If you think your gym’s exercise machines don’t look too different than the characters from the latest Transformers movie, you’re not alone. All those levers and cables and pins can have you running for the exit. But before you flip the script in the name of gymtimidation, remember that there’s one piece of equipment that’s consistently better than the rest: Your own body.
That’s right, your very own physique is the best and most versatile piece of fitness equipment you can use. According to Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach Mike Dewar of J2Fit, by performing bodyweight exercises and movements, you’ll not only improve your balance and conditioning, you’ll also start building muscle. And the more muscle you have, the more calories and fat your body will naturally burn.
What’s more, Dewar stresses the importance of the body awareness and stability that comes from bodyweight training. “Without the ability to control your body in space, you can set yourself up for injury.”
Got 10 minutes to get a jump on your fitness? We thought so. That’s why we’ve put together three 10-minute bodyweight workouts fit for any experience level. Choose one today, another tomorrow, and you’ve got an easy way to get your sweat on anytime, anywhere.
Try These 3 Bodyweight Exercises
Perform these routines as a standalone workout, or add them to the end of your regular weight training or cardio workout as a “finisher.” Find certain moves too challenging? Each circuit can be easily modified to suit your needs (or spatial limitations). And while Dewar recommends resting 60 seconds between each round, take as much (or as little) time as you need. Now clear a spot in your living room, or claim a corner of your park or gym — it’s go time!
Bodyweight Workout: 10-Minute Tone Up
How to: Start by standing straight up with your feet flat on the ground, hip-width apart. Keeping your arms straight out in front of you, drop into a squat position, keeping your back straight and your chest up (a). Press through your heels and extend your arms down to explode off the ground, jumping as high as you can (b). Land as softly as you can with your knees bent. Reset your body as fast as possible and repeat (c).
Beginner alternative: Not up for jumping? Dewar recommends bodyweight speed squats. “Jump squats and other power and speed-focused movements are amazing for developing new fast twitch muscle fibers,” he says. By upping the speed you’ll also be maximizing your calorie and fat burn, which translates to weight loss.
How to: Stand straight up with your feet hip-width apart, hands on your hips or at your sides. With your abs tight, and hips pointing forward, take a big step to your right and bend your right knee 90 degrees (a). Driving through your right heel, return to the starting position (b). Next, do the same with your left leg (c).
Beginner alternative: Lie down on your side to work the glutes and thighs with side leg raises. With both legs straight and the glutes and abs engaged, lift the top leg one to two feet off the ground, hold, and return to starting position.
How to: Start in perfect push-up position. Hands should be about shoulder-width apart and directly underneath your shoulders. Your body should be in a perfectly straight line, from your heels to the top of your head (a). Perform a push-up (b). Then while keeping your feet in place, twist your torso to the right and lift your right arm straight above your body so your left and right arm are in a perfect line (c). Return to starting position. Repeat and alternate your left and right sides (d).
Beginner alternative: If you haven’t mastered the basic push-up, try these beginner-friendly variations first. Go at your own pace — you’ll be working the same muscle groups and feeling the burn!
Bodyweight Workout: 10-Minute Cardio Blast
How to: Start in a push-up position with your hands directly underneath your shoulders (a). Keeping your butt down and your whole body as flat as possible, bringing your right knee in towards your chest, then your left knee. Repeat at a rapid pace (b). If you’re feeling this in your abs and shoulders you’re doing it right!
Beginner alternative: If the leg action has you gassed, simply hold the top of a push-up (aka a high plank). You’ll fire up your abdominals, not to mention your shoulders, glutes and legs! Alternating mountain climbers, in particular, help target your obliques and allow muscles to take over your love handles.
Bird Dog Crunches
How to: Begin on all fours with your hands flat on the ground directly beneath your shoulders (a). While keeping a flat back, reach your right arm out while pushing your left leg back. Think of flexing your left glute and your right shoulder as you fully extend (b). Hold that position for a second before using your core to pull your leg and arm back into your body so that your right elbow comes close to your left knee (c). Complete 10 reps and then switch sides (d). Check out this video demo!
Beginner alternative: Lie on your back for dead bugs. (See #4 here.) As you raise your right hand to meet your left foot, engage your abs while resisting arching your back.
How to: Everybody’s favorite exercise… burpees. Start in a standing position (a). Squat down and put your hands on the floor, about shoulder-width apart (b). Keeping your hands there, jump your feet back so you are in the push-up position (c). Next jump your feet back towards your hands (d). Reset your body into the squat position and jump straight up. Once you land, repeat (e).
Beginner alternative: If you need to take things down a notch, step back into the push-up position, one foot at a time, and eliminate the jump once you step back up to standing. A common HIIT finisher, these calorie-torching exercises are one of the best ways to help burn fat and build muscle long after you’ve worked out.
Bodyweight Workout 10-Minute HIIT Circuit
How to: Time to hit the legs! Start in a standing position with your feet about hip-width apart (a). With your hands on your hips take one step back with your right leg and drop into a lunge. Your left leg should make a 90-degree angle at the knee (b). From the lunge position stand back up straight and repeat with the left leg (c).
Beginner alternative: Place a chair next to you for support as you perform the same move as detailed above. Lower as far as you can go and return to standing.
Single-Leg Glute Bridges
How to: Lie on your back, arms at your sides with your palms facing up. Bend your left knee and bring your left foot flat on the ground, close to your butt. Your right leg should be straight and off the ground (a). Pushing through your left heel, lift your hips until your body forms a straight line from your upper body to your knee. You should feel your hamstrings and glutes doing most of the work (b). Hold the top position for a full second and return to the starting position. Repeat for 10 reps then switch legs (c).
Beginner alternative: Need a little more grounding? Try a two-leg glute bridge, with both feet planted firmly for support. As in the above progression, you’ll strengthen your core, glutes and hamstrings, all in one efficient, no-equipment move.
Side Plank Leg Raises
How to: Lie on your side and prop yourself up onto your left forearm, with the side of your left foot on the ground, right foot stacked on top of it. Your body should be in a straight line (a). Raise your right arm straight up towards the sky (see video demo here) (b). Next, lift your right leg up and hold for a second. Return to the starting side plank position and repeat (c).
Beginner alternative: Take it down a notch with a simple side plank with the top hand placed on your hip. Hold for 20-30 seconds, and slowly work your way up to raising the top hand overhead.
Made it through all three workouts? These bodyweight circuits are simple (but not easy!) way to help you build strength and burn fat — and lose weight. Feel yourself progressing? Try this 20-minute MetCon workout on for size.
Originally posted September 2015. Updated February 2018.
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