tend to focus on how much they can lift, but during the negative (lowering) part of an exercise, they tend to use gravity and momentum, rather than controlling a movement. Pushups force you to move more slowly, helping build more strength.
READ MORE > 31-DAY SQUAT, LUNGE AND PUSHUP PLAN
Nail it: To get all the bang out of your pushup buck, there are a few key things Holland recommends:
- Go slowly to maximize your muscle engagement. He lowers on a count of 3 or 4, then presses back up on a count of 1 or 2.
- Perform pushups, not pulses. Rather than banging out tons of reps where you only lower and raise an inch or two, focus on getting a good range of motion. Start at the top with your elbows almost locked and lower until your chest is about an inch or two away from the ground. Then push back up. That is a real pushup.
- Knee pushups count and they help increase that range of motion. Once you can do 10 good knee pushups, try doing one or two regular pushups. Keep adding more as you gain strength, and soon you’ll be able to do a set of 10.
3. GLUTE BRIDGES
If you stopped doing glute bridges because you don’t feel them in your glutes but rather in your hamstrings, low back or front of your thighs — you’re not doing them correctly. That’s no reason to abandon this exercise because, when performed with good form, it’s an effective way to build a stronger butt.
“Glute bridges are to the lower body what pushups are to the upper body — an essential strengthening movement,” says Jonathan Ross, author of “Abs Revealed,” and creator of Funtensity. “They teach the body to move with your booty as the ‘boss’ of all lower-body movements.”
Nail it: Ross recommends peeling yourself off the mat, rather than lifting everything at once. He’s found success with his clients by breaking the bridge into four steps:
- Tilt your hips to eliminate the space between your low back and the mat.
- Then, lift just your butt cheeks off the mat — do not lift your back yet!
- Now lift your lower back.
- Lastly, lift the middle of your back off the mat, which puts you at the top of the glute bridge.
- Return to the starting position, reversing through all four steps one at a time.
Do your glute bridges like this for a week or two, then return to your normal pace. “By then you’ve retrained your body so this new technique of using your glutes should be automatic,” Ross says.
We know what you’re thinking: Are you crazy?!? Crunches are horrible for your back!!!
But not only can crunches help with back pain by strengthening your abs, a study by the American Council on Exercise found they are more effective than other exercises. Researchers placed electrodes on the abdominal muscles of 30 men and women and had them perform 13 different ab exercises. Only five exercises — including crunches on an exercise ball and vertical leg crunches — generated more activity in the rectus abdominis (aka six-pack) than other exercises to be statistically significant.
Nail it: Be sure you do crunches and not sit-ups, Holland says. That means:
- Don’t place your feet under a bar or other brace, which can cause you to use momentum and your hip flexors, possibly leading to pain or injury.
- Place your hands behind your head or, to make it easier, across your chest.
- Look toward the ceiling and imagine you have a tennis ball under your chin to help keep it off your chest.
- With each rep, only curl up a couple of inches so your shoulder blades come off the ground.
5. JUMPING JACKS
Do you loathe when your group fitness instructor tells you to do jumping jacks as part of your warmup? We get it — this old-school move gets your heart pumping and you panting. That’s exactly why you should do them!
“Jumping jacks feature rapid, big, range-of-motion movement in both the upper and lower body, so almost everything is working,” Ross says. “Plus there is a little coordination involved, which heightens mental engagement.”
To make jacks even more effective (plus also more fun), try Ross’ “funky jacks”. “Doing these gets you to pay attention, and the novelty makes you put more energy into it,” he says.
Nail it: To do funky jacks, mix up your arm and leg patterns, alternating between some or all of the following:
- Perform a basic jack, but alternate lifting one arm at a time.
- Give yourself a squeeze: As you jump your legs like normal, alternate between opening your arms to opposite sides and then crossing them in front of your body, almost like you’re hugging yourself.
