Exercises using only your body weight as a resistance are a great way to improve your functional strength and strength endurance. Moreover, they are an effective alternative if you do not have weights available for a while. For example, when you are on vacation. Or during a corona crisis. Here are ten of the best exercises without aids, which together provide a particularly effective and fast all-in-one workout.
Squatting, or kneeling, is one of the most natural movements. In fact, it is nothing more or less than sitting down and getting up again. The squat works your entire lower body – your glutes, quadriceps and hamstrings. Squatting also trains your abs, which stabilize your lower back.
Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width and your toes pointing out. Now bend your knees and hips. Keep your back straight and move your knees in the same direction as your toes. Squat as deeply as possible, at least until the back of your leg is parallel to the floor. Keep your heel on the floor and come back up by extending your knees and hips. During the movement, you can keep your arms at your sides or extend straight in front of you to maintain balance.
You can also pause briefly in the squat position. This way you make the squat heavier by switching off the stretch reflex. You can also make a jump in one movement, the so-called ‘jumping squat’. This will train your explosiveness.
Do three sets of twenty reps.
2. PUSH UP
If you train your entire lower body with the squat, the push-up, or press -up, targets almost every muscle in your upper body – chest, back, shoulders, arms, your abs and even your quadriceps (upper thigh).
You start a standard push-up with straight arms, which you place on the floor slightly wider than shoulder width. Now bend your elbows and lower to the floor. Keep your whole body in a straight line. Lower until your chest and hips barely touch the floor and now push yourself up until your arms are straight again.
More about the correct execution of the push-up in a separate article . There are some things you have to pay attention to in order for the exercise to be really effective! An important aspect of this is the position of your elbows. Make sure they are at an angle of about 45 degrees to your torso. From above you form an arrow.
There are countless alternative versions to make the push-up lighter (for beginners) or heavier.
Do three sets of twenty reps.
The bridge, also known as hip lifts (not to be confused with hip bends), is a great exercise for strengthening your glutes, hamstrings, and inner thighs. You also strengthen your abs and lower back.
You start the bridge with your head and back on the floor, legs bent and your arms at your sides. Now push your hips up as far as possible so that only your shoulder blades and soles of your feet are in contact with the ground.
You can make the exercise harder by performing it with one leg extended. You make the exercise easier by placing a pillow under your buttocks.
Do three sets of ten reps. Are you performing the heavier version? Then do five reps per side.
Lunges, or step out, are another great lower-body exercise and for most people are hard enough without weights. You mainly train your quadriceps with it, but also your glutes and hamstrings. It is also a good balancing act.
Begin the lunge standing up with your hands at your sides. Take one big step forward with your right leg and now bend your knees and hips, bringing the knee of your left leg to the floor. Make sure that the knee of your front (right) leg does not extend beyond your toes. Now bring your right leg next to your left leg again. Do the desired number of reps and repeat the exercises for your left leg.
You can also perform lunges while walking, the so-called walking lunges. Here you do not bring your right leg back to the starting position, but you pull your left by your right leg and then step out with your left leg.
An easier variant of the lunge is the split squat, where you don’t step out, but start with one leg in front of the other leg and then bend your knees.
Do three sets of ten reps per leg or do three sets of twenty walking lunges.
5. RKC PLANK
The front plank is a great way to strengthen your entire waist. It is an isometric exercise, meaning an exercise in which the muscle contracts, but without movement of a joint. There is static tension in the muscle.
The most effective way of planking is the so-called RKC plank. It differs from the regular front plank in two respects:
1. Place your arms slightly forward so that your elbows are almost directly under your eyes.
2. Raise your body by tilting your pelvis back (posterior pelvic tilt position – see picture). That means you have to work hard on your glutes, quadriceps and abs at the same time.
A good RKC plank puts your entire body under tension for just 8-10 seconds. The RKC plank is therefore not only more effective, but also more efficient (and less boring) than the often endless traditional plank.
6. PULL UP
Okay, for this exercise you need, in addition to your body weight, something else, namely a (stable attached) bar, or something else that you can safely pull up on. If you are outside: take a good look at your surroundings! If desired, you can purchase a chin-up bar that you can securely attach to a door frame.
