We get it: you love your treadmill workouts, your indoor cycling or your barbells. Who doesn’t? We all love our workout toys and, for many of us, they can make it a lot easier to stay motivated and committed to movement and exercise routines. But let’s not underestimate the appeal and efficacy of bodyweight exercises — which, once you get a hang of a few basic moves, can easily become daily favorites.
Bodyweight workouts are a fun, easy and inexpensive way to inject some new moves into your fitness routine. No gym or home gym required! You just need a body and the desire to move it.
“I love bodyweight exercise! It requires no equipment, you can do it anywhere, and it is a great reminder that all movement is functional and purposeful,” Erika Shannon, former coach for SoulCycle, Equinox and Daily Burn, and current Director of Fitness for MYXfitness, tells SheKnows. “In life we use our body weight to pick up our kids, load groceries into the car or squat down to pick up the laundry. Bodyweight work helps you maintain the strength and range of motion to do all of those things.”
So in addition to getting you fully into the mindset of working out with your body to use your body in your everyday life (hello functional fitness!), it’s also a super easy way to get your workout in without needing equipment or fancy gear or any maneuvers that feel too difficult or fancy (especially if it’s been a while since you worked out regularly). If you’re currently sans gym — whether you’re home for the holidays or away on business — we put together this short, yet efficient full bodyweight workout that is sure to make you sweat.
A version of this story was published February 2020.
“Everyone hates a burpee, but they are a total body strength exercise with tons of benefits,” Shannon says. “They’re wildly efficient because they work arms, chest, core, glutes, quads and hamstrings. They also get your heart rate up, which is awesome for cardiovascular health.”
A traditional burpee starts with you standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. Squat down to the ground and quickly bring yourself into a plank position, kicking out your legs straight behind you, engaging your core and glutes. At this point you can engage in a push-up, or not. Then swiftly jump your feet back to your arms and jump straight up to complete the move before repeating.
Looking for a sure-fire way to tighten and tone your core? “Elbow planks fire up the core and strengthen your back,” says Shannon.
Begin on your hands and knees and align wrists under shoulders and your knees directly underneath your hips. Lower onto your elbows, placing them directly beneath your shoulders with your forearms on the ground and your feet hip-width apart. Engage your core and ensure your back is straight. Hold.
Jumping Knee Tuck
“These burn calories fast because they are a plyometric exercise that gets your heart rate up. They are fantastic for your bone density, as well.”
Start by standing with your legs shoulder-width apart. Engage your core and keep your chest forward as bring yourself into a slight squat then explode into the air with a jump bringing your knees as high into your chest as possible, before landing as softly as you can.
“There are so many benefits to mountain climbers! They work the upper body, core and glutes while promoting increased mobility and cardiovascular health,” Shannon says.
In plank position, with shoulders over hands, engage your glutes and core as you bring your right knee forward towards your chest. Then return the right leg as you switch legs and bring the left knee forward. Continue this “running move” and speed it up, or slow it down, accordingly.
“Plank rotations are great for strength in your core, arms and shoulders. They’re also a great way to improve your stability,” according to Shannon.
In plank position, with your wrists under shoulders, core engaged, and your feet hip-width apart, twist your body to the left by shifting your weight onto your left arm and extending your right arm up, hold, then return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
“Push-ups have total body benefits since they activate several muscle groups at the same time, including chest, core, arms, legs, hips and back,” Shannon says.
In plank position, position your hands shoulder-width apart, or a little bit wider. Inhale as you bend your elbows and lower toward the ground, with your elbows at about a 45-degree angle to your body. Then, exhale as you push from your hands and heels, bringing your torso, chest, back up. Push-ups also can be modified by either doing them on your knees or while standing, placing your arms against a wall.
Squats are fantastic for your glutes and quads, and they’re especially effective for helping with mobility and building muscle strength,” says Shannon.
Keeping your feet shoulder-width apart, with your toes pointing slightly outwards, sit your hips back as if you’re sitting behind a chair. Be careful to keep your knees in line with your toes and look forward with your chest up and abs tight.
“Supermans strengthen the posterior chain, glutes and hamstrings. They’re particularly effective as a great counter move to traditional abdominal work.”
Lie face down on the floor with your arms outstretched in front of you and your legs straight. In one swift move, raise both your legs and arms at the same time as far off the ground as you can while engaging your glutes and core. Hold, then release before repeating.
“Tricep dips really work your triceps and shoulders, and are efficient not only because they work those muscles but because they increase range of motion in your upper body, as well.”
Sit on a bench or a chair and grip your hands shoulder-width apart on the edge of the surface and slide your butt off with your legs extended in front of you. Then lower yourself towards the floor, slowly bending your elbows to as close to 90 degrees as you can before straightening your arms and lifting yourself up. Ensure your butt remains as close to the chair or bench as possible.
“Walking lunges work your legs and glutes. They’re great for balance and core stability.”
With your feet shoulder-width apart, and your chest forward, engage your core and glutes. Begin your walk by taking a big step forward with one foot, lowering until both your knees are bent at 90 degrees and your front thigh is parallel. Driving through the heel of your front heel, step forward with your back foot, and repeat.
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