Bodyweight Workout Routines You Can Perform Anywhere
Let’s face it, the Holiday Season is a tricky mistress. This time of year is usually filled with homemade food, time with loved ones, and positive memories. These temptations and obligations place an extreme amount of pressure on us to deviate from our healthy lifestyle. The calorie-filled booze, multi-hour road trips, work parties, family activities, and social gathering take a toll on both our activity levels and diet.
Time is at premium during the Holiday Season and we’re often pressured to indulgence in homemade decadent desserts. Do not use this situation as an excuse to completely throw your diet, exercise regimen, and healthy lifestyle out of the window.
One of the most challenging elements of the Holiday Season is finding time to exercise. It difficult to accept that your usual gym workouts may take a backseat during this time of year but that doesn’t mean you can squeeze in shorter high-quality and high-intensity workouts.
Those of us embracing the healthy lifestyle know that some exercise is better than no exercise. The exercise list and workouts below are designed for situations in which you need to burn some calories, blast some fat, and engage your muscles using just your bodyweight.
Save this article and use it as a reference when you want to squeeze in a high-quality workout while you’re traveling, when you’re pressed for time, on your active recovery days, or as a finisher to your weight training days.
The Bodyweight Exercises
The exercises below are organized by an emphasis on upper body, lower body, abdominal, or conditioning.
Upper Body Emphasis
Pushups – The king of upper body bodyweight movements. Some of my favorite variations include knees on the floor, incline, decline, wide grip, close grip, diamond, Hindu, handstand, and clap pushups. Hindu pushups begin with your hips high, creating a upside down V, followed by the lowering of the chest and elbows to the ground while keeping the hips somewhat high.
At the bottom of the movement begin arching your upper and lower back. Finish the movement by straightening your arms and look upwards with your hips almost touching the floor. Handstand pushups emphasize shoulder rather than chest development.
Dips – A great movement for developing the triceps. If you don’t have a playground with parallel bars nearby you can perform bench dips by placing your hands behind you on an elevated surface like a chair, table, or couch.
Keep your legs straight and chest up as you descend until your shoulders are parallel with your elbows. Hold this position for one to three seconds and push through your palms to press yourself back up.
Prone Back Extension – A movement that works the back muscles using isometric contractions. Lay flat on the floor with your legs straight in a hip-width stance, your arms straight by your sides. Your palms can face upwards or downwards. Flex your back and simultaneously raise both your arms and legs so that they are off the ground.
Hold this position for one to three seconds and slowly lower yourself back to the starting position. You can also place your hands behind your head or straight out in front of you to adjustment the movement’s intensity.
Lower Body Emphasis
Squats – The king of lower body bodyweight movements. Don’t let your heels come off the ground unless you’re performing jump squats. At the bottom of each rep your hip crease should be at least in-line with or lower than your knee joints. Some of my favorite variations include traditional, jump, and one-legged (pistol) squats.
Pistol squats are the most challenging of the three squat variations because they’re unilateral in nature, which means you perform a full squat using just one leg at a time. Pistol squats require an exceptional amount of ankle mobility and balance. Ease in to this exercise by performing negative reps (the lowering portion) and using a wall or chair for support.
Lunges – A great unilateral exercise to build muscle and strength in the glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves. Some of my favorite variations include the forward, reverse, walking, jump, front foot elevated, and rear foot elevated (Bulgarian split) lunge.
Ensure your hip crease is in-line with or slightly below your knee joint at the bottom of each repetition and your torso stays upright throughout the entire movement. The jump lunge is great for training explosiveness while the rear foot elevated lunge is the most difficult variation because of its increased range of motion.
Glute Bridge – A simple exercise to target and engage the glutes that also incorporates abdominals. Set up for the movement by laying face up on the floor, bending your knees so that your feet are flat on the floor, and taking a hip to shoulder width stance.
Initiate the movement by pushing your lower back in to the floor and then squeezing your glutes to push yourself off the ground. Continue pushing upwards until your hips are fully extended. Hold for one to three seconds before lowering yourself to the starting position.
Hip Thrust – Once you’ve mastered the glute bridge increase the difficulty and glute engagement using hip thrusts. Place your upper back on a sturdy and flat surface roughly 18 to 24 inches off the ground. Like the glute bridge your knees should be bent so that your feet are flat on the floor in a stance between hip and shoulder width. Initiate the movement by squeezing your glutes and pushing your hips towards the ceiling.
At the top of the movement your feet should be flat, shins at a perpendicular angle to the floor, upper back on the pad, and knees in-line with your hips. The increased range of motion makes this movement more difficult than a glute bridge.
Wall Sit – The wall sit is an excellent static movement for engaging your lower body muscles using isometric contractions. Place your upper back, glutes, and head against the wall and take a hip width stance between 18 and 24 inches away from the wall.
Slowly slide down the wall until your hips are in-line with your knee joints. Hold this position for the desired duration below pushing back up to the start position or lowering yourself to the floor. Your upper back, glutes, and head should remain in-contact with the wall throughout the entire movement.
