The 5 Best Bodyweight Exercises You Can Do At Home
Top Tip: you don’t need gym equipment for a great workout!
I specialize in bodyweight fitness. I see most of my NYC clients in their apartments or in local parks. We don’t use much equipment – sometimes none at all – and I can tell you, it really doesn’t matter!
You’d be surprised just how many fun and challenging exercises you can do with very minimal equipment. Best of all, mastering bodyweight exercises will help you tone your muscles, control your body, improve your balance and increase flexibility. Even if you have access to a gym, I’d highly recommend adding bodyweight exercises to your routine!
The key to a good bodyweight workout is slowing down each move and focusing on good form. The slower you perform each exercise, the more time you have to focus on controlling the movement and stabilizing your body. This forces your muscles to work harder and ensures you really feel each exercise!
Let me show you some of my favorite bodyweight exercises that you can do at home with absolutely no equipment!
1. High/Low Planks
The first exercise I love is a plank – the classic plank and all its numerous variations! If you’re a beginner, I’d recommend starting with a basic plank (on your knees or feet) and learning to feel confident with the technique and correct muscle engagement.
If you’ve done a few planks and they are starting to feel easier (I say easier, not easy, because they will never truly feel easy!) you can mix it up! This High/Low version of the plank is focused more on upper body strength. Not only do you have to hold your torso in a strong plank, but you also need to lift yourself up and down using your arms.
How to do High/Low Planks:
- Start in a tall plank position (hands positioned directly under your shoulders)
- Find a neutral (straight) spine position and engage your core.
- Shift from hands onto elbows, one arm at a time
- Keep your trunk stable and your core on (watch that your hips don’t sag down or your torso rotate)
- Shift back into a tall plank position weight bearing on your hands.
- Switch which arm initiates the transition on each rep.
- Repeat for 6-8 reps
2. Bear Hold with Leg Extensions
Similar to a plank, the bear hold gets you to stabilize your trunk and hold your body weight up with your arms. However, rather than having your legs straight like you do in a plank, in a bear hold your knees are bent at 90-degree angles.
If you’re a beginner, start by just practicing a bear hold without any extra movement. Focus on engaging your core and holding your torso absolutely still. When you’re ready for a challenge, try this bear hold with leg extensions.
How to do Bear Hold with Leg Extensions:
- start on your hands and knees. Make sure your hands are directly under your shoulders and your knees are directly under your hips.
- Find a neutral spine position (not too arched or dipped) and lightly engage your core
- Lift your knees off the floor
- Maintain a strong core and stable torso
- Raise one foot off the floor and extend back, straightening your leg
- Return back to the starting position and switch to the other leg
- Repeat for 6-8 reps on each side
3. Side Plank with Hip Lift
Side Planks are a great addition to any bodyweight exercise routine. Like other types of planks, they strengthen your core. But they’re important because they target the muscles on the side of your abdominals, your obliques, that front plank exercises don’t.
This particular version of a side plank is especially challenging and I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re a beginner. However, if you have a good base level of core strength, this version of a side plank with hip lift will be fantastically challenging!
How to do a Side Plank with Hip Lift:
- Start by lying on your side with your elbow directly under your shoulder
- Lift yourself up into a side plank ensuring your hips are lifted as high as possible
- Hold this position for a few seconds to get your stability
- Raise your top leg up slowly, controlling the movement
- Lower your leg down until you almost reach your bottom leg, then lift it back up
- Go slow! This exercise is all about smooth, stable, controlled movement.
- Repeat for 6-8 reps on each side
4. Marching Bridges
Some version of a bridge is a staple in any good home exercise routine, in my opinion. Bridges are great for engaging glutes and working all the other muscles in the back of your legs.
Marching bridges are particularly effective because they get you focusing on single leg strength as well – that means if one leg is slightly stronger than the other – you’ll quickly find out!
How to do Marching Bridges:
- Lie down on your back with your knees bent and feet firmly planted on the ground
- Flatten your lower back into the floor, then peel your hips off the ground, raising your butt up and squeezing your glutes
- Hold the bridge in the top position
- Slowly shift your weight onto one leg and raise your other foot off the ground, straightening your knee
- Make sure you stay high in the bridge the whole time
- Carefully lower that leg down and switch to the other side
- Repeat slowly, alternating legs and focusing on maintaining a tall bridge with your glutes engaged
- Do 6-8 reps on each side
5. Wall Sitting Squat Hold
If you want an exercise to work the front of your thighs (and strengthen your knees) this wall sitting squat hold is perfect!
You’re in control of how difficult it is by simply adjusting how low you squat (the lower, the harder it gets).
How to do a Wall Sitting Squat Hold:
- Stand against a wall with your back on the wall and feet about a foot distance away from the wall.
- Slide down the wall, bending your knees
- Stop at a height that feels challenging but doable for you
- Make sure your knees are facing forward (not collapsing inward) and your feet are flat.
- Hold still for 30 seconds or more
- Repeat 3 times
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