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How to Do a Bodyweight Workout

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Lean muscle mass diminishes with age. If you do not make use of them properly over time, you might experience growing weakness. How do you prevent this from happening? The answer: strength training. Most people hear this and immediately think of heavy weightlifting with dumbbells and barbells, but that's not all it includes. Even a simple bodyweight workout can improve overall strength.

This type of exercise offers benefits including a decent calorie burn, developing strong bones, and improving mobility. To keep your workout simple but effective — and accessible virtually anywhere — go with your own weight. 

Benefits of a Bodyweight Workout

In this day and age, we're looking for convenience. Not everyone has the time (or the patience) to travel to the gym every day. In fact, this might be the thing that’s preventing people from getting their daily workout in — the hassle of transportation. A bodyweight workout doesn't require any equipment and thus can be done from just about anywhere. This is just one benefit.

man doing push-ups

A second benefit is that bodyweight workouts can easily combine cardio and strength training. Plus some of the most common bodyweight exercises work multiple muscle groups at once. This means you're getting not only a powerful workout but an efficient one, too. 

Aside from the points mentioned above, bodyweight workouts help with your core strength and overall flexibility and with the number of variations you can do, you’re sure to never get bored. It's the ultimate fitness approach for anyone who's busy but still wants to stay fit. 

Here are some examples of exercises you can try to make a full bodyweight workout. If it’s not challenging enough, try executing the other provided variations to increase difficulty.

Body Weight Workouts

1. Planks

Planks are an excellent core strengthening exercise. They're a type of compound exercise, so they engage a number of muscle groups simultaneously and help improve posture and flexibility. Planks also help ease back pain.

  1. Lay down on your stomach and place your hands directly under your shoulders.
  2. Ground your toes into the floor and push up on your hands, mimicking the starting position of a push-up.
  3. Keep your back and your body straight and engaged.
  4. Hold the position for 20 seconds or longer and always be mindful of your form. 

Make this exercise more challenging with these planks variations.

Side Plank

side plank bodyweight workout exercise

This planking variation works your obliques.

  1. Lie on one side with your legs stacked on top of one another, and keep your body straight. Lift your body up on one hand and raise the opposite arm up with your fingertips directed to the ceiling.
  2. Hold the position for 20 seconds or longer and then repeat the same movement on the opposite side.

Single Leg Plank

This exercise is made more difficult by rendering one leg immobile and by forcing your body to maintain the planking position on the other leg. It engages the core more and helps you improve balance.

  1. Begin with the basic plank position and then lower your forearms on the ground with your elbows directly below your shoulders. Keep your palms flat and your arms parallel on the ground.
  2. Lift one leg toward the ceiling without compromising your back and hold the position for 20 seconds or more.
  3. Repeat the motion with the opposite side.

2. Push-Ups

push-up bodyweight exercise

This functional movement will help increase muscle strength and is great for engaging your core and lower body.

  1. To do a push-up, start with a basic plank position with both hands placed firmly on the ground — directly under your shoulders. Ground your toes into the floor and keep your core engaged.
  2. Lower your chest to the floor and remember to keep your back (and your body) straight. Draw your shoulder blades back and down and keep your elbows close to your body — not flared out!
  3. Push back up to the starting position.
  4. Repeat for reps and sets — for example, three sets of five push-ups, or whatever is challenging considering your own level.

Once you’ve mastered the basic push-up, and if you want a more challenging exercise, try these push-up variations.

One-Legged Push-Ups

This bodyweight workout helps add variety and promotes balance by requiring you to keep your body stabilized even when one leg is rendered immobile during the exercise.

  1. Begin with the basic push-up starting position. Lift one leg up and rest your toe on top of the heel of the foot positioned on the ground.
  2. Lower your chest to the ground — remember to keep everything engaged and elbows close to the body. 
  3. Push back up.

Diamond Push-Ups

The diamond push-up is a push-up variation that works your triceps and increases the overall difficulty of the exercise.

  1. Begin with the starting push-up position, only this time place both hands beside each other with your thumbs and index fingers touching and forming a diamond shape.
  2. Execute the push-up movement, always being mindful of your form.

3. Squats

Squats are one of the most popular bodyweight exercises — and for good reason. This exercise works your hips, quads, glutes, hamstrings, and your core muscles. It also helps improve your balance, coordination, and mobility. It is one of the ultimate exercises, period.

  1. Stand with feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart. (Sidenote: the stance might vary from person to person, based on your body proportions. Find something comfortable for you.) Keep your spine neutral and extend your arms straight forward with your palms facing down.
  2. Inhale and sit down into your squat, dropping your hips straight down until you break parallel. You should not lose tension at the bottom and cave in!
  3. Exhale and stand back to starting position.
  4. Repeat for sets and reps.

Want to make it more challenging? Try out these squat variations.

Single Leg Squat

pistol squat

Note: this variation is extremely challenging and for more advanced athletes! Single leg squats, or pistol squats, improve stability by forcing your body to balance on one leg while doing the squat exercise.

  1. Begin by standing on one leg, holding the raised foot in front of you. 
  2. Lower your body using the regular squat technique.
  3. Change the elevated leg and repeat the motion.

Figure Four Squats

This exercise helps improve your strength and endurance. It’s also great for working your muscle coordination and balance.

  1. Begin with the basic squat starting position, bend your knees, and lower into a slight squat. Lift one leg up and cross it over your other leg with your ankle resting on the knee on the opposite leg — resembling the number four.
  2. Execute the squat and be mindful of your posture and your balance. 
  3. Repeat with the other leg. 

4. Lunges

walking lunges

A lunge is a type of bodyweight exercise that engages your hips, glutes, quads, core, hamstrings, and other inner thigh muscles.

  1. Begin by standing with your feet a hip-width apart.
  2. Take a big step forward with one leg and shift your weight forward — your heel should hit the ground first. Lower your body until your front thigh is parallel to the ground and your back knee gently kisses the ground.
  3. Press into your heel and return to starting position.
  4. Repeat the movement using the other leg.

Try out these lunge variations to keep things interesting.

Lateral Lunge or Side Lunge

side lunges as a bodyweight workout

This lunge variation helps improve flexibility.

  1. Begin with the basic lunge starting position with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Take a big step to the right, bending your right knee with your left leg straight and both of your feet flat on the ground. Push back to starting position.
  3. Do the same on the left side.

Alternating Side Lunge

Aside from the benefits that a normal lunge provides, this bodyweight exercise helps improve agility, flexibility, and balance.

  1. Begin with the basic lunge starting position.
  2. Lower down to a right side lunge — remember to keep your back engaged — and bring your left hand across your body to touch your right toes.
  3. Repeat the motion with your left side.

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