The best bodyweight exercises
By Myprotein Writer Sarah Curran
Bodyweight exercises are great because you don’t need a gym membership to do them, and you can keep the equipment needed to minimal or non-existent. For times you just can’t make it to a gym or simply want to know some easy exercises to do at home, bodyweight training can be a super time efficient alternative to free weights.
These exercises can be modified to suit anyone from beginners to more advanced athletes, and can even be used at the end of a weighted work out as a metabolic finisher to burn extra calories and fat before you head home from a training session.
Bodyweight exercises can even improve other aspects of your overall fitness such as your balance and coordination as by modifying certain exercises such as the squat to a pistol squat, you will challenge your body in ways you might not have been able to if you had a heavy barbell on your back. Your flexibility can also be improved upon as you may find it easier to complete an exercise in its full range of motion in comparison to using free weights.
Some of the best bodyweight exercises include compound movements such as the squat, push up and pull ups, but there are many more useful ones such as planks, lunges, burpees and mountain climbers. You can add variety by arranging the exercises in a circuit style workout and can make them more challenging depending on your fitness level and goals.
Burpees are a great cardio style bodyweight exercise to do at home and burn a lot of calories when done at a high intensity. They are also great for the abdominal muscles and even the lower body including the glutes.
a) Starting in a plank position, keep your feet shoulder width apart.
b) Bend your knees and jump your feet inwards towards your upper body so you land in a squat position.
c) From the squat, keeping your tummy tight, jump up as high as you can.
d) Land back in a squat position on the floor, jump back into the plank position and repeat for as many repetitions as necessary.
Tip: Keep your pace as fast as you can while maintaining good form, and make sure to not let your lower back sink down when you jump back into the plank position.
Lunges are an excellent all-round lower body exercise that target the glutes, quads and hamstrings!
a) Begin with your feet shoulder width apart while keeping your bodyweight on your heels and squeezing your abs and glutes tightly.
b) Lift your left leg and step forward.
c)As your foot touches the floor, bend your two knees until your left thigh is parallel to the ground – your right heel will be off the ground at this point.
d) Breathe out and press your weight off your left foot, stepping back to reverse the movement back to the starting position. Make sure to complete an even amount of repetitions on each leg.
Tip: It is important with this exercise to make sure your knee never travels past your toes. It helps to stay looking forwards as this will aid you in maintaining your balance. Try and keep your back straight and chest up for the duration of the exercise.
Mountain climbers are another great exercise that will burn a lot of calories. It is also fantastic for the core muscles and lower body… let’s crack on!
a) Begin in a plank position with your feet shoulder width apart.
b) Bend your knee and jump up, bringing your left thigh under the left side of your upper body leaving your right leg behind you.
c) Squeeze the abs and glutes tightly as you return your left leg to its original position.
d) Quickly repeat the movement with the opposite leg.
Tip: Keep your pace as fast as you can and try not to stick your glutes in the air.
The plank is a great strengthening exercise targeting all areas of the body. As you can see by the image, every body part is needed to perform the exercise properly – especially that core!
To perform the plank:
a) Begin in a push up position.
b) Keep your hands directly under the shoulders and not outside of the chest as in a traditional push up position.
c) Keep your legs straight behind you and keep your two feet together.
d) Hold this position as long as you can, balancing on the palms of your hands and the balls of your feet.
Tip: Good form is important for this exercise to be effective. Keep looking straight ahead and avoid arching your back. Keep all your muscles tight for the duration of this exercise and build up how long you can hold this position over time.
Push ups are a fantastic upper body exercise to strengthen arms, back and shoulders… the best part being that it can be modified to suit beginners and athletes alike. You may want to begin by lowering your knees to the floor. After practice you’ll become capable of raising your body weight to perform full push ups!
a) Begin by lying face down on the ground with your legs straight out behind you, keep your feet together.
b) Bend your elbows and position the palms of your hands outwards to the side of your chest – the palms should be positioned under the elbows – as your arms bend, they should form a ninety degree angle.
c) Squeeze your abs tight with your eyes looking at the floor below you – your neck should be straight – then push through your arms so that they straighten upwards leaving your body elevated from the floor, balancing on your palms and feet.
d) Reverse the movement by bending the elbows and lowering your body with control until your upper arms are again parallel to the floor.
Tip: Breathe out as you push yourself back up to the original position to release tension and gain breathing control.
Body weight squats are an easy but effective exercise, focusing on the lower body… particularly those all-important glutes!
a) Begin by standing with your feet shoulder width apart.
b) Keep your weight on your heels and your abs and glutes tight.
c) Lower yourself backwards and down as though you are about to sit into a chair.
d)Keep the back straight and focus straight ahead with the chest up.
Tip: Don’t lean forwards and go as low as your own flexibility allows ensuring the knee never travels past the toes.
Pull ups are one of the best bodyweight exercises you can do for your upper body. Although you do need some form of bar to perform this movement, you do not necessarily need a pull up bar in a gym, monkey bars in a playground will do the same job once the bar you use is secure.
They place particular emphasis on your back but will also tone up your arms and shoulders too.
a) Grab a pull up bar with an over hand grip, keep the arms shoulder width apart.
b) Hang at arm’s length: this will be your beginning position for each repetition.
c) Pull your chest up to the bar then pause. Reverse the movement by lowering yourself back to the starting position.
d) Complete as many repetitions as necessary. It can help to visualise pulling the bar towards your chest rather than pulling your chest to the bar.
These body weight exercises can all be done in the comfort of your own home, and make a great workout when you are tight for time or want a cost effective workout. You can even bring your training outside or to the beach for a change of scenery.
Tip: As always, remember to focus on your form and to stretch after your workout to avoid any unnecessary soreness the next day!