Bodyweight exercises are a great way to start with strength training, though they have limitations due to the challenges of adding resistance. There are ways, however, of modifying bodyweight exercises over time to make them more difficult. For example, you can add time to the plank, add repetitions to all exercises, and slow the movements down.
The plank is an essential core strength building exercise for any level. The goal is to hold the position for a set length of time, or for as long as possible without dropping or lifting the hips.
- Make a straight line from your shoulders to your heels, keeping your neck neutral by looking down.
- Keep your elbows beneath your shoulders. Stay relaxed and breathe.
- Hold for as long as you can (up to 60 seconds).
Safety Tip: Keep your belly button pulled in to prevent your back from arching or sagging.
Partial crunches are superior to the sit-up because they utilize the portion of a sit- up where the muscles are fully engaged.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Place your hands behind your head. It’s best not to lace your fingers together.
You may also cross your arms at your chest if that’s more comfortable.
- Gently pull your abdominals inward.
- Curl up and forward so that your head, neck, and shoulders lift off the floor.
- Aim for two sets of 10 to 15 repetitions.
- For more of a challenge, hold the legs up at 90 degrees while you perform the exercise.
Safety Tip: Be sure not to tug on your neck as you curl upward.
The reverse crunch is a popular exercise which targets the abdominals, particularly the lower portion.
- Lie flat on your back with your hands beneath your hips.
- Bend your knees and lift them toward your head, keeping the knees bent at 90 degrees.
- Draw them upward slightly at the end of the movement. Be careful to not use momentum to swing your legs overhead. Concentrate on your abdominal muscles acting like an accordion to “fold” your bent legs up over your torso.
- For a more advanced version, try to lift your hips off the floor as your legs are at the top of the movement. If you cannot do this, with constant effort, as your core gets stronger, you may find that you can lift your hips off the floor.
- Lower your feet back down just above the floor, without fully extending your legs, to complete one repetition. Repeat to the desired number of reps.
Safety Tip: Do not let legs extend fully when lowering. This is too hard on the low back.
The dead bug might seem quite easy for the first couple of repetitions, but if you keep your core engaged, by pressing the lower back into the floor you will feel the fatigue soon enough.
- Lie flat on your back with your arms extended toward the ceiling.
- Bring your legs up so your knees are bent at 90-degree angles. This is your starting position.
- Slowly lower your right arm and left leg at the same time, until your arm and leg are just above the floor. The arm and leg should be straight and fully extended.
- Then slowly return to the starting position, keeping the arm extended and bending the leg back to 90 degrees. Repeat with the opposite limbs.
- Use slow controlled motions when lowering and returning to the starting position. Be sure your back is flat against the floor throughout the movement.
- Aim for 10 repetitions on each side. Work up to two rounds of this exercise.
- For a more advanced version of the dead bug, keep your shoulders off the floor throughout the movement and be mindful of keeping the bent knee at 90 degrees (the thigh of the non-extended leg should be perpendicular to the floor).
Safety Tip: Keep back pressed into the floor at all times.
This exercise targets a host of muscles which act as stabilizers.
- Lie on your side with your forearm flat on the floor, bottom elbow lined up directly under your shoulder, and both legs either extended out in a long line or bent at 90 degrees for an easier modification. Your top hand can be on the side of your hip (easier) or reaching up to the ceiling (more challenging).
- If legs are extended, feet can either be staggered for more stability or stacked for more of a challenge.
- For an intermediate version, keep your bottom leg bent but extend your top leg out, actively engaging your inner thigh as you push your top leg into the floor.
- Engage your core and lift your hips off the floor, forming a straight line from your head to your feet, or from head to knees for the modification. Keep hips pressed upward. You should feel this mostly on the side closest to the floor.
- Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and build up to 60 seconds over time.
Safety Tip: If you are experiencing shoulder pain, it may be best to avoid this until the shoulder heals.
PUSH-UP (WITH VARIATIONS)
Push-Ups from Knees (Easier)
The more parallel to the floor our body is, the more challenging the move. Therefore, a chair push-up is more challenging than a table-height push-up. A push-up from your knees is easier than one from the toes.