- Perform the leg movement of a normal jumping jack while moving both arms to the left and then to the right (rather than up and down). This way you have to fight the urge to rotate your torso.
- Rather than moving your arms and legs up and down along your sides, lift and lower them in front of and behind you. You can either move the opposite arm and leg together (i.e. your right arm goes forward as your left leg goes backward) or move the same arm and leg together (i.e. your right arm and leg both go forward as both the left arm and leg move backward)
- Pretend you are holding a jump rope and, with bent elbows, move your arms in the shape of an infinity symbol. Then hop side to side, both legs to the left, then to the right, keeping your feet about shoulder-width apart.
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5 Creative Body-weight Exercises
If asked, most of your clients would agree that there are a lot of options for body-weight exercises. And they would most likely be able to rattle off a list of the usual ones: squats, lunges, push-ups, planks, glute bridges and maybe a few others.
And just as likely, that list of moves will seem a bit dull and uninteresting, and may result in some missed workouts instead of spending some time doing something valuable.
Sometimes a client is travelling or has no time for a trip to the studio or gym and needs an effective, engaging body-weight workout.
We can argue that people shouldn’t need novelty with exercise. And while it is true that people would be well served by doing that list of familiar exercises rather than nothing, the human brain is wired to find novelty more interesting.
We can stubbornly swim against the current and insist that people just do it—or we can exhibit true fitness leadership and provide clients with continually challenging workouts while still following sound principles of movement-based training.
In the spirit of novelty, and using the ACE Integrated Fitness TrainingTM (ACE IFTTM) model as a guide, here are five creative body-weight exercises for when your clients need an equipment-free workout, whether they are traveling or at home.
The ACE IFT model features five movements:
- Bend and lift—a bilateral hip or quad-dominant movement (e.g., squat, deadlift, glute bridge)
- Lunge—a unilateral or asymmetrical lower-body movement (e.g., single-leg squat, lunge)
- Push—a vertical or horizontal pushing movement, either bilateral or unilateral
- Pull—a vertical or horizontal pulling movement, either bilateral or unilateral
Bend and lift; pull; rotation (if doing single-arm option)
Side Plank Get-up
Rotation; lunge; push
Rotation; push; lunge (due to single-leg landings)
Bend and lift
Table -top Bridge
This version of the hip bridge introduces a significant upper-body element with a pull into shoulder extension. This exercise also features rotation if the single-arm reach option as shown in the video is added.
Side Plank Get-up
This exercise is demonstrated on hands, but it can be performed on elbows as well. While the elbow variation may be easier on the arm, it is more challenging on the core and legs, because it requires more torso lift, hip flexibility and leg strength to move the leg into the correct position to get up.
“Flextension” is a term I use to describe flexion and extension when used together. This slower movement integrates balance and coordination with strength. If necessary, a client can gently tap the toes of the moving leg to help with stability. It is better to do the movement well with a little balance help then to barely do it by refusing to tap the foot lightly.
If you combine a Mountain Climber with a Skater Hop, you have Mountain Skater! Ensure the feet stay wide and try to get a little hang time. I often see the feet work their way back together during a set, because this is the more familiar position for a Mountain Climber. When we are challenged, moving quickly and getting fatigued, we often fall back to default movement patterns.
The usual foot position for the squat when performed as an exercise is symmetrical. Yet in life, we rarely squat symmetrically. Consider your foot position when getting up from a chair, the toilet or out of a car—your feet are often in two different positions. Here we are using that reality to create an exercise. At the top of each rep, one foot moves forward, backward, in or out, or rotates to a new position so that each squat is different than the one before. This version is great for adding some internal and external hip rotation, abduction/adduction, and flexion or extension to the body-weight squat.
Finally, note the different speeds used in these movements: normal, fast and slow (fast and slow are simply relative to whatever “normal” speed would be for any individual). Life moves at different speeds and so should your training.
