Our Favorite Bodyweight Exercises

As we all experience, it’s a difficult task to prioritize time for exercise and maintain fitness. Between work responsibilities, balancing home life, children and travel, it’s easy to de-prioritize exercise. And when people do think about exercise, it’s often cardio. To be sure, cardio is an efficient calorie burner. However, don’t forget stretching and support body strength. Many people are intimidated by free weights at the gym, but exercising needn’t always take place there! Here are some of our favorite exercises that you can complete almost anywhere — at home or on the road.

  1. Plank

This classic bodyweight exercise strengthens your abdominals and your pelvic floor. Your body’s core is the foundation of a person’s strength: your core muscles support your spine and pelvis and are crucial for balance.

Start on your hands and knees on the floor in a neutral spine position. Lower to your forearms, shoulder-width apart, and make sure your elbows are directly under your shoulders. Step your feet back, one at a time, so that you’re on your toes and from heel to neck, you form a straight line. Make sure you keep your hips high. Squeeze your abs and hold the position for as long as you can before your form breaks.

Plank

  1. Traditional Squat

Strength training builds the muscles we need to burn calories and also helps counteract osteoporosis and the effects of a catabolic (or decay) metabolism. The glutes are the largest and most powerful muscle system in the body! The traditional, unweighted squat is an excellent strength challenge for the glutes, quads and hamstrings — it even strengthens your lower back and abdominals. As such, it’s an incredibly efficient body weight workout.

Stand with your feet a hip’s width apart, with your toes facing forward. Relax your shoulders away from your ears and hold your arms by your sides. Then, lower yourself until your thighs are parallel to the floor, almost like you’re sitting down into a chair. Keep your chest high and your weight in your heels (not your toes!). Slowly raise yourself to standing. Make sure your pelvis is tilted forward to keep any strain off your lower back.

Challenging yourself? Try jump squats — squat deep, and on your way back up thrust yourself into the air, pointing your toes.

  1. Standing Hip Stretch

Flexibility is so important, especially as one ages. If we don’t continue to lengthen our muscles, we’ll end up with less range of motion. Stretching should occur right when you wake up, intermittently throughout the day, before and after workouts, and just before bed — even if just for 5 minutes. When stretching, be mindful, focusing on the muscle you’re working. Relax with each exhalation, and don’t push too hard — this risks overextension. Ride the line of challenging yourself without putting yourself in pain.

One of our favorite stretches can be done anywhere, even at your desk! Find a desk or table that is hip height. With hands firmly placed on the desk and your feet a hip-width apart, walk your feet back, creating a 90-degree angle in the body. Extend your sitting bones back, opening the armpit area and lengthening the spine. Take three big, deep breaths, and slowly walk yourself back to standing position. This stretch counteracts the rounding of the back that occurs while sitting at a desk.

 

If you have any injuries, please consult with your physician before incorporating these bodyweight exercises into your fitness regimen! Download our app for more fitness videos and tips from our Fitness Director Cathy Grierson.