Fitness experts repeatedly tout the benefits of strength training. In a short amount of time, lifting weights can help you amp up your metabolism, burn more calories both during periods of activity and rest, and tone body parts perfect for the upcoming bikini season. However, if you’re new to the weight room or prefer to get your fitness on at home (and thus have limited access to barbells and dumbbells), strength training can feel daunting, if not impossible. After all, it’s about pumping iron, right?
While equipment-based weightlifting is one way to go about it, body weight alone is another alternative. From your head to your toes, you’re carrying around everything you need to reap the benefits of strength training.
Whether you’re a lifting newb, have strength-training skills, or fall somewhere in-between, the following body-weight exercises have you covered.
Pushups, even when done on your knees, target a lot of upper body muscles, including your shoulders, pecs, triceps, and abs. Use proper form, with your hands below your shoulders and your elbows tucked in–not winged out. Keep your body straight, avoiding the sinking of your hips or the rising of your butt.
Intermediate: Pike Pushups
While you’ll work similar muscles as used in a pushup, a pike pushup adds more intensity to your shoulders and upper back. To do the pike version, place your hands and feet on the ground so that your body forms an upside down “V.” Spread your feet about hip-width distance and plant your hands slightly in front of your head. Bend your arms with elbows going out this time, and lower your head toward the floor. If this movement is too easy, raise your feet on a box or stairs, with the goal of getting your body in more of 90-degree angle. Raise and lower the same way.
Advanced: Handstand Pushups
Take your pushup to the extreme by completely inverting it. Start by using a wall to kick yourself up into a handstand, resting your feet on the wall for balance. Lower your head to the floor and then push back up to the starting position. If you’re new to these, give yourself yoga block to aim for, since reaching the floor will likely take more strength building.
Beginner: Sit Ups
Sit ups strengthen your core, including your abdominals, obliques, and lower back. There are lots of variations, but the most common is to lay on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat. With a tight core, lift your upper body off the floor, making sure not to yank on your neck or come up with a C-curved spine.
Intermediate: Tuck Floor Sit
In addition to your core, your triceps and forearms get to join in the fun with the tuck-floor sit exercise. Sit on the floor with your feet on the floor and your knees bent. Place your hands flat on the ground next to your hips and press into the floor, lifting your tucked body off the floor.
Like the name implies, sit on the floor with your legs out straight, making an “L” shape. Just as you did with the tuck floor sit, press your body up and off the floor, but this time maintaining the “L” form. If you’re pressing and going nowhere, another options is to keep one leg on the floor at a time.
Beginner: Air Squats
As a functional movement–one that mimics everyday life–squats are a great full body exercise with emphasis on the core and lower body. Air squats are done sans barbell, unlike back squats, front squats, and overhead squats; however, they can have similar results to their weighted counterparts. To do an air squat, start with your feet about shoulder width apart and slightly toed out. Keeping an arch in your lower back and your chest up, sit down and back as if sitting into a chair. Engage your core, back, butt, and legs to raise back to the start position.
Intermediate: Elevated Back Foot Split Squats
This squat position focuses on strengthening one leg at time, which ups the intensity of the squat. Place the top of one foot behind you on a raised surface (about knee height at highest). With your front foot slightly out in front of your body, lower your body to the floor as if someone were pushing you straight down from your head. Make sure your knee doesn’t bend over your toes. If it does, bring your front leg out further.
With pistols, you’re still keeping the squatting business on one leg, but your leg is extended in front of you, similar to the L-sit exercise. Finding your balance with one leg and both arms extended straight, lower into a squat position and then return to the standing position. If this is difficult, place a hand on a wall for balance, and don’t sink as low in your squat.
Think you’re ready to put your body to the test? Give it a try! By adding in these body-weight exercise to your workout, you’ll be buff in no time!
What is your favorite body weight-based exercises? Share with us in the comments.