You can try the trendiest of routines, buy the best of equipment and dabble with the fanciest of gadgets; but sometimes simple is what’s best for the workout you really need. Bodyweight exercises, which involve using the weight of your own body to create resistance (think: pushups, sit-ups, squats and other classics), are not only versatile and easy to do, they’re ideal for anyone looking to build strength, improve tone or increase balance without having to leave the comfort of home.
A bodyweight workout can be done anywhere, any time, and it’s especially helpful for exercising out more than one muscle group at once. Adding just a few – or all – of the following moves also is a great way to increase the intensity of your regular workout. Here are eight of the best ones to try:
1. Jump lunges
- Start in a lunge position with one foot forward, knee bent (making sure knee is not over front toes) and back knee nearly touching the ground.
- Extending through both legs, jump as high as possible, switch the position of your legs, then move the front leg to the back and the rear leg to the front.
- Land gently into the lunge position and repeat.
Tip: Maintain core muscle engagement throughout the movement and make sure to keep your front heel in contact with the ground as you begin and end each lunge movement.
2. Timed hangs
If you can’t do a full pull-up, no worries! Just start with hanging on the pull-up bar. By doing this you are building strength in your grip and shoulders.
- Begin with hands facing away from the body, grab hold of a pull-up bar and keep core tight.
- Hang with arms straight and feet off the ground for about 10 seconds.
- Repeat at least 5 times.
Tip: Try to keep the focus on keeping shoulder blades level and not around your neck.
3. Vertical knee raises
Use the dip/raise machine for this exercise.
- Using the hanging straps on the parallel bars place your back against the pad and place arms through the straps and hold on to the top of the strap.
- Let legs dangle and then lift knees slowly toward your chest. This movement should be controlled as you bring your knees up until thighs are parallel to the floor.
- Return legs down to starting position slowly (don’t let legs just drop.
Tip: Make sure grip pads are well under your arm pits and that your grip is strong.
- Beginning in a seated position, contract your core and ab muscles, then lift legs up to a 45-degree angle.
- Reach arms straight forward toward your shins.
- Maintain a strong core and spin.
- To begin hold the “V” position for several seconds.
- Return slowly to starting position and just before you reach the floor, stop and hold this position for an extra few seconds.
- Repeat several times, working up your repetitions.
For a modified version, instead of keeping your legs straight throughout the movement, keep your knees bent at a 90-degree angle throughout the bodyweight exercise.
Tip: Make sure not to round the back at the top of the exercise, this will cause strain on the lower back.
5. Inclined push-ups
- Place hands shoulder-width apart on the floor holding your torso up and have toes on top of a flat bench (this allows the body to be elevated).
- Just like when doing a regular push-up, lower yourself toward the floor until your chest almost touches the ground,
- Press your upper body back up to the starting position.
- Pause at the top and repeat.
Tip: Keep your torso strong and stiff during the exercise and head in alignment with your body with eyes to the floor.
6. Jump/pop squats
- Begin standing with your feet hip-width apart.
- Sit with hips back and down into a squat position (imagine sitting in a chair). Then jump straight up into the air pushing through the heels and landing softly back into the squat position.
- Immediately repeat.
Tip: Concentrate on controlling the movement and landing softly.
7. One-legged squats
These one-legged squats are great for the core, balance, legs and glutes.
- Start by standing on one leg with your knee slightly bent and foot pointing straight ahead. Weight should be centered over the ball of your foot.
- Keep your upper body erect with pelvis tucked under and shoulder blades back (no rounded shoulders).
- Center your knee over the ball of your foot and lower yourself into a squat position. Begin with a slight squat, but as you get stronger try working your way closer to the ground.
- Try to repeat for 10 squats on each leg.
Tip: if you find yourself off balance when starting this exercise, begin by balancing on one leg until you can stand on one leg for 30 seconds.
8. Glute bridges
- Begin lying flat on the floor with hands by your side and knees bent. Feet are placed shoulder width apart.
- Lift hips off the floor, pushing with your heels while keeping your back straight. Hold at the top for a second.
- Slowly go back to the starting position and repeat.
Tip: for a challenge try doing these with one leg extended straight out.