A bodyweight exercise routine can form part of an effective and efficient exercise plan. No equipment is needed, and yet there are plenty of ways to progress the exercises without the use of dumbbells, barbells or machines.
Instead of using external objects, your own body weight is used as resistance. This makes bodyweight exercise an excellent alternative to a gym based weights program. Before we take a look at some simple bodyweight exercises, let’s cover off a few basic guidelines.
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Bodyweight Exercise Guidelines
- Warm up before and cool down after doing these exercises
- Breathe continuously – never hold your breath
- Quality of movement is always more important than quantity
- As a general guideline, aim to complete 10-15 repetitions of each exercise, unless specified otherwise
- Keep your core muscles strong throughout each exercise
- Remember that these exercises have not been personalised to you. If you are unsure as to whether they are right for you, please check with a qualified exercise professional.
- If you feel light headed, dizzy, or you experience pain in your body whilst doing these exercises, please stop immediately and seek advice from a qualified health professional.
The following exercises have been written at a beginner level. I’ve chosen to focus on a beginner level because I see so many advanced workouts on the internet these days. Many of these workouts are only suitable for a small portion of the population.
It’s so important to incorporate movement into your lifestyle that is going to strengthen and empower you, not leave you feeling broken. One size does not fit all so please make sure you get in touch if these exercises aren’t quite the right level for you. I’ll be happy to provide either regressions (yes, these ones can even be made easier) or progressions for each exercise as required.
Squat Above Bench – Legs & Buttocks
Start standing in front of a bench or chair with feet just outside hip distance and slightly turned out. You can take a slightly wider or narrower stance if preferred – the knees will just need to follow the line of the feet.
Sit back and lightly touch your butt to the bench. Stick your butt out, draw your belly button in, and keep your chest lifted. Push back up to the top with control, thinking about driving from the hips. Shoulders should stay back and down throughout and spine must be straight, with head in line with spine. Can be done with arms in front or relaxed by sides
Box Push Up – Chest, Front Of Shoulders & Triceps
Get yourself into a ‘box position’ – hands facing forward and just wider than shoulder distance. Wrists should be below shoulders and knees below hips. Spine is lengthened with shoulders drawn back and down. Draw belly button in towards spine and lower until elbows are at 90 degrees, then push back to start position.
Plank Hold – Core Muscles
Hold this position for up to a minute. When you can do one minute, it’s time to progress to taking your knees off the floor and just having your feet on the ground. Really focus on drawing belly button into spine, keeping your back straight, and head in line with spine.
Shoulder blades should be drawn back and down, and elbows should be directly under shoulders. Breathe! If you feel the lower back starting to take the load, it’s time to rest.
Leg Lowers – Abdominals
Start in the tabletop position (knees and hips at 90 degrees). Focus on drawing the belly button back towards the spine throughout this exercise. Slowly lower one leg towards the ground, ensuring the back doesn’t lift off, and there is no pain in the back. Then bring it back to the start position. Beginners may want to simply practice holding the table top position instead of going into the leg lowers.
Upper Body Raise
For a beginner’s version of the upper body raise, keep hands lightly on the floor when raising upper body. Put as little weight through them as is needed, but use them as you need to. Keep the head in line with the spine.
Focus on lengthening the body and try to keep your butt muscles relaxed, so the lower back is doing the work! This exercise shouldn’t feel painful but you should feel the lower back working.
These exercises can be a great start to your body weight exercise routine. How did you get on with them? I’d love to hear about it so feel free to comment in the box below!
Elly has been inspiring people to make sustainable changes to their health, fitness and lifestyle for the past 15 years. She offers online solutions for people who are looking to get started on, or improve their health and fitness. She blogs regularly, writes for a number of health and wellbeing publications and is the published author of a holistic weight loss book. Elly is mum to a spirited three year old girl, and along with her partner Colin they embrace a digital nomad, world schooling lifestyle. Check out her website here.