How to Use These Exercises
If a single movement stands out to you, work it into your clients’ programs. You can also use the exercises listed in the order shown to create a circuit of either timed sets (25-second sets is a starting point for most people), or reps (10 each; 20 for movements 4 and 5.) The best part is that a circuit of all five movements performed nonstop for five to 10 minutes would provide a surprising and beneficial challenge for a small investment of time.
When there are endless options for body-weight exercise, people will often do nothing. When the human brain is presented with too much choice and too many options, our response is often to not make a choice at all. These five moves offer you some wonderful options for delivering what people want from you—effective and engaging exercise.
Table of Contents
Are you spending hours in the gym? Or perhaps you can’t afford a gym membership? The good news is, you can always work out at home. Don’t let a lack of time or equipment keep you from reaching your fitness goals & new year resolutions!
When done right and combined with a balanced diet, bodyweight training can be just as effective as traditional gym workouts. From pistol squats and push-ups to mountain climbers, there are countless exercises you can try.
Some build power and strength, while others torch fat and ignite your metabolism.
Depending on your fitness level, you can perform an advanced bodyweight workout or one that incorporates basic movements. If you choose the latter option, try different variations of your favorite exercises as you progress.
Let’s take bodyweight squats, for example. This movement is so simple that even a kid can do it. For a more challenging workout, try the single-leg squat, the Bulgarian split squat, or the pistol squat.
If you’re trying to get leaner, experiment with plyometric squats. The jump squat and other cardio bodyweight exercises will skyrocket your heart rate and burn massive calories.
But how effective are the best bodyweight workouts compared to gym exercises? Can you really get ripped to the bone or build mass? Keep reading to find out!
Do Bodyweight Exercises Build Muscle?
A well-thought bodyweight workout can help you build mass up to a point. It won’t turn you into the Incredible Hulk, but it’s ideal for strength and conditioning routines. If you’re a newbie, you can expect to put on muscle.
From a health perspective, bodyweight exercises are just as beneficial as traditional strength training. But we’ll discuss that later.
Let’s start with a recent study published in Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine, which assessed the effects of low-intensity bodyweight training on older adults.
Subjects who used this approach experienced an increase in leg strength and improved motor function in a relatively short time.
In another study conducted on elderly people, those who performed bodyweight exercises reported significant improvements in lower limb muscle force and power.
Furthermore, bodyweight exercises have been shown to:
- increase muscle mass
- build strength
- improve fat distribution.
It’s interesting to note that in one study, bodyweight training activated the majority of the leg muscles to the same extent as bilateral leg presses.
As you might have guessed, these studies involved basic exercises targeted at seniors. Yet, they were effective. Now imagine what you could accomplish with an advanced bodyweight training routine!
While this training method has its limitations, it does offer several benefits.
Bodyweight workouts can improve your balance, flexibility, and range of motion while burning fat. On top of that, beginners can build muscle and strength with exercises that require no equipment.
Another advantage of bodyweight training is that it makes it easier to hone your technique and prevent injuries. For example, if you perform bodyweight squats with perfect form, you’ll likely do barbell squats correctly as well.
Why Bodyweight Training Works
All strength training programs have one thing in common: they require a gradual increase in the stress placed on the body during exercise. This concept is known as progressive overload and plays a key role in hypertrophy.
Whether you want to build mass, gain strength, or both, you must constantly challenge your muscles to prevent them from adapting to training. This can be done in several ways, including:
- Increase the resistance
- Complete more reps or sets
- Decrease rest time between sets
- Work out more often (increase training frequency)
- Add new exercises to your routine
Muscles grow bigger and stronger in response to a training stimulus. If you do the same workouts over and over, your body will eventually adapt. That’s why it’s crucial to force your muscles to do more than they’re used to.
The result is an increase in mass, strength, power, and endurance.
For example, when you’re at the gym, you can gradually increase the load to keep your muscles guessing. If you typically do barbell squats with 200 pounds, add an extra 20 pounds during each workout to make it more challenging.
