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No Equipment Bodyweight Exercises For an At-Home Workout

A woman does a plank on a mat in a gym.
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We can’t all have a home gym. In fact, some of us don’t even have space for a set of dumbbells, and driving to the gym every day seems like a real chore. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get in a great workout. Enter: bodyweight exercises.

If you’re not familiar with bodyweight exercises, they allow people to go equipment-free with their workout. For those with no time to head to the gym, no space to store equipment, or no budget to buy equipment, these exercises might be perfect.

What Are Bodyweight Exercises?

Bodyweight exercises use specific strength, mobility, and endurance training workouts to condition your body without the use of props, weights, or dumbbells. The only prop that’s needed is you, and your mat or another comfortable surface.

By utilizing the resistance of your body and gravity, along with correct positioning, these exercises provide effective resistance to train your body to gain strength, stability, and endurance.

Resistance is important in any exercise in order to load your bones, muscles, ligaments, and tissues to be able to complete a range of functional, everyday movements, as well as more complex movements explored in the setting of sports and fitness.

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While none of these exercises require equipment, a mat could make them more comfortable.

What Are the Benefits of Bodyweight Exercises?

A man does ab exercises on a mat in a living room.
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The most obvious benefit of a bodyweight exercise is its ability to condition the body alone with no equipment. Your body is the only essential for carrying out the movement, making bodyweight exercise a more accessible form of targeted movement.

According to Harvard Health Publishing, bodyweight exercises are deemed as “more functional” than the traditional workout loaded with dumbbells and machines. More functional meaning, they are exercises that more closely mirror movements of everyday life.

For example, a side plank uses one shoulder and one side of your obliques to support that movement and helps support tasks like picking up a bag. Meanwhile, traditional squats support everyday movements like picking up a heavy box or moving a piece of furniture by targeting your hamstrings and glutes.

Studies conducted by Harvard also found that bodyweight exercises are proven to be “more effective” by increasing muscle endurance and aerobic capacity. Specifically, a 2014 study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine found that the muscle endurance and aerobic capacity gained as a result of consistency in bodyweight exercises are associated with a decrease in the risk of cardiovascular disease.

From a long-term perspective, when regularly conducted, movement from bodyweight exercises can also decrease one’s chance of developing conditions such as diabetes, obesity, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.

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Put on your workout clothes and head to your living room.

What Are the Best Bodyweight Exercises?

A woman looks at a computer while doing a bodyweight exercise on a mat.
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The following bodyweight exercises are handpicked for you to help you achieve different elements of a full-body workout by targeting your deep core, shoulder strength, and hip stability. They are all simple, safe, and rooted in the foundations of traditional yoga and pilates. Working these exercises into your weekly movement routine will help strengthen you from the ground up.

Hovering Quadruped Abs Burner

The Hovering Quadruped Abs Burner is a simple and effective exercise for strengthening all layers of your core including your transversus abdominis, (your deepest layer of abdominal tissue) the middle two layers of your abdomen (your internal and external obliques), and the infamous rectus abdominis (your most superficial layer of core tissue- otherwise known as your “six pack abs” core). This exercise also provides a great setup for engaging the tiny stabilizers along your spinal chord called the multifidus (a small area of your body that plays a huge role in your inner core strength).

Last but not least, this exercise strengthens the shoulder girdle and attached muscles such as your trapezius, rhomboid major and minor (the muscles in between your shoulder blades), latissimus dorsi, pectorals (your chest muscles), serratus anterior (the muscle underneath of your arm pit), deltoids, biceps, and triceps.

  1. Find a face-down position on all fours by stacking your shoulders over your wrists or forearms, and knees under your hips.
  2. Ensure that your spine is stacked in its neutral position with your shoulder girdle in line with your pelvis. In other words, do your best to avoid dropping your pelvis or chest toward the floor. 
  3. Press your shoulder blades apart.
  4. Draw your belly button to your spine.
  5. On your next exhale tuck your toes and hover your knees without changing the position of your spine.

Planking

Planking is a continuation of the Hovering Quadruped Abs Burner. It strengthens all of the same muscles with the added benefit of the larger leg muscles like the quadriceps, gluteal muscles, and lower back muscles when the legs are fully extended. When executed in proper form, planking provides a full-body workout.

  1. Return to your face-down position on all fours stacking your shoulders over your wrists and knees under your hips.
  2. Hinge your chest forward in front of your palms.
  3. Pull your belly button to your spine.
  4. To increase the work in your lower body, tuck your toes and lift your legs to find a full plank position. Again, ensure that your spine is level, with your shoulder blades pressed away from one another, and your hips in line with your shoulders.
  5. Hold here for 30 seconds or 5-6 full breaths.

Tricep Push-ups

Tricep Push-ups are derived from movements in the vinyasa-based yoga practice. They target all of the muscles described in relation to planking with a large emphasis on the triceps, or the underside of your arm.

  1. Resume the plank pose you found in the previous exercise (whether that be from bent knees or a full plank).
  2. Pull your elbows towards your rib cage and begin to lower your chest towards the floor. Stop once your nose is hovering about 1-2 inches off of the floor.
  3. Press yourself back up to your full plank and repeat 5-10 times, taking breaks when you lose form.

Pro tip: If your pelvis is sinking down or your shoulder blades are winging together instead of staying stable and apart, this is a good indication that you need to drop your knees and perform this exercise from a kneeling position! You will still reap all of the benefits of toning your triceps and shoulders even in the kneeling variation.

Clams

This bodyweight exercise is derived from the fundamentals of mat pilates. It targets the stability of the outer hip, specifically the gluteus medius, the gluteus minimus, the tensor fascia latae, and the iliotibeal band (IT Band) otherwise known as the key components to our lateral sling of muscle.

This exercise is especially helpful for those who experience low back pain or hip pain. Clams and heel drives (the next and final exercise recommendation) are designed to alleviate the fatigue of tiny low back ligaments and muscles by strengthening the lateral musculature around the hip.

  1. Lay on your side with your knees bent slightly towards your torso.
  2. Stack your hips and your shoulders.
  3. Extend the arm closest to the floor above you and use it as a place to lay your head.
  4. Place your top hand on the ground in front of you to ensure you keep your shoulders stacked.
  5. Spike your heels to the ceiling and flex them.
  6. Begin to open and close your top knee, keeping your heels sealed together.
  7. Only open your knee a small amount, the moment your hips move, you are no longer targeting the correct muscle group.
  8. Repeat 15-20 times or until you feel a significant burn in your lateral hip.

Heel Drives

This bodyweight exercise is an extension of the clam performed in mat pilates. It targets the stability of the outer hip as well as the gluteus maximus (your largest gluteal muscle), and the top hamstring.

  1. Remain in the side-lying position you found during your clam pose.
  2. The next time you open your knee, keep it lifted, with your heels sealed together.
  3. Begin to drive (or move) your heel up and down your shin bone, like you are shaving your shin with your heel.
  4. Repeat 10-12 times, or until you feel a significant burn in your lateral hip.

Bodyweight exercises provide a fantastic, and at times, the preferred option to going to a fully equipped gym. It’s an extremely effective and affordable way to reap all of the benefits of staying in shape and looking after your long-term health.

Jenn Vigh Jenn Vigh
Jenn is a pilates and yoga instructor, an aerialist, and a travel blogger with 5 years of experience in nonprofit communications, and over 10 years of experience writing, teaching, training, performing and collaborating with creatives across the globe. For the last 6 years, her American home-base has been Austin, TX, where she’s worked with the aerial dance company, Blue Lapis Light, and enjoyed the sunshine with her world-traveling yorkipoo, Sheila. Read Full Bio »
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