When looking for a great workout without a lot of frills or equipment needed, look no further than using your own body weight as resistance. Using your body weight against itself is an efficient, time-proven way to get in shape and to gain strength.
Here are 6 top exercise ideas and descriptions using bodyweight resistance to get a great workout.
1. Classic Push-ups
Nothing can beat a classic Push-up move to help work multiple upper-body muscle groups at once. A basic Push-up, bent or straight legged, can work the chest, back, triceps and biceps. By modifying hand grips and positions, you can more fully target each of these areas. For instance, a regular Push-up, with feet together and hands shoulder-width apart, works the chest and triceps. This is also the most stable position if you are just starting to do this exercise. Bent-leg Push-ups are a good option to take pressure off of weak shoulders, or for people starting with low upper-arm strength. Always be careful to work up gradually to any new movement or exercise, and try to keep most movements within the frame of the body, to protect the shoulders.
2. Standing squat
The Basic Squat is another great bodyweight movement that can target multiple muscle groups in the lower body. Standing with feet shoulder-width apart, arms stretched outward with palms down, bend the knees to about 90 degrees, and then slowly push back up, straightening legs. Try to keep your heels on the ground as much as possible. This move will work the quadriceps, the glutes, and will stretch the calves and Achilles.
The Pull-up is a workhorse when it comes to toning the back, and is perhaps one of the most recognized bodyweight exercises around. You can do the Pull-up from a semi-seated position using a low bar to decrease the difficulty, or from a high position with your body fully hanging, and utilizing all of your bodyweight as resistance. The key is to start small and gradually work your way up to bearing more of your own weight as you get stronger.
4. Standing Dead-lift
The Standing Dead-lift is good for working the lower back, glutes, and quadriceps muscle groups. Standing with feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent, arms hanging down in front of you, bend over at the waist, stopping at about 90 degrees. Then, slowly bend back up, returning to standing position, squeezing your glutes and legs as you reach standing position.
Build up slowly with this exercise, as you can easily overwork the lower and mid back muscles, turning a great workout into a painful one.
5. Leg lifts
Leg lifts are good for targeting the abdominals, and need not put strain on your back like some other abdominal exercises. Sit on a chair halfway back (pillow under the butt or back optional) and grab the seat with your hands. Straighten your legs so that they’re straight out in front of you, and your body makes a 90 degree angle. When you feel balanced in this position, you can lower your legs below the seat level, and then raise them up, making a pike position with your body. Then, bring them back down to 90 degrees again. That’s one rep. Continue for 10-20 reps per set. Start with one set and add on as you feel stronger.
This is the classic move for strengthening your lower and mid back. Lay face down on the floor, with your arms straight over your head. At the same time, raise your arms and legs off of the floor, like you’re flying. Don’t push too hard – this exercise is surprisingly effective. 10 reps to start are enough, building to 20. Do not do this if you have any back problems.
Bodyweight-based exercises are an easy way to get a great workout at little or no cost. Each of these exercises is easy to do at home or in the office, without any equipment, using just your body weight for resistance.
To make your workout even more challenging, look for our follow-up article, Use Bodyweight For a Great Workout, Part II.
Remember, always check with your doctor before starting any new exercise program to make sure it is right for you.
Julie Latterner is a freelance fitness and lifestyle writer.