Image by: tpsdave
By Robert Spencer
I’m a big fan of body-weight exercises because they are versatile and can be done anywhere: at a gym, at home, while on vacation, etc. On a box. With a fox. All right, you get the gist.
They are also great if you are just starting an exercise routine. Using your own body-weight to add muscle is an inexpensive way to work your nerve to going back to the gym. Feel that burn? Yeah, those are the 10 pounds of McRibs attached to your love handles.
Below are a list of my favorite body weight exercises. By “body-weight” I mean that you will be using your own body weight as tension and resistance for these moves.
Regular lunges are great for your glutes and your thighs. They help strengthen, stretch, and build those muscles. Did you know that there are variations to regular lunges? My favorite (mind you, I’m using the term “favorite” loosely here) is the “Reverse Lunge Knee-Up”.
Stand on one foot and step back into a reverse lunge with your other foot. When you’re down, push down with your front foot and bring your other knee up to your chest. Then step back with that foot and stand up. Repeat. Don’t forget to switch feet halfway through.
Amp up your push-ups by doing this different plyometric version: Lower yourself into push-up position with your elbows wide. Tighten your core, and as you get to the “up” part of the push-up, lift your legs (keep your body straight, keep your butt in), and push up with your hands so you’re momentarily off the ground. I’ve heard of this last bit referred to as “an explosive motion” by my trainers.
It’s like this without the sissy resistance bands for your feet:
Image by: Positively Fit
If that’s too easy for you, try some of these other push up styles to intensify your body weight workout.
#3) Plyometric Deadlift
Stand on one leg and bend forward at the hips, lifting the other leg back as you do. You’ll end up looking like one of those cheesy drinking bird toys. (except don’t bounce like those birds do – that will cause injuries). Anyway, make sure that your body and leg are parallel to the ground.
Kick it up a notch by swinging your arms forward and jumping up off the floor. Land and lower yourself back down to the starting position.
#4) Box Drill
This exercise will build your cardio as well as your calf muscles. Imagine a square on the floor (or tape a square onto your floor). While on one foot, hop onto each corner of the box (don’t forget to bend your knee). Make various patterns and routines. Switch legs and reverse the pattern for the other leg.
This is a great exercise but you have to watch out for shin splints. The sudden increase in muscle work (for your calves) could cause this painful “overuse injury”. If you notice that your muscles around your shins (tibia) are beginning to hurt, stop what you are doing.
These can be a result of bad shoes, over-training, or bad form. Make sure that the Box Drill isn’t the first exercise that you perform during your workout – these tips should decrease the chance of shin splints.
Burpees are a classic body-weight workout that effectively incorporates your whole body. Stand up, then bed down into a squat position, go down into push-up position, complete one push up, then kick your feet back in (to return back to the squat position). Leap up as high as you can and then repeat the motions.
Planks may look easy but if you’re not in shape, they can really kick you in the gut. If you’ve never tried a plank before, here’s your chance.
Lie face down with your forearms on the floor, parallel to the length of your body. Tighten your core and lift your legs up so that your entire body is parallel to the ground. You should only be supported by your forearms right now. Hold it for about a minute, then slowly lower yourself back down to the ground. You can also try it with your arms straight or on an uneven surface, like this crazy guy…
Image by: Jgcastor
#7) Russian Twist
This one will work your core. It seems simple until you try it out and try to control your motions. This is one of those exercises where slow and steady will win the race.
All right, sit on the floor with your knees bent and your feet together. Bend (at the hips) back so that your back is at a 45 degree angle from the floor. With your arms straight in front of you, twist your torso toward your left side, then slowly work your way to the right. That’s one rep. Now do 15.
If you want to push this one further, try it as you hold a medicine ball in your hands. Okay, so it’s not a body-weight exercise anymore, but it’ll give you an extra challenge.