Calf Raise – Dual leg and single leg calf raises off a flat or on a slightly raised surface are an effective bodyweight exercising for targeting the calf muscles. Push through your toes until your ankles are fully extended and balls of the feet are off the ground. Hold this position for one to three seconds before lowering to the starting position.
Performing calf raises on a slightly raised surface will jack up the intensity due to increased range of motion. You may need to hold on to a wall or chair with one or two hands to maintain balance through the movement.
Bodyweight Conditioning Emphasis
Running – Lacing up your running shoes and taking a low intensity jog is a great way to burn extra calories and improve cardiovascular endurance. Those with a moderate cardiovascular base can perform hill sprints or 100 to 400 meter sprints around a track or flat field.
Sprints will not only build strength in quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and calves, but will also torch body fat and continue burning calories after you finish the sprint workout.
Jumping Jacks – This military favorite is a great way to increase your heart rate in a short period without having to go outside. Do not skimp on the range of motion with this exercise. Start with your hands by your sides and legs narrower than hip width.
After jumping land on your forefoot in a stance wider than shoulder and arms completely overhead and almost touching. Increase the intensity of this exercise by performing the jumping jacks at a faster speed.
Burpees – CrossFit popularized this full body conditioning exercise which combines a jump squat, leg tuck, and push up. Begin the movement by standing upright, slightly bending your knees, and performing a jump squat. Upon landing completely bend your knees and squat down so that both hands can touch the floor.
Quickly move your feet back so that your toes are touching the ground and you’re in a push-up position. Perform a push up and then tuck your legs so that the balls or your feet and hands are touching the ground. From this position perform another jump squat and repeat the sequence for the desired number of repetitions.
Shadow Boxing – If you want to conditioning your legs, heart, abdominals, shoulders, and arms without wanting to step in the ring or hit a punching bag then consider shadow boxing. Shadow boxing does not require gloves, ring, or a punching bag. Simply pretend you’re sparring with an imaginary opponent.
Your shadow boxing workout should incorporate ducking movements, blocks, punches with your left and right hands, as well as footwork adjustments. You may feel silly at first but after a few minutes you’ll realize how effective this exercise is for burning calories and increasing your heart rate.
Crunches – A staple bodyweight movement for engaging the abdominals. Unfortunately, most people butcher this movement and it turns in to an exercise engaging the hip flexors rather than the abdominals. Instead of asking someone to hold your ankles or wedging your toes until a narrow opening, bend your knees and place the back of your feet on an elevated surface like a couch, table, or chair.
Your glutes, lower back, head, and upper back should be in-contact with the ground at the beginning of the movement. Place your hands behind your head or neck, tense your abdominals, push your lower back on to the floor, and raise your upper torso off the ground. Be sure you’re leading with your abdominals rather than your beck. Hold to the top position for one to two seconds before descending back to the starting position.
Leg Lifts – Start in a position where you’re lying face up with your head, upper back, lower back, glutes, hands, and ankles in contact with the ground. While keep your legs straight engage your abdominals to lift your legs so that they’re perpendicular with the ground and pointing towards the ceiling.
Raising your hips slightly off the ground at the top of the movement will further engage the abdominal muscles. If you are unable to keep your legs straight throughout the movement you can bend your knees while performing the movement.
Planks – Front and side planks are static movements training the abdominal muscles through isometric contractions. For front planks start in a pushup position in which your arms are extended and palms are flat on the floor or rest on your elbows so that they’re in-line or slightly in front of your shoulders.
While keeping your hips and back straight flex your abdominals for the desired duration. For side planks roll on to your right side, raise your hips so that only your right foot and right elbow or hand are touching the ground. Flex your right oblique for the desired time before returning to the start position and repeating on the left side.
Mountain Climbers – This is a great movement for targeting the obliques and increasing your heart rate. Begin a pushup position so that you’re on your toes, arms are fully extended, and in-line with your shoulders. Flex your glutes and keep your back straight while you bend your right leg and draw in the knee towards your navel.
You should feel your right oblique muscles engaging. Quickly return your right leg back to the start position and perform the same movement using your left leg. You can increase the movement speed to increase intensity but don’t rush the movement and compromise form.
Prone Walk Out – A difficult movement that will smoke your abdominals as well as train your balance and mental fortitude. Begin the movement in a push-up position. While keeping your arms straight slowly alternate moving your left and right hands forward in small distances.
As you move your hands away from you, your head and torso will lower towards but never touch the ground. Move out your hands as far as possible without falling before slowing inching your hands back to the starting position.
For each of the workouts below rest 30 to 60 seconds between sets and 60 to 90 seconds between exercises. AMRAP stands for As Many Repetitions as Possible which means you should not train to complete failure but push yourself to the point that you couldn’t complete another repetition with good form.
|Traditional Push Ups||4||15|
|Prone Back Extension||3||20|
|Jump Lunges||3||15 per leg|
|Wall Sit||3||Max time|
|Mountain Climbers||4||20 per leg|
|Hill Sprints||5||50 to 100 meters|
|Hindu Push Ups||4||20|
|Pistol Squats||3||10 per leg|
|Prone Walk Out||3||3 walk outs|
|Shadow Boxing||3||60 seconds|