- Start in high plank with your shoulders, elbows, and wrists stacked and your spine long.
- Come down onto your knees. Your body should be in a straight line from knees to head.
- Bend your elbows and lower your chest to the ground.
- Push through the palms of your hands to straighten your arms.
Push-Ups from Table/Chair (Medium Challenge)
You can adjust the degree of challenge by varying the degree of your body. At home, some handy objects to use are a table or chair. Be sure the objects you’re using are stable. You don’t want them to move out from under you. Keep your body in a straight line as you lower and push back up.
- Position an object, such as a chair, with its back against a wall.
- Grasp both sides of the chair seat and move your feet back until you are aligned from the tip of your head to your feet.
- Engage your core by pulling your belly button inward.
- Lower your chest toward the chair as far as you comfortably can, while still maintaining your form. Avoid letting your elbow curve outward.
- Push back up while maintaining your body alignment. Return to the starting position and repeat to the desired reps.
Push-Ups from Toes with Brief Rest Stop (More Challenging)
Fully extending your legs increases the difficulty of this move by adding more body weight.
- Begin with your chest and stomach flat on the floor. Your legs should be straight out behind you with toes tucked. Your palms should be at chest level with the arms bent out at a 45-degree angle.
- Exhale as you push from your hands and heels, bringing your entire body off the floor.
- Pause for a second in the straight-arm plank position, keeping your core engaged.
- Inhale as you slowly lower back to your starting position.
Safety Tip: Be sure the object you’re using to push up on is stable and won’t move out from beneath you.
TRICEPS DIP (WITH VARIATIONS)
The triceps dip is an amazing exercise for anyone looking to strengthen the back of their upper arms, not only for aesthetic reasons but for added strength for any kind of pushing motion.
- Sit on the edge of one chair or bench and grip the edge with your hands.
- Place your heels on the edge of the other chair and hold yourself up using your triceps.
- Slide forward just far enough that your behind clears the edge of the chair, then lower yourself until your elbows are bent as close to 90 degrees as possible.
- Push back up until your arms are straight, without using your legs to assist in pushing.
Straight Leg (More Challenging)
- Grasp the front edge of a chair-height object near your thighs.
- Walk your feet forward until the hips are slightly bent, with your legs straight arms extended.
- Bend the elbows to about 90 degrees and lower your hips toward the floor.
- Push back up to starting position. Be careful not to lock out the elbows for too long, as this serves as a rest.
Safety Tip: Lower yourself slowly so that you go only as far as your shoulders will comfortably allow.
The bird dog engages both the core and back muscles at the same time. It is regarded as a safe exercise during recovery from a back injury.
- Begin on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips.
- Pull your abs into your spine. Keeping your back and pelvis still and stable, reach your right arm forward and left leg back. Don’t allow the pelvis to rock side to side as you move your leg behind you. Focus on not letting the rib cage sag toward the floor. Reach through your left heel to engage the muscles in the back of the leg and your glutes.
- Return to the starting position, placing your hand and knee on the floor. Repeat on the other side to complete one rep.
- Work up to 10 to 12 reps on each side.
Tip: Try to keep your hips square to the floor as you alternate limb extensions.
BODYWEIGHT CHAIR SQUATS OR FREESTANDING SQUATS
The squat is a fundamental movement that strengthens the lower body. It’s important for beginners to learn proper form before progressing to weighted (dumbbells, barbell) squats.
- Set your feet shoulder-width apart, toes slightly turned out.
- Initiate the movement by pushing your hips back first. (Like you’re shutting the car door with your glutes because your hands are full.)
- Slowly bend at the knees, continuing to push your hips back until your thighs are as close to parallel to the floor as possible.
- At the bottom of the movement, pause for a second or two and strongly push back up to the starting position. Keep your chin parallel to the floor and keep your back straight.
- Repeat to the desired number of reps.
Tip: If you find the freestanding squats too difficult at first, use the chair to rest for a second before pushing back up. Progress to the freestanding version as soon as you comfortably can.
