The Best Body-Weight Exercises: No Equipment Required

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Written by Guest | Last Updated October 31st, 2019
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Guest Post by Melissa Morris

You don't need fancy equipment or an expensive gym to get a good workout in or to stick to your workout routine. Sometimes, you want to get a quick workout in at home, or you're traveling and do not have weights or other equipment readily available.

Bodyweight exercises are the solution to this; they can be done just about anywhere with little-to-no equipment and no weights.

There are entire workout plans that do not require equipment and use bodyweight as resistance. Here are twelve great bodyweight exercises to use when you are traveling, working out at home, or just want to mix up your routine.

For most of these, try to do 1–2 sets of 8–12 repetitions.

Squats

woman doing squats

Squats are a great exercise for many of your large lower body muscles, like the quadriceps muscle group, the hamstring muscle group, the glute muscles, and the calves. To do them correctly, descend like you are sitting in a chair slowly. You can also add variations to squats. For example, adding a jump to create a jump squat also helps improve cardiovascular (aerobic) fitness. If you have a bench, you can squat down, touch the bench with your glutes, and stand back up.

Wall sits

Wall sits are similar to a squat, but you hold the squat position against a wall. This is an isometric movement, meaning there is tension in the muscles but no movement in the joints of the lower body. See how long you can hold the wall sit and try to increase that time as you progress. For an extra challenge, try to do a toe raise or heel lift to work the calves while in the squat position.

One-legged sit squat

This is a great lower-body strengthening exercise for the quadriceps muscles and glutes and only requires the use of a sturdy chair or bench. This exercise works the same muscles as a squat, but it is a little more difficult. Start in a seated position with either one foot on the floor and the other off of the floor or with just the heel touching the floor. Lean forward and stand up with the weight on one leg. If you need a little help with balance, keep the opposite heel on the floor while standing, but try to use it just for balance, not to help you stand up.

Lunges

woman doing lunges

Lunges are also excellent for your large lower body muscles. There are different variations of lunges. For example, static lunges are where you keep your feet in the same position and just bend at the knees. In a walking lunge, you would take a step, lunge down and come back up, then take another step. You can also try a side lunge where you step laterally, or out to the side.

Push-ups

women doing planks

These are great upper-body strengthening exercises. They work the triceps, chest, and shoulder muscles. There are many different ways to modify and progress with push-ups. You can start with a wall push-up or do a push-up from a counter. If you cannot do a push-up on your toes, try doing them with your knees on the ground.

Triceps dips

These can be done with a counter, a step, bench, or a chair with arms. Stand facing away from whatever you are using and place your palms facing down on the counter, step, bench, or arms of a chair. Your arms should be behind you and your elbows should be bent. You may have to squat to get into the right position, but try not to use your legs for this exercise. Lower yourself down, pause, then using your upper arms, push yourself back to the starting position.

Planks

woman doing a plank

Planks are a great core stability exercise. They are called planks because your body should look like a wooden plank and should be positioned in a straight line from head to toe. You can either start with palms flat on the floor or forearms flat on the floor with toes on the ground. Hold this position for as long as possible and try to increase your time as you progress.

Bicycles

This classic exercise focuses on the rectus abdominis and the side or oblique abdominal muscles. To do a bicycle correctly, lie on your back, crunch up and then twist to bring your opposite knee and elbow together. Doing a bicycle slowly is more effective than doing the exercise quickly. There are many varieties of other excellent abdominal exercises that also use no equipment.

Superman/back extensions

woman doing yoga at the beach

These are excellent for strengthening and stabilizing the lower back. Many of us work the anterior muscles, like the abdominals, but ignore the posterior muscles that are worked with this exercise. To do this exercise correctly, lie on your stomach with arms and legs extended. Slowly raise one arm and the opposite leg, pause, then lower. Repeat on the opposite side. For a variation, you can complete this on all fours.

Jumping Jacks

Also a classic, jumping jacks are a great power and cardiovascular bodyweight exercise. If a jumping jack is too intense, you can just use the same overhead movement but step one foot out at a time and eliminate the jump.

High knees

woman doing high knees in the sand

High knees are another cardiovascular exercise, but they can also help stretch your hamstrings and glute muscles. For best results, kick your knees up as high as possible and keep a good tempo while performing this exercise.

Burpees

Burpees are another great power and cardiovascular exercise. They work the muscles of the entire body, increase one's heart rate, and require no equipment. There are many different variations of burpees, but the basic movement is to start in a standing position, then place your hands on the ground, and kick your feet back so you are in a plank position. Once you are in a plank position, do a push-up, jump your feet forward to the sides of your hands, stand up, and immediately jump vertically.

For some other great tips for working out at home and working out on a budget, check out this article.


Melissa Morris is a professor by day and a part-time writer for Exercise.com. She teaches nutrition and applied kinesiology at the University of Tampa and is an ACSM certified exercise physiologist and an ISSN certified sports nutritionist.

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