The Convenience of Bodyweight Training
When you work out at home, you don’t have access to a barbell and weight plates (unless you have your own home gym).
However, you can still increase the demands you place on your body by trying different squat variations or adding a few extra reps or sets to the mix. Over time, this approach can help you get bigger and stronger.
If you’re the skinny type, you might be thinking that your bodyweight isn’t enough for this kind of training. Not really. According to a study in the Journal of Applied Physiology, muscle growth can occur using as little as 30% of the maximum load you can lift.
Again, this depends largely on your fitness level.
A beginner, for instance, will get significantly better results from bodyweight training than a pro bodybuilder. Experienced athletes, though, may use bodyweight exercises to main lean mass and overall conditioning.
If you’re on the heavier side, you may have trouble doing push-ups and other bodyweight movements. But you can modify most exercises to accommodate your weight.
For example, you could do kneeling push-ups instead of regular push-ups.
Skyrocket Your Metabolism with Bodyweight Exercises
Bodyweight exercises may not be the best choice for packing on mass, but they torch massive calories. Due to their intense nature, they raise your heart rate and boost your metabolism, so you’ll keep burning calories for hours after finishing your workout.
The key is to choose the right moves for your goals and stick to your training routine. The higher the intensity, the more calories you’ll burn.
A research article published by the American College of Sports Medicine discusses the benefits of high-intensity bodyweight training for fat loss.
As its authors point out, this workout method can provide an adequate training load as long as the intensity is high enough for both aerobic and resistance exercises.
What makes it so effective is its dynamic nature, which elevates your heart rate, as well as the short breaks between sets. This approach ensures maximum fat burning in minimal time.
Furthermore, bodyweight exercises — especially when used as part of a circuit training routine — increase the maximum rate of oxygen consumption (VO2 max), a marker of cardiorespiratory health.
In other words, this training method may improve cardiovascular health and physical endurance.
But that’s not all.
Bodyweight Workouts May Reduce Risk of Diabetes
According to a study cited in the above review, bodyweight training may help reduce insulin resistance, which in turn, can lower diabetes risk. Working out for as little as 8 minutes per week at an intensity higher than 100% VO2 max may improve insulin response.
For best results, create a bodyweight workout plan consisting of exercises that meet the following criteria:
- Engage all major muscle groups
- Can be easily modified to increase or reduce training intensity
- Are safe and appropriate for your fitness level
- Allow you to use common items from around the house, such as a bench, chair, or stairs
- Can be performed with little or no rest in between sets or exercises
Also, make sure your workout is balanced overall.
For example, it’s not recommended to only perform exercises that target your arms or back muscles, such as push-ups and pull-ups. This can lead to strength and muscular imbalances.
We all have a friend or two with chicken legs… Don’t be THAT friend!
Discover the Best Cardio Bodyweight Exercises
As you might have guessed, some bodyweight exercises are better than others for fat loss. Sure, you can torch fat with push-ups, Russian twists, glute bridges, and other strength movements, but you’ll get faster results by using a different approach.
Ideally, combine strength and cardio bodyweight exercises. Or dedicate a day or two to cardio training every week, depending on your goals.
Here are some great fat-burning movements that require no equipment:
- Step-ups with knee raises
- Standing long jumps
- Squat jumps
- Tuck jumps
- Box jumps
- Jumping jacks
- Jumping lunges
- Plank jacks
- Mountain climbers
- Flutter kicks
- Plyo push-ups
- Squat thrusts
A cardio bodyweight workout can include anywhere from two or three to 10 or more exercises. Intensity is the key.
For example, you could try the following circuit:
- Plyo push-ups: 20 reps
- Burpees: 20 reps
- Mountain climbers: 20 reps
- Squat jumps: 20 reps
- Jumping lunges: 20 reps
Better yet, try HIIT or Tabata for maximum fat burning. As mentioned earlier, cardio bodyweight exercises will skyrocket your heart rate, which makes them ideal for high-intensity interval training.
