Whether you have access to a gym or not, learning to work out without equipment is always a must. Not only does working out "naked" (ok, clothes are a must … we’re talking equipment here!) make your workouts portable, thus eliminating many excuses to ditch the workout when your life takes you away from the club, but it also helps you focus on movement quality so you can enhance workouts you do with equipment later on.
Body weight can be deceiving. Sure, you carry it around every day so you’re used to its load, but when you begin manipulating a few variables, you might be surprised how challenging a workout you can receive! Let’s explore 3 key variables to keep in mind to ensure you get the most out of a body weight workout:
Range Of Motion is key! How low you go, how far you step, how big you leap will make an ordinary exercise extraordinary! Of course, technique must come first. Take the first few reps to acclimate to the exercise, and assess your form (hopefully you have a mirror and a good grasp of what the exercise should look like). Then, on the next few reps begin to explore pain-free range of motion. For the last half of the set and any subsequent sets, go for it! Don’t be afraid to go bigger than you think possible. Remember, there’s no barbell on your back to manage, so now is the time to give it a go!
Speed is another factor you should take into consideration. Use a wide variety of tempos to maximize your workout and keep your muscles (and your mind) guessing. Slower movements will allow you to explore range of motion and take momentum out of the exercise which will make the move challenging. Faster movements can get your heart rate going, up the intensity and provide a balance challenge at the same time.
Repetition Management will help you make smart choices. Decide early on how many of each exercise you will do. You can use time or count your reps, but with body weight exercise, every rep must count. Therefore, it’s even more important you have a clear picture of how many you will do. Determine your goal number (or time) and then make a plan to perform the exercise to the best of your ability, with the most intensity possible to fatigue your muscles in the allotted time frame.
So, here we go. Here's a few suggested exercises you can perform wherever and whenever you’d like for a quick, full-body blast that will get the heart pumping and the muscles talking:
|Floating Lunge (Right)
||Step into a forward lunge with your right leg, then pass through to a reverse lunge without stopping. You can either tap the toe on the floor in between the two lunges or try a balance challenge by lifting the knee as you pass through. Perform 10 repetitions, and at the end of the repetitions, hold the reverse lunge and count to 10. You can even try closing your eyes and sinking down a bit lower for the final push.
|Moving Push Ups
||From the reverse lunge position, move right into the top of a push-up position with arms wide. Perform 1 push-up, then move the hands in and out (one at a time – in, in, out, out). Repeat 10 times, slow and controlled on the push-up and with quick hands on the in and out.
||Come down on to the forearms and hold forearm plank for 30 seconds.
||Move back up to a narrow, top of a push up position and perform mountain climbers for 30 seconds (alternate knees moving in to the chest). Hold the right leg forward at the end and stand up in lunge position. Return the feet together.
|**Repeat the 4 exercises again beginning with the Left leg for the lunges.
|Squat with Heel Lift
||With feet hip distance apart, sink back into a squat with the arms chest height. Hold the bottom position of the squat and come up onto your toes as you row your arms back (squeeze elbows together and behind you). Then extend arms back out in front of your at chest height as you lower your heels down and stand up. Repeat 10 times and focus on range of motion of the squat and intensity of the row.
|Triceps Dip & Hip Lift
||Try holding the final squat down and lowering all the way to the floor to set up the triceps dip. If your knees do not allow this, find your way to the floor any way you’d like. Set up with your arms shoulder distance apart and behind you, fingertips facing your body, with knees bent, feet on floor about hip distance apart. Bend the elbows to lower the back closer to the floor for the triceps dip, then push body back up and lift hips off the floor. Repeat 10 times.
||Perform 30 seconds of bicycle pushups. Begin on your back with both knees in towards the chest and hands behind your head. Extend one leg out, keep the opposite knee into the chest and rotate toward the bent leg. Then, switch. Finish by pulling both knees into the chest and rocking and rolling like a ball to release the spine and massage the low back. You may choose to get up to standing however you would like or try rocking up, crossing the legs in front of the body, placing hands in front of the shins and stepping (or jumping) back into plank. Then, walk the feet forward to meet your hands, roll up to standing.
|**Repeat from the Squats. Then, finish on the floor after bicycles for your final exercise.
||Lie on your stomach with legs long behind you, hip distance apart, and arms out in front of you. Lift the right arm and lower. Then the left leg, followed by the left arm and, finally, the right leg. Once all limbs have been lifted and lowered, perform a back extension with feet on the floor, hands behind the head. Hold the upper position of the back extension (chest lifting away from the floor) and try to extend the arms out to the side, back behind the head and lower. Repeat 10 times.
Feel free to experiment with repetitions, speed and range of motion, as well as taking breaks between exercises to keep the workout fresh each time you want a no-equipment blast!
Shannon Fable, 2013 IDEA and 2006 ACE Instructor of the Year, is the founder of SFR, a consulting firm for aspiring fitness educators, manufacturers and managers, as well as the owner of Balletone® and GroupEx Pro®. Shannon is a 15 year fitness veteran, freelance writer, as well as an international presenter for Schwinn®, BOSU and ACE. She is a member of the ACE Board of Directors, has helped author portions of the ACE and ACSM Group Fitness manuals, and has starred in over 25 fitness videos. Shannon is a certified Book Yourself Solid® Business Coach interested in helping fitness professionals navigate the fitness industry and find their place. She's busy improving the self-esteem of the world as the the Director of Exercise Programming for the Anytime Fitness Franchise.
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