3 No-Equipment Bodyweight Exercises
By Paula Poh
Hi Gals. As we all may have experienced, keeping up with/maintaining our fitness can be a struggle. What’s a brunch-loving Gal to do? Here are three bodyweight exercises (no equipment or gym needed) that can be done anywhere and anytime.
Fun fact: the burpee was developed by Royal Huddleston Burpee for his Ph.D. thesis. When performed in rapid succession, it provides a measure of agility, coordination and strength. Since its development, the exercise has branched into several variations, but first, the basics:
- Feet shoulder distance apart. Bend at the knees (like a squat). Place hands by feet.
- Jump into a plank position. *Modification: step one foot back at a time.
- Jump back into a squat with hands still on the ground. *Modification: step one foot up at a time.
- Stand up and repeat.
Start with 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions (reps), with 30-60 sec in between sets—2-3 days/week for beginners, 3-4 days/week for intermediate and 4-6 days/week for advanced individuals. Once that becomes a breeze, increase the reps by 5. To test strength, count how many you can do in 1 minute. To test endurance, count how many you can do with good form until you can’t do anymore. The record for the most burpees in a minute by a woman is 37. #goals
To increase the complexity of the burpee, incorporate these variations:
- Instead of jumping into a plank, lower chest to the floor before jumping into a squat
- Add 2 push-ups once in the plank position
- Add a hop, tuck jump or jumping jack when standing up
- Perform the exercise with one leg to challenge your balance (e.g., one legged squat, one legged plank) *Tip: take these slow at first as they can be challenging
Push-ups are a great upper-extremity weight-bearing exercise with two positions: traditional and modified (sometimes referred to as “girl push-ups”—not only is that wrong, but a bit offensive). Both target the same muscles (chest, arms and shoulders) and are equally effective. The modified push-up is used if you are unable to perform a traditional push-up.
- Start in a plank position with hands underneath shoulders. Feet a few inches apart (traditional) or with knees on the ground, ankles uncrossed (modified). Make sure your head, hips, and feet (or knees) are in a straight line.
- Lower chest a few inches off the ground. Elbows at 90°. Engage your core to protect your lower back from dipping. *Tip: to work the triceps, keep elbows close to chest; to work the biceps, bend elbows to the side.
- Push the ground away to return to a plank position and repeat.
Start with 3 sets of 8-10 reps, with 30-60 sec in between sets—2-3 days/week for beginners, 3-4 days/week for intermediate and 4-6 days/week for advanced individuals. Once that becomes easier, increase the reps by 2. *Tip: start with the traditional, and as you get tired transition to modified. To test strength, count how many you can do in 1 minute. For endurance, count how many you can do with good form until exhaustion. Below are normative data (for endurance), based on age for women, from the American College of Sports Medicine’s Complete Guide to Fitness and Health, 2nd Edition (Bushman, 2017). Only Gals that Brunch age groups are included. FYI these are for modified push-ups.
Star jumps are a plyometric exercise that exerts maximum force in short intervals of time, while shining bright like the star you are. Research has shown that plyometrics benefit anaerobic and aerobic physiological responses in strength and power (Brown et al., 2010; Davies et al., 2015). Proper plyometric training has shown to prevent ACL injuries by strengthening the muscles, tendons and bones (Davies et al., 2015). Now let’s get down to business!
- Start standing with feet a few inches apart and arms by side.
- Bend at the knees (like a squat). Keep chest lifted and proud. *Tip: the deeper you squat, the more force you can generate, and the higher the jump!
- Pushing into the ground kick both legs out to the side, as arms simultaneously rise to the side (limbs make an X).
- Land with both feet, heels on the ground, and knees bent. Repeat.
Start with