4-Minute Bodyweight Tabata Workouts
Tabata is clinically proven to burn fat and improve cardiorespiratory endurance. Compared to steady-state cardio, it provides better results in less time. A typical workout takes just 4 minutes and alternates between high-intensity exercise and short breaks or lower intensity training.
According to the American Council on Exercise, Tabata may raise the basal metabolic rate for up to 48 hours after training. Therefore, it’s one of the most efficient ways to burn fat.
Tabata and bodyweight training are a perfect match. Try these workouts — and remember to move as quickly as you can:
- Plyo push-ups: 20 seconds
- Rest: 10 seconds
- Mountain climbers: 20 seconds
- Rest: 10 seconds
- Plank jacks: 20 seconds
- Rest: 10 seconds
- Russian twists (at a fast pace): 20 seconds
- Rest: 10 seconds
- Squat thrusts: 20 seconds
- Rest: 10 seconds
- Plyo push-ups: 20 seconds
- Rest: 10 seconds
- High-knees: 20 seconds
- Rest: 10 seconds
- Plank jumps: 20 seconds
- Rest: 10 seconds
If you’re just getting started, choose just two or three exercises, such as plank jacks and burpees.
Perform one exercise at high intensity for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, do the second exercise for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, and repeat for 4 minutes.
Here’s another bodyweight Tabata workout you may try:
- Squat jumps: 20 seconds
- Rest: 10 seconds
- Box jumps: 20 seconds
- Rest: 10 seconds
- Burpees: 20 seconds
- Rest: 10 seconds
- Mountain climbers: 20 seconds
- Rest: 10 seconds
- Plyo push-ups: 20 seconds
- Rest: 10 seconds
- Skater hops: 20 seconds
- Rest: 10 seconds
- Box shuffles: 20 seconds
- Rest: 10 seconds
- Plyo push-ups: 20 seconds
- Rest: 10 seconds
Get Creative with Your Routine
The above exercises — and others — don’t require any equipment. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t improvise.
Most folks have a bunch of stuff around the house, from jump ropes and wooden boxes and old dumbbells. Any of these items can be incorporated into a bodyweight workout.
If you don’t have any equipment, you can buy basic accessories for just a few bucks. Let’s see a few examples:
- Resistance bands
- Adjustable dumbbells
- TRX or other suspension training kits
- Battle ropes (depending on how much space you have available)
- Wooden box
- Jump rope
- Heavy punching bag
- Pull-up bar
- Balance trainer
- Medicine balls
- Ab wheel
- Step platform
Kettlebells, for instance, are ideal for dozens of exercises and can take your workouts to a whole new level. Some models cost as little as $12. A single 35-pound kettlebell is more than enough for beginners.
So what can you do with this versatile piece of equipment? Here are some of our favorite kettlebell exercises:
- Kettlebell swings
- Pistol squats
- Goblet squats
- Farmer’s walk
- Single-arm rows
- Single-arm floor press
- Reverse lunges
- Russian twists
- Turkish get-ups
- Clean and press
- Single-arm deadlifts
- Single-leg deadlifts
- High pulls
- Overhead presses
Many of these exercises don’t require a kettlebell or a dumbbell, but using one will add resistance and force your muscles to work harder.
For example, a 2010 study conducted by the American Council on Exercise required subjects to perform a 20-minute kettlebell snatch workout.
The study participants burned about 272 calories on average, not counting the additional energy expenditure resulting from the anaerobic effort.
As the researchers note, most subjects torched approximately 20.2 calories per minute, which is a lot more compared to traditional cardio and strength workouts. That’s pretty much the same as running a 6-minute mile pace!
What’s the Best Bodyweight Workout for Mass and Strength Gains?
Contrary to popular belief, bodyweight training doesn’t limit your options in terms of exercise variety.