The pull-up mainly targets your latissimus dorsi. You also train your biceps, shoulders and even chest with this.
The ‘problem’ with the pull-up, as opposed to the push-up, for example, is that 100% of your body weight acts as resistance. If you weigh 85 kg, that is the weight you should pull up. It is an uncompromising exercise.
Grab a bar with a pronated or overhand grip (palms away from you) and wide grip and pull up until your chin is above the bar. Now lower your body in a controlled manner until your arms are fully extended. Repeat.
Instead of conventional pull-ups, you can also do so-called kipping pull-ups, where you swing forward from the hanging motion and use the momentum of the ‘back swing’ to pull you up.
You can of course also have a training partner assist you, who can ease the exercise by grabbing you by the hips and helping you up.
Chin-ups are basically a variation on regular pull-ups, performed with an underhand, narrower grip.
If you can do more than ten pull-ups relatively easily, you can make the exercise more difficult by clamping a weight between the feet or ankles.
Do three sets of ten reps.
The burpee is a full-body exercise that strengthens your waist (abs, muscles in your lower back) and improves your overall fitness. You’ve probably seen the exercise in an American army movie or training of an American football team.
As a compound or complex exercise, the burpee is a sequence of more or less familiar movements. You start the exercise standing up. Then bend your knees (‘squat’) and place your hands flat on the floor. Now ‘kick’ your legs back so that you are in a push-up position, as it were. Now bring your feet back to the squat position, keeping your hands on the floor. Now stand back up to the starting position.
In the advanced variant, after pedaling backwards into push-up position, you actually do a push-up and end the exercise with a jump from the squat position (‘jumping squat’). You can also intensify the exercise through a faster execution.
As a cardiovascular exercise, counting reps is of little use in burpees. It is better to time the exercise and, for example, do as many burpees as possible in one or two minutes. Rest for 30 s and repeat 4-6 times.
8. JUMPING JACK
The jumping jack is a cardiovascular and pliometric exercise. In short, you increase your explosiveness, increase your speed and improve your condition. The chance that you have seen this exercise in an American army film is even greater.
A jumping jack is actually nothing more than a jump movement in which you let your arms and legs swing out to the side. More precisely, you jump from a narrow stance into a wide stance, simultaneously raising your arms above your head with a swinging motion. Clapping is allowed, as a round of applause for yourself.
Not really a variation, but you can make jumping jacks easier or harder by performing them slower or faster, respectively.
Do as many jumping jacks as you can in one or two minutes. Rest for 30 s and repeat 4-6 times.
9. MOUNTAIN CLIMBER
Mountain climbers are a great way to work on your fitness while strengthening your waist. If you’re sick of sit-ups and crunches and are looking for a dynamic way to tone your abs as well as your lower back, this is the exercise for you.
You start the exercise from a push-up position with one leg forward and the knee of that leg under your chest. Like a sprinter ready for the start. Now continuously alternate the position of your left and right leg. In other words, bring your front leg back while simultaneously bringing your back leg forward. As if – we are referring again to the sprinter – you are constantly changing your starting position.
The only way to vary mountain climbers is a slower or faster execution, to make the exercise lighter or heavier.
Do as many mountain climbers as you can in one or two minutes. Rest for 30 s and repeat 4-6 times.
10. SINGLE LEG DEADLIFT
A single-leg deadlift is a great, and really the only, way to imitate the conventional deadlift using only your body weight . This variation is an excellent exercise for your hamstrings, glutes, and lower back, as well as helping you improve your balance.
Stand up straight and bring your torso forward, swinging your right leg back. Keep your standing leg straight. Touch the floor with your fingertips of both hands. Your torso and right leg are now aligned, nearly parallel to the floor. Now stand up straight and repeat the exercise for your left leg.
Do three sets of twenty reps (ten reps per leg).
Do the above exercises consecutively at the prescribed number of sets and repetitions for an excellent full body workout. You can also turn it into a circuit workout by doing one set of each exercise in sequence and repeating that circuit twice.
Burpees, jumping jacks and mountain climbers are in turn excellent ingredients for High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).