Spring Into Shape with These Anywhere Exercises
You don’t need heavy weights or even a gym to spring into shape! Bodyweight exercises can be performed in your living room or garage, or your backyard or the park, and can be challenging for all fitness levels. Beginners will feel the burn right away, while those who are more advanced can increase time under tension for an added challenge. The keys? Move with intention, push the pace and don’t take a lot of breaks. Check out the 10 bodyweight exercises below, then build a workout by choosing a few and performing them in timed intervals with designated rest. Try a classic Tabata workout, working for 20 seconds, then taking 10 seconds off, for an intense cardio session. For more of an endurance workout, try 30 seconds of work followed by 30 seconds of rest. Or, just chose a designated period of time, start the clock and keep moving until the final buzzer!
The squat is nicknamed “The King of Lifts” for good reason, as it can help you run faster, jump higher, lift faster and look better. But, you can get many of the same benefits from bodyweight squats – or “air squats” – than you get from weighted squats. Both target the glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, and hip flexors. To perform a proper air squat, stand with your feet shoulder width apart with the toes turned slightly out. Extend your arms out in front of your torso as a counterweight, then drop the hips back and down with the knees tracking over the toes. Keep the heels down, and sink until the crease of the hips drops below the knees. Push through the heels to stand up, fully extending the hips and knees at the top of each rep.
This upper body pushing exercise can build muscle mass, strength and endurance, depending on how you vary volume, sets and reps. To perform a proper pushup, set up in a plank position, with your hands beneath your shoulders and your weight supported on your hands and toes. While keeping the elbows close to the body and the core tight to maintain a straight line from head to hips to heels, lower your chest and thighs to the ground, then explosively drive up by fully extending the arms.
This glute bridge targets the glutes while reducing the risk of back or knee pain. To perform a proper glute bridge, lie on the floor with the heels planted firmly on the ground. Contract the core, pulling the belly button and ribs down into the body. Drive through the heels to lift the hips and lower back off the floor while squeezing the glutes and hamstrings. Then, slowly lower the hips back to the floor. If you feel pressure in the lower back, tuck the pelvis under to minimize the arch in your lower back. For an extra challenge, perform the glute bridge one leg at a time, with one leg planted on the ground and the other extended straight up, with the sole of food pointed toward the ceiling.
The plank helps strengthen the core and the spine, which both contribute to better posture. A strong core is essential to the prevention of injury, both in the gym and in our everyday lives. Planks can easily be modified simply by dropping the knees or elbows – or both - to the ground to accommodate different fitness levels. A proper plank is basically a static hold at the top position of a push up. Stack the hands directly underneath the shoulders, with the feet shoulder width apart and the head and neck in line with the rest of the spine. Keep the hips up, pulling the belly button in toward the spine to maintain a straight line from the base of the neck to the ankles. Squeeze the shoulder blades together, engage the glutes and isometrically push the floor away; that is, you’ll exert pressure on the floor without actually moving. Hold for time, or play with lifting one leg or one arm at a time, or the opposite arm and leg at the same time.
The Superman strengthens the posterior chain, or the muscles that run along the back of your body, from the erector muscles along the spine to the glutes, hamstrings and core. To perform a proper Superman, lie face down with the arms extended in front of you. Start each rep by first squeezing the glutes, then lifting the arms, chest and legs a few inches off the floor. Be sure not to crane the neck; keep the head and neck in line with the spine. Pause at the top of each rep, squeezing the muscles of the back body, then lower to the starting position.
This unilateral exercise – that is, it trains one side at a time - for the legs and glutes can improve your balance, stability and strength and requires core activation. To perform a proper lunge, stand with your feet hip width apart. While keeping your chest up and core tight, step straight forward, bending both knees to 90 degrees. The back knee may gently touch the ground, or you can hover it just above the ground. Press through the heel of the forward leg to return to your starting position, then repeat on the other side. Try other lunge variations, such as walking, reverse, lateral, or curtsy lunges, to change stress, recruit different muscles, improve function and add variety.
The jumping lunge is a plyometric advancement of the forward lunge that boosts your heart rate and builds your cardiovascular system in addition to building lower body strength and power. To perform a proper jumping lunge, lunge forward until the rear knee is almost touching the ground. Extend through both legs and jump into the air, using the arms for balance and momentum. Switch the position of the legs, using the bent-knee position of the lunge to absorb the force of the jump. Land and repeat.
Standing Broad Jump
The standing broad jump activates fast-twitch muscles to build explosive power.
To perform a proper standing broad jump, lower yourself into a squat position with your feet shoulder-width apart. Swing the arms back and use them to propel yourself forward as you drive your hips forward and jump as far as you can. Land on the soles of your feet, with a soft bend in the knees and absorb the weight in your heels.
Burpees are the exercise everyone loves to hate, but the effort required to perform them provides full-body activation for the ultimate calorie burn. To perform a proper burpee, start with the feet shoulder width apart and squat down until the thighs are parallel with the floor. Place the hands on the floor, shoulder width apart, and jump back to a push-up position, then lower the chest and thighs to the ground. Push back up and jump the feet in toward the hands. Jump off the ground, fully extending the knees and hips, and extend the arms and clap overhead. Repeat. If jumping the legs in and out is too difficult, modify by stepping the legs in and out one at a time.