Although you may not be able to do the same exercises you’d do in a gym, there are plenty of other movements you can try. Some are just as good as or even better than traditional gym workouts.
If you’re trying to build mass and strength, choose exercises that engage the major muscle groups. Use slow, controlled motion and focus on the muscles targeted during your workout.
Then try more challenging variations or add new exercises to the mix.
Push-ups, for instance, can be performed in dozens of ways. Depending on your fitness level, try the following variations:
- Wall push-ups
- Standard push-ups
- Single leg raised push-ups
- Push-ups on the knees
- Elbow push-ups
- Single leg pike push-ups
- Alligator push-ups
- Knee-to-chest push-ups
- Diamond push-ups
- Push-ups with the feet elevated
- Handstand push-ups
- Pushup jacks
- Wide push-ups
- Side-to-side push-ups
- Triple clap push-ups
Each version targets different muscles.
The diamond push-up, for example, is particularly effective for the triceps, but it also targets your pecs, delts, and biceps.
The single-leg push-up, on the other hand, engages your obliques and lower chest muscles as well as the triceps, anterior delts, biceps, and upper chest muscles.
The same goes for bodyweight squats. Some squat variations are best for building strong quads, while others will shape your glutes and hamstrings.
You can try the sumo squat, the goblet squat, Bulgarian split squats, and more.
When creating a bodyweight workout plan, follow the same rules that apply to traditional gym exercises.
Split your routine to target different muscle groups on different days, watch your form, take one or two days off training each week. Most importantly, eat for your goals, whether it’s fat loss or hypertrophy.
Get the Most Out of Your Bodyweight Workout
As you can see, bodyweight training is anything but boring.
From handstand push-ups and lunges to box jumps, there are hundreds of different exercises that require no equipment. The key is to continually increase the challenge and keep your muscles guessing.
Above all, be consistent and stick to your training routine. Since you can do these exercises anytime, anywhere, you have no excuse to skip your workouts.
You don’t need a fancy gym to get your workout done. Put in time and effort, and the results will follow.
Looking for some inspiration? Check out our guide to best home workouts and exercises for all fitness levels!
If you still have doubts, see how free weights compare to gym machines and consider the advantages of working out at home.
What have been some of your fitness achievements in 2019? What are your goals for 2020? Do you ever use bodyweight workouts or are interested in trying? Share your experiences and any tips you have in the comments section below!
Do you have a suspicion that each time you bring that second leg up into tabletop position you get a an abdominal bulge or doming or a little jolt?
As tabletop legs is the starting position and foundation for so many of the advanced pilates exercises it is absolutely essential to master the art of getting in and out of the position without doming the abdomen. Otherwise, if each time you move up into position you bulge or dome – what is it that you are actually training? I would suggest a pot belly?
This is a really important technique to master if you want to correct a divarification and protect your pelvic floor.
It is a hard challenge to get right – but so satisfying when you do. You will know when you have got it because suddenly the whole action feels weightless and even effortless, the pelvic floor area feels included and the back feels safe and relaxed. And it makes you want to smile!
Tip 1: put your feet on a step. Practice during the week at home with your feet on a small step (eg child’s step). This slightly flattens the neutral spine and means you ‘start’ 1/3 of the way into the leg lift. This allows you to experience the ‘correct’ feeling over and over again until your brain is happy with the sensation of not needing to ‘flick’. Then take it down to a phone-book height and last of all back to floor level.
Tip 2: go onto tip toe first. Sneaky little manoevre (but a better cheat than ‘the bulge’). First leg up, then move onto the tip toe of the second leg before you try to lift it. Your brain will feel the sense of the weight to come and make some subtle core adjustments to half prepare you so that the full lift will be easier.
Tip 3: you get what you think about! I know I say this over and over again, sorry. But it is true! So here is my as usual, bit out the box, visualisation.
