No matter how much you love working up a sweat on the rowing machine and throwing massive iron plates over your head in the power rack, there’s always room for simple bodyweight exercises.
It’s great to break up your regular routine with simple, yet very effective body weight exercises between cardio workouts or weight training to keep your blood pumping.
For those reasons (among others), getting comfortable with bodyweight training is one of the greatest fitness skills anyone can attain.
Here’s a look at some essential movements.
Push-ups have been called the king of bodyweight exercises, due to the enormous number of muscles worked by this simple, tried and tested method. When you do a push-up with strict form, you’ll be engaging not only your deltoid muscles, pecs, and triceps, but also your core muscles, and even the muscles of your lower body. Keeping that straight “plank” posture takes some work!
In addition to giving you a great all-around workout, push-ups also need exactly no equipment to execute. If you have floor space, you’ve got as much “gym space” as you’ll need to get these done.
Finally, push-ups can be easily adjusted to make them more or less difficult, depending on your strength level and goals.
If standard push-ups are too hard, do them on your knees. If they’re too easy, work towards one-arm push-ups with progression moves like typewriter push-ups. If you want to work on your conditioning, try some rapid-fire clapping push-ups.
Dips are in direct competition with push-ups in many people’s minds, and it’s not surprising. The two moves target the same set of muscles — triceps, deltoids and pecs.
Where push-ups are equipment free, however, dips will require at least a single chair or sofa (if you’re doing the easier “bench dips” variation) or two chairs (if you’re doing standard “parallel bar” dips).
What dips lack for in minimalism, they make up for in difficulty and ease of progression. However, making your dips more difficult is as simple as holding a weighted object between your feet, or getting a dipping belt and throwing weight plates on as you need.
Long past the point where you’ve run out of straightforward ways to increase push-up difficulty, dips will keep continue to push your limits.
Barbell squats are consistently ranked as one of the best weightlifting workouts for overall strength and conditioning, and there’s no reason why the bodyweight variety should get left out.
Like push-ups, bodyweight squats require absolutely no equipment. Like push-ups, they work many muscles at once (especially if done deep), including the glutes, hamstrings and quads. Specific variations of the basic movement — such as jumping squats — will also work the calf muscles and send your heart rate through the roof.
Moreover, if you’re not after a conditioning session, but want to focus on pure strength? Progress towards one-leg pistol squats, with moves like pistol box squats.
It makes sense to look at chin-ups essentially as reverse push-ups. Not only do they work just about every muscle in the body, like push-ups, they specifically target the opposing set of muscles to those most worked by push-ups.
Chin-ups will work the biceps and lats amazingly well, while secondarily stressing the core and deltoids, and creating the kind of full-body tension that packs on muscle all over your frame.
As with dips, chin-ups need a basic level of equipment, such as a climbing frame or sturdy doorframe. Also, as with dips, this means that chin-up progressions are incredibly straightforward once you’re back in the gym. Simply throw on a dipping belt, add some weight plates, and keep going ad infinitum.