The ABC’s of Bodyweight Exercises

The ABC’s of Bodyweight Exercises on

Think you need a gym to get your fitness on? Think again. Bodyweight exercises are free, convenient, and they can work for everyone.

Getting in shape doesn’t have to be hard. Sure, hitting the gym will give you a lot of options, but if you don’t want to pay for an expensive gym membership, then an anytime-anywhere bodyweight routine is a perfect solution. They are a great way to see fast improvements in muscle tone, strength, conditioning, and overall health.

Bodyweight-based exercises, like plyometrics and high-intensity interval training (HIIT), are celebrated for their effectiveness and yield some of the highest fitness gains in the shortest amount of time.

Here are just a few benefits of exercising using your own bodyweight

1. Combines cardio and strength training. Incorporating quick cardio bursts, like a minute of jumping jacks or burpees, in between strength movements, like push-ups or squats, is a great way to increase your heart rate while building muscle in your targeted areas.

2. Pumps up your metabolism and burns fat quickly. Believe it or not, bodyweight-based exercises and interval training can have a substantial impact on your body’s natural ability to burn calories through something called the afterburn effect. This effect, otherwise known as post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), allows you to burn calories even after you’re done exercising.

3. Builds core strength, balance, and flexibility. Core exercises give you more than just a rock-hard stomach. They engage all twenty-nine muscles that make up your body’s mid-section, which can improve posture, balance, and overall performance. Regular bodyweight training can also lead to increased flexibility and reduce the chance of exercise-induced injuries.

4.  Practice anywhere. Since there is no equipment involved, bodyweight exercises can be done anywhere. At home, on the road, in the park, you name it. All you need is a little bit of room, and you can squeeze in your workout where ever you are.

Before starting any routine, it is important to understand the basics if you want to get the most out of the movements and to avoid injury. Here are a few of the most effective bodyweight exercises to master before moving into a routine:

Squats: Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and keep your feet parallel. Bend your knees and lower your hips like you are sitting in an imaginary chair. Keep your thighs parallel to the floor and the weight in your heels. From there, rise back up and straighten your legs completely, squeezing your glutes at the top.

Lunges: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Put weight on your right foot, lift your opposite knee, and step forward into a lunge. Your front knee should be at a 90-degree angle, and your left knee should hover just above the ground. From there, push up with your right foot and step your left foot back to complete one forward lunge.

Push-ups: Starting in a plank position, bend your elbows and lower your chest to the floor. Stop as soon as your elbows are in line with your shoulders, and then slowly straighten your arms. You can modify this movement by resting your knees on the ground.

Tricep dips: Start seated with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your hands behind you, directly under your shoulders, with your hands pointing to your feet. Bend your elbows straight back keeping them parallel with each other, and then use your triceps to press back up. This can also be done using a bench, stable chair, etc.

Burpees: Start in a standing position and then lower yourself into a crouching squat. From there, jump your feet into a plank position, do a basic pushup, then jump your feet forward toward your hands and jump straight up, getting as much height as you can.

Mountain climbers: Starting in a plank position, engage your core and bring your left knee toward your chest, keeping your toes off of the ground. Return to plank position and switch legs, bringing your right knee toward your chest. Continue switching legs and quicken your pace, almost like you’re running in place.

Plank: Lay on your stomach, position your hands just below your shoulders, and push yourself up into your hands and your toes. Engage your core and keep your spine parallel to the floor. Keep your hands underneath your shoulders and your feet hip-distance apart. Hold this position for 30-60 seconds before lowering back down.

Forearm plank: Begin on the floor resting on your forearms and knees. Extend your legs behind you and come into a plank position. Keep your arms parallel with one another, and engage your core to keep your spine parallel to the floor. Hold this position for 30-60 seconds before lowering back down.

Sit-ups: Lay on your back with bent knees and your feet flat on the ground. Place your hands on opposite shoulders, engage your core, slowly lift your head followed by your shoulder blades until you are in a full sit-up position.

Once you’re comfortable with the basics, you can combine those principles to create effective bodyweight routines. Here are a few to try:

 1.  Basic bodyweight circuit (1 round, 2-3 times a week)

• 20 squats

• 10 push-ups

• 20 lunges (10 each leg)

• 30-second plank

• 20 mountain climbers

2.  HIIT circuit (3 rounds, 1 minute of work, 20 seconds of rest)

• Push-ups

• Squats

• High kneesTricep dips

• Burpees

3.  Tabata circuit (8 rounds, 20 seconds of work, 10 seconds of rest)

• Squats

• Sit-ups

• High knees (jog in place)

• Lunges

• Burpees

• Plank

While fitness routines can vary from person to person, bodyweight exercises can be effective for everyone. If you pair physical fitness with smart nutrition, you’ll notice immediate changes in your body, mood, and energy.

Have a great workout!

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