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Illustrated bodyweight exercises: Fast, effective fitness

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

You are your own gym

Mark Lauren, author of You Are Your Own Gym: The Bible of Bodyweight Exercise for Men and Women (Ballantine, 2011), doesn’t train movie stars. The certified Military Physical Training Specialist and Special Operations combat controller trains those who defend our country, whose lives depend on being fit. Now, for the first time, Lauren makes U.S. Special Ops fitness exercises available to fit anyone’s schedule, wallet and fitness level. Here’s what Lauren says about the benefits of bodyweight exercises, along with a five-exercise workout to kick your butt into shape – without fitness equipment, using only your own bodyweight.

You are your own gymDitch the no-workout excuses

SheKnows: What's the No. 1 excuse for not working out?

Mark Lauren: "I don't have time." Using my bodyweight exercises will forever eliminate this excuse. It doesn't take a large sacrifice of your time to get into great shape, especially with bodyweight exercises! These movements can be done anywhere, anytime.

Cardio vs. interval training

SheKnows: What's the best type of workout to boost cardiovascular and muscular fitness?

Mark Lauren: Studies comparing short, intense interval training with target heart-range steady-state training (or "cardio") have proven that interval training is much more effective at improving cardiovascular performance, strength and body composition.

Bodyweight exercises are time-savers

Short, intense, interval-type workouts are easily duplicated with bodweight exercises. There is no need to spend more than two to three hours a week working out, much less changing clothes, driving, parking, going to the locker room, and then doing it all in reverse.

5 Bodyweight exercises for a full-body workout

Lauren outlined a five-exercise bodyweight workout to give you a fast, effective fitness routine that you can do anywhere – it only takes 20 minutes. His book You Are Your Own Gym offers 125 of these exercises, with many variations and workouts that include four planned 10-week programs for varying ability groups.

Compound Sets

Do all five exercises back-to-back, then rest for 90 seconds before repeating. Perform four of these Compound Sets.

1. Sumo Push-ups

1Sumo Push-ups

Start position: Get into push-up position, with your hands placed slightly wider than shoulder-width.

Movement: Lower yourself into the bottom position of a push-up. Then press yourself back up in one fluid motion, then pull one of your elbows up until there is a straight line from your elevated elbow down to the hand on the ground. You should be looking at the raised elbow. Repeat the movement raising the opposite elbow, alternating sides each rep.

Perform: 10 repetitions

Exercise variations:
Elevate your hands on a surface to make this exercise easier. The higher the surface, the easier the exercise becomes. To increase the difficulty you can elevate your feet.

Up next: More exercises for a full-body workout >>

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