"Being in shape was not my goal. My body was a tool to test the capabilities of my will." Stefan Kieszling

Five Simple Body Weight Exercises You Can Do Anywhere

Submitted 2 years ago
Created by
Erin McCabe

A little goes a long way

It's now the beginning of February and some research has shown that many of you who have set resolutions for the new year may be back to your old ways (1). There are many different reasons for this falling out, but I am here to give you some motivation to keep up with (or get back to) doing some exercise. These five simple body weight exercises can be done anywhere, require no additional equipment (unless you choose to add some weight), and provide a balanced, whole body routine.
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As with any exercise routine, make sure you have been cleared by your doctor to perform these activities, listen to your body, and modify as needed to prevent injury. If you do experience pain or have any health issues during the activity, stop the movement and follow up with your doctor. Some soreness after the activity for 24-48 hours can be normal and should be minimal, if discomfort is severe or lingers be sure to follow up with your doctor.

While these five body weight exercises are simple, remember that simple does not necessarily mean easy. Each of our bodies have been through different things in our lifetimes and each of our skeleton's are slightly different so always listen to how each exercise feels for you and modify as needed to decrease or increase the level of difficulty. Nonetheless, our bodies are amazing machines and we can get a good workout just from using (and controlling) our body. Love and listen to your body and it will continue to do some pretty amazing things day in and day out in return.

Below, I will provide some basic cues for each movement pattern along with what you should avoid, but these are not all encompassing so please comment with questions, if any arise. I recommend starting with 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions (or a 20 second hold) and doing these as a circuit (meaning that you do one exercise followed by the next until you get through all five, taking rests between exercises as needed and taking a longer rest at the end of the circuit). If you can complete the entire third set with ease, feel free to add on another set next time or increase the repetitions by 2-5 (or the hold time by 5-10 seconds). Weight can always be added, but be sure that adding weight doesn't compromise your form; quality over quantity is my belief. For all exercises make sure you can breathe easy, you should never hold your breath or feel lightheaded; and use your exhale on the harder part of the movement, this will help to further engage your deep core muscles.

Here they are:

1.       Bridge (lift and lower or hold)

  • have feet hip distance apart and comfortably close to your body
  • keep arms at your side with palms down and chest relaxed (shoulder blades flat on the ground)
  • engage your core (gently draw belly button toward spine and ribs toward hips) 
  • to lift, press into your heels and squeeze your glutes (your butt muscles); to lower, release and come down with control

Bottom start position

Top position

Avoid jamming your throat or over-arching your back

Also avoid pulling your feet in too close

2.       Plank (hold)

  • align your shoulders over your wrists and spread your fingers wide with your finger pads and knuckles grounded, see if you can do this with the crease of your elbows forward *if you have wrist pain or issues, do this on forearms with elbows under shoulders
  • have your feet hip distance (wider will make this a little easier and closer will make it a little harder) with your toes as flat on the ground as you can *if this strains your lower back or feels too difficult, then drop your knees down and have the tops of your feet flat on the floor
  • keep your ears in line with your shoulders and your gaze down
  • engage your core (gently draw belly button toward spine and ribs toward hips)

Full plank position

Avoid sagging your hips, sinking into your shoulders, or dropping your head down

Also avoid lifting your hips too high and/or dropping your head down

3.       Squat (lift and lower or hold)

  • start standing tall with feet shoulder distance apart and toes pointing straight ahead or slightly out
  • cross your arms to your shoulders or place your arms where ever feels comfortable (straight out, hands on hips, or behind your head are common alternatives)
  • lower to a depth that feels good and that doesn't cause you to arch your low back, tuck your butt under, lift your heels or round your chest down
  • keep your knees from diving in at any point and stay heavy on your heels so you feel like you're sitting back towards a chair
  • press evenly through your feet to stand tall and lift your hips up, allowing your knees to follow and fall into place

Start standing then lower to a comfortable depth

Avoid your knees diving in and being uneven on your feet

4.       Push up (lift and lower or hold)

  • start in your plank position with your legs straight and toes flat or knees and tops of feet down *if you have wrist issues, simply hold your forearm plank again or omit this exercise
  • just like plank, align your head, shoulders, hands, elbows creases, and feet the same way; engage your core; and keep your gaze down
  • lower and lift your body as a unit (head, chest and hips lower and lift in unison), choose your depth based on keeping the body connected, the lowest you would go is 90 degrees (or where shoulders are in line with your elbows)
  • 10 can be a lot here so split this into 2 mini sets if you need to or do less and build up

Start in your full plank then lower to a comfortable depth, maintaining a straight line

**Avoid the same things you did in plank

5.       Backward (posterior) stepping lunge (lift and lower or hold)

  • start standing tall like you did for your squats with feet shoulder distance, but try to keep feet and toes forward and choose your arm position again
  • step back and lower down to find optimal alignment (see picture), choose your depth based on how your knees feel and the lowest you would go is just to where your back knee hovers above the ground
  • come to stand tall in one smooth move if you can, pressing mostly through your front leg

Align feet hip distance with front knee pointed straight ahead

Align front knee above ankle and keep chest up

Avoid knees caving in

Avoid front knee going past ankle and chest falling forward

Give these five simple body weight exercises a try, even if it's just one set of the circuit after a long day, and you might notice how your mood and your mind have some positive changes when you're finished. Continue to listen to your body and I hope this will help keep you on track, or get you back on track, with your New Year resolution(s). Here's to sticking with simple changes this year and remembering the quote from Gretchen Rubin, "what you do everyday matters more than what you do every once in a while."

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1. http://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/articles/2015-12-29/why-80-percent-of-new-years-resolutions-fail

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