SINGLE-LEG SQUAT TO CHAIR OR BENCH (ADVANCED)
The single-leg squat is an advanced alternative to the basic bodyweight or chair squat, which requires no equipment. The bench or chair will serve as a resting place before pushing back up. But don’t sit down for too long.
- Stand in front of a weight bench or chair and lift one leg slightly in front of you. The lower the resting spot is, the harder this will be.
- Push your hips back and squat down to the bench.
- Try to barely touch down before rising back up to a standing position. Your free foot will extend more toward the floor as you come up but will naturally come forward as you lower.
- Push through your heel into the floor as you rise back to a standing position. Avoid swinging your arms to help you get back up.
Safety Tip: Avoid this movement if you are experiencing sacroiliac joint issues.
SPLIT SQUATS (WITH BODYWEIGHT OR DUMBBELLS)
The split squat targets the same leg muscles as the squat but places additional tension on the core, knees, and hips, which helps with overall functional strength.
- If you are using dumbbells, be sure to have them in hand, with arms hanging down by your side.
- From a standing position, take a long step forward as if performing a lunge. The heel of your back foot should be raised.
- Keeping your torso upright, lower slowly until your back knee almost touches the floor, and the front thigh is as close to parallel as possible.
- Push back up through the heel of your front foot.
- Complete all your reps on one leg and then switch to the other.
Safety Tip: Be sure to drop straight down, rather than leaning forward. You want your front knee to be directly above your ankle in the lowered position.
The gluteus maximus (often referred to as the glutes) is the largest of your muscles and helps push you into a standing position and supports your low back.
- Bend your knees and put your feet flat on the ground, just close enough so that you can graze your heels with your fingertips when you stretch your arms down by your side. Your feet should be about hip-width apart.
- To make the exercise a little more challenging, bend your elbows to 90 degrees so that only your upper arms are on the ground, and forearms are pointing to the ceiling. Otherwise, place arms flat on the floor at about a 45- degree angle from your body.
- Drive up through your heels and upper back to lift your glutes off the ground. Drive your hips up as high as possible, squeezing the glutes hard. Do not push backward off your heels. Make sure you are driving straight up and that your knees aren’t caving in.
- Squeeze your glutes for a second or two at the top and lower all the way back down to the ground before repeating to the desired number of reps.
Safety Tip: You should feel this move in your glutes and hamstrings but not in your low back. Keep your belly button drawn in so you don’t hyperextend your back.
SINGLE-LEG GLUTE BRIDGE (ON FLOOR OR BENCH)
This exercise can be done on the floor or with your upper back on a weight bench at the gym.
- Set up like you would for the glute bridge and then raise one leg up off the ground.
- You can bend the raised leg to 90 degrees or point the toe up toward the ceiling. Just make sure not to swing the raised leg as you lift.
- Drive up through your heels and upper back, lifting your hips as high as you can.
- Hold at the top and then lower back down.
Safety Tip: Keep your abs engaged so as to protect your lower back.
Do You Have to Take Supplements with Bodyweight Exercises?
Bodyweight exercises boost fat loss by enhancing both the afterburn after exercise and increasing muscle size, thus increasing resting metabolism.
Some people might also use natural fat burners as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle to increase metabolism or decrease appetite. When combined with a healthy diet, it will further increase the loss of excess body fat – and may also have other beneficial effects.
Resurge is of the most popular weight loss supplements that promise to help you shed pounds and sleep better. Because studies have shown that sleep deprivation is associated with deficiencies of growth hormone and elevated levels of cortisol, both of which contribute to obesity.
While other supplements promote nutritional factors, meal replacement forms, appetite suppression, or similar effects, Resurge boosts your body’s metabolism by increasing your core temperature. However, before making any purchases, you might want to read some Resurge reviews because the supplement industry is rife with scams.
Besides, it should be noted that supplements are ineffective on their own and are hardly a solution to obesity. Pills or supplements only work when combined with a healthy weight-loss diet and regular exercise.
In any case, it’s always best to talk with your doctor before you start taking a supplement, especially if you are taking medications or have any health concerns.