If you train at home, travel frequently, or just can't afford a gym membership, you can still get a productive and challenging workout! While you may not be setting any strength records, performing bodyweight movements as individual lifts or part of a circuit will help you move better and shed fat!
Many of my clients workout with me in their homes. Most do not own fancy equipment or a whole rack of weights. The ability to improvise is a major part of my job! Here are 5 great movements that require no equipment!
The squat is the king of all lifts, it's one of the hardest to do correctly and is frequently omitted from routines because people are scared of it! There are many variations of the squat (some require additional resistance, for purposes of this article, we will only use bodyweight ones). Beginners should start with a box or bench squat. Those with no box or bench can sit on the second or third step on a flight of stairs and stand back up. The basic bodyweight squat can be done anywhere (just make sure you break parallel with your hips). More challenging variations include paused squats or jumping squats. Proper squat technique will be discussed in the future.
The go to movement for upper body training when there is no equipment. Most beginners cannot "drop down and give me 20". This is why I love the stair or table push up. If you cannot perform a full push up on the floor, find the steps and do them there. Usually the 3rd or 4th step will work. Sets of 5-20 reps along with different hand positions are used. Hands close together will target the triceps more, while a wider position will focus on the chest and shoulders. As you become stronger, get lower with your position until you are on the floor. In addition to the standard push up, more challenging variations include: close grip, clapping, chest slapping, push up with rotation, or the spider man push up.
I use at least one form of lunge in warmups/programming for my clients every workout. Forward, reverse, lateral, clock, rotational, walking can all be used for mobility warmups or strength/conditioning! Technique is very important here. If someone tells me lunges hurt their knees, they most likely have poor form!
The plank is a very effective exercise to increase core strength/stability and should be included in most routines. The plank can be performed anywhere. The client holds themselves on the elbows/forearms and toes and simply tries to remain stiff for a period of time. When holding this position, do not "suck in" the stomach, rather flex the abs as if you are preparing to get hit with something and cannot block with your hands. Challenge yourself by adding a few seconds every workout. Variations include: straight arm plank, plank to push up, rotational plank, side plank, front bridge, plank with opp/arm leg lifts among others!
Popularized by crossfit (burpee) and immediately remembered by anyone over the age of 50 who played a sport or participated in gym class (squat thrusts), this is a great conditioning tool. Basically, drop down into a push-up from a standing position, bring your feet back in and stand back up. Used as a finisher or part of a superset, it's great for conditioning. Extra squats, push-ups or lunges can be added to the movement as you become more advanced.
These are just some bodyweight movements that can be done anywhere. Remember, proper technique is the most important thing! Adding variations to these movements should only be done after mastering the easiest version! Please email for questions or comments! Thanks for reading!
About George- George has a BS in Sport and Exercise Science from DeSales University and obtained his CSCS from the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He has over 10 years experience working with a wide range of clientele from top-level athletes to older adults and special populations. He also is a competitive powerlifter and enjoys coaching the sport.