Don’t have access to weights and machines at a gym? Not feeling like leaving your living room today? No problem! Not only can bodyweight exercises build muscle, but moving your body through space can help with balance, proprioception, coordination and core strength. Pushing through those last challenging reps in your bodyweight training creates metabolic stress on the muscles, thus stimulating growth and muscle “toning.” Also, doing new movements you haven’t done before or haven’t performed in a while can cause microtrauma, or small tears in your muscle fibers, that promote muscle growth.
This simple program consists of six days of exercise and one day of rest. The first two days are meant to help you perfect form and get very confident with the exercises. Days 3 and 4 put the movements together in a circuit to help boost calorie burn and muscular endurance. The final two days of the week, all exercises are performed to failure, maximizing the metabolic stress and “burn” to help with strength gains and muscle growth.
Begin every workout with a minimum of 5 minutes of light-to-moderate cardiovascular activity.
LOWER BODY EXERCISES
The move: Select a box, bench or step (anything that is safe!) about knee height. Plant your right foot flat and firm on the box with toes pointing directly forward. Squeezing from the glutes on the right side, keep the right knee tracking directly over the middle toes, press to a stand. Hold the balance on top of the step for a moment, then slowly return to the starting position. After the prescribed number of reps, repeat on the other side.
SINGLE-LEG DEADLIFT TO KNEE DRIVE
The move: Balance on one foot. Hinge at the hips and extend your arms in front, maintaining a neutral spine and balance between reps (don’t set your other foot down unless you have to). As you return, drive your extended knee up and in toward your chest while simultaneously standing upright. After the prescribed number of reps, repeat on the other side. Add a dumbbell (or weighted object) to the hand opposite your grounded foot to level up.
SINGLE-LEG BOX SQUATS
The move: Firmly plant your right foot about 12 inches in front of a box, bench or step. Sink your hips down and back until you tap the bench, then return to a stand. If possible, try to complete this move without stopping to “sit” on the bench. Ensure the knee tracks directly over the middle toes. After the prescribed number of reps, repeat on the other side.
The move: Begin with your feet together and standing upright. Step wider than hip-width apart with your right leg, keeping the toes of your right foot pointed forward as you land. Immediately upon coming in contact with the floor, bend at the knee and sink your right hip down and back. Press back to the starting position. After the prescribed number of reps, repeat on the other side. Increase your range of motion by dropping your hips lower or adding a weight to make it harder.
PLANK WITH LEG LIFTS
The move: With your elbows directly under your shoulders, and calves, quads, glutes and core engaged, hold a nice straight, strong active plank. Slightly lift the right heel up and to the side, then repeat on the left. Ensure your body stays straight and does not rock side-to-side.
UPPER BODY EXERCISES
The move: Holding a strong plank position, lower your chest to 3–5 inches off the floor and return to a plank position. Rotate one hand toward the sky and hold a brief side plank. Repeat and rotate onto the other hand during the next rep.
The move: Find an elevated bench or step. Sit on it with your hands aligned just to the outside of your hips. Gently slide your hips forward, bend both elbows to 90 degrees, and return to the starting position.
The move: Begin in a tight, active plank position on the ground. Keeping your body in a straight line, lower down, and press through the floor to complete a pushup. After the pushup, your feet come under your body to take you onto your back. Rolling backward, shoot your feet into the air with your arms firmly planted on the floor. Roll back into the squat position, stand and jump.
The move: Begin by lying on your stomach with your body long, arms overhead and toes pointed. Squeeze your glutes and lift your arms and legs off of the floor. Lower back down to almost touching, and repeat, arching back up into position.
The move: With your right elbow directly under your right shoulder, left foot in front of the right, and left arm reaching up toward the sky, press your body into a straight and strong side plank. Lace your left arm through so that your forearms are parallel on the floor, then reach your right arm up to the sky, switching plank positions. Repeat for the prescribed number of reps.
Check out “Workout Routines” in the MyFitnessPal app to discover and log workouts or build your own with exercises that fit your goals.