Boats on a beach
Visualisation to help get legs up into tabletop without a bulge
You are on a pebble beach that slopes down to the water. Think of the first leg coming up as a light-weight rubber dingy which you have to pull by its rope up the beach. All it takes is a light tug and up it comes. Now take the rope of the second boat – a big speed boat – much more unwieldy – if you just tug that rope you are not going anywhere – you will just get a jolt – so rather take up the slack, lean into the rope, let the tension build and build below the surface, until the boat ‘wants’ to come up the beach, then once you have got that initial momentum started – you’re off!
Are you more of a visual learner? Here is my first ever video, showing the 3 tips. Even a Playmobil boat (and dog) to help with the visualisation.
Did this post help you? Please let me know in the comments below if any of these tips worked for you? Or do you have a trick yourself that would inspire or help others? Your comments inspire me and give me ideas what to write about next. Thank you.
The Best Exercises for Your Lower Abs
Perform each exercise for 30 seconds with 10 seconds of rest between moves. Complete the entire circuit 1 to 3 times.
1. Heel Tap
Lie faceup, hands under your butt, knees bent, feet lifted into table top position. Slowly lower your flexed feet forward until your heels barely touch the ground. Squeeze your abdominals to help raise your feet back up to table top.
2. Mountain Climber
From a high plank position, with your body straight and hips level, lift right foot and draw right knee to chest between your hands. As you return right leg to plank, lift left foot and draw left knee to chest between your hands. Continue to alternate as quickly as possible, keeping your core tight and without hiking your hips.
Lie faceup, hands behind your head, lifting head and shoulders off the floor. Using your abdominals, lift legs slightly off the ground and scissor kick, alternating one up and one down. Focus on not straining your neck or jutting your chin forward.
4. Slider Pike
You’ll need sliders or towels to pull off this move.
Start in high plank position with both feet on sliders. Squeeze low abs and pull feet toward your hands, lifting your hips toward the ceiling into a pike position. Slowly push feet out to lower into starting position.
Make it easier: Perform sliding mountain climbers, moving one leg forward at a time.
5. Straight Leg Raise
From a faceup position on the floor, place hands under your low back and brace your core. Lift straight legs slowly off the ground, bringing them to 90-degrees, then slowly lower them back to the ground. If you have any pain in your lower back, do not do this move.
Pull-Up Bar Variation
If you’re prone to low back pain or have access to a pull-up bar, try this variation instead. Holding a pull-up bar, brace your core and lift your legs off the ground to hip height. Beginners can bend their knees, or you can keep your legs straight (hinging only a the hip) for more of a challenge. Slowly lower the legs to start position.
6. Cross Body Climber
From a high plank position with your body straight, hips level, and core braced, lift right leg and draw right knee toward left elbow. As you return right leg to plank, lift left leg and draw left knee toward right elbow. Continue to alternate.
7. Slider Knee Tuck
You’ll need sliders or towels for this move.
From a high plank position with both feet on sliders, brace core and pull both feet in toward your chest. Focus on not letting your shoulders hunch and not allowing your upper body to lean forward too much. Push feet back to return to high plank starting position.
Stability Ball Variation
If you have a stability ball handy, try this variation instead: Start in plank position with feet on a stability ball. Keeping core engaged, draw both knees in toward your chest, then slowly extend legs back out to starting position.
8. Rolling Plank
Start in low plank position on forearms. Hold for 10 seconds, then roll on to your right elbow, stacking feet, and hold side plank for 10 seconds, engaging your obliques. Roll back through center and over to the left elbow, stacking feet, and hold 10 seconds. Continue to alternate, keeping core engaged and not letting your hips drop.
9. Roll Up
Lie faceup, with legs extended, knees together, feet flexed, arms overhead. Take a big inhale. As you exhale, lift arms up and forward, and use your abs to slowly roll up to a sitting position. Squeezing abs again, slowly lower down to starting position.