Sunday, July 19, 2009

10 Bodyweight Exercises

This here is my list of my 10 favorite bodyweight exercises. These are the most basic forms, and can be done anywhere. I like bodyweight exercises because I am a huge advocate of working out at home. I do not believe you need a gym to lose weight, burn fat, and get in shape.

Bodyweight exercises do not require any additional workout equipment. The only weight you are lifting is your own body weight. Shocking, right?

As I have mentioned in several of my posts already, including Working Out at Home and Burning Fat and Losing Weight-Stay at Home Parent Style, I have been working out at home for the past two and a half months, losing a total of 16 pounds (about 9% of my original bodyweight) and 2 inches off my waist. I also have gone from 19.7% body fat to 10.1% body fat.

These results have come from dedication, hard work, interval training, and eating right. The first step though, was for me to get back into shape. After three years of doing no exercising at all, I needed to start from ground zero.

That is where bodyweight training came into play. These exercises, which I did for a total of two weeks, helped me transition in to a good physical condition that allowed me to take the first steps towards my goal of becoming a more fit, healthy person.

1. Jumping Jacks

The most basic, and easiest of the 10. Jumping jacks work out a large number of muscles in the entire body, and can help build endurance and work on cardio conditioning.

I used these as warmups, and did a full 60 seconds of these before each workoout session. The first day, I was breathing heavily just after these alone. By the end of the first week, I was completing the full minute with minimum effort. Such a huge change in a short period of time!

2. Push-ups

Push-ups are probably my favorite exercise to do because of how effective they are for your arms, chest, core, shoulders, and back. The trick is to make sure and do them in the correct form, else you risk injuring your back.

At first, my goal was to do three sets of 20 push-ups. I was so out of shape that I did 20, 15, and finally 13. The second day I was at 20, 20, and 15. The third day I pushed myself to 20, 20, and 22!

I know 20 push-ups sounds easy, but after a long period of time with no intense physical activity, they are much more to take on than you anticipate.

Now, after two and a half months, I can do 20 normal push-ups easily, with me advancing to do three sets of 35. I even timed myself to see how many I could complete in 60 seconds, and I managed to get 50 push-ups in that time frame! My goal is 60 in 60 seconds by the end of the month.

3. Lunges

Most people think of walking lunges, but I tend to do stationary lunges. With limited room to walk back and forth, this is a much easier way to complete the exercise.

I never really had any trouble doing these until I progressed to jumping lunges, but that is a whole separate topic I will post about at a later date (a la Advanced Bodyweight Exercises).

4. Prison Squats

Prison squats are squats done with your hands placed behind your head. Next to the jumping jacks, this was probably one ofthe easier exercises for me to comlpete. My goal was to do three sets of 20 squats, but instantly realized that was way too easy, so I pushed it up to three sets of 30.

5. Crunches

There are so many variations of crunches, and I have done quite a few of them, but the one I started out with was the basic crunch. It is not as challenging as the other forms, but it is a good starting point for core training.

My first day I did three sets of 40 crunches, which was right on target for what I needed.

6. Planks

Planks were new to me, and I was really surprised at how tough they were. I really felt the burn after each workout from these. They focus almost ocmpletely on the core, but I also felt them working out my calves and shoulders.

My starting day I opened up with three sets of 45 seconds. I barely made it to 45 the first set. The second set I collapsed at 35 seconds. I got back up and completed the last 10. The last set I made 30 seconds and could not finish.

By the end of the week, I was able to complete all three sets for the full 45 seconds, but was definitely struggling with the last set.

7. Pull-ups

Pull-ups are still the only exercise that I cannot complete my sets. I orignally began with a goal of three sets of 15 pull-ups, and managed to do three, two, and two. That is just sad, but this is the exercise that most people have difficulty doing. I had to substitute a dumbell overhead press to finish my sets of 15, because they closely resemble pull-ups and the muscle groups used are almost the same.

Now, I can do sets of eight, seven, and seven. That is not nearly the progress I had hoped for, but each week I am trying to add one more pull-up to each set.

Pull-ups are phenomenal for the biceps, shoulders, core and back muscles. The trick to doing more reps is to just keep doing them, pushing yourself to get one more completed each time.

8. Chair dips

Here, I actually am to use a prop. Chair dips are easily done with, you guessed it, a chair. I have a small workout bench, so I used that instead so I did not have to leave the room I was working out in.

These were relatively easy, but I really felt the burn in my triceps. Starting out, I completed three sets of 15, and by the next week I was doing three sets of 25.

9. Calf Raises

Another exercise that requires a 'prop'. You can use anything from a step stool to stairs to an extra 2x4 lying in the garage. I opt for the stairs because it is just a little bit more challenging and my heels never hit the ground below me.

First day I was able to complete three sets of 20 easily, but definitely felt it in my calves later on.

10. Burpees

I always finished my workouts with burpees, as they took the most out of me. This is a full body workout, and although I completed each set, the quickness at which I completed each rep got slower and slower.

On the first day, I started with three sets of 20 burpees. Being out of shape, it was tough to complete these, especially after doing all the other bodyweight exercises first. But at the end of the week, I was already in better shape, and was able to complete all the sets with much less difficulty.

Make Bodyweight Exercises Tougher

After the first two weeks of doing bodyweight exercises, I got used to the amount of work for each workout. The exercises were becoming less difficult, so I altered a few of them to make them more challenging. I added jump squats, jump lunges, and explosive push-ups. Even those became obsolete, so now I wear a weighted backpack (about 20 pounds) with all my bodyweight exercises. Definitely adds some 'oomph' to my workouts!

In closing this post, I still do normal bodyweight exercises from time to time, especially if I am away from home and still need a way to workout. They are easy to do, and are a great way to kick off your journey on getting back into shape!

(It is my intention to add a video demonstration soon, just have to find the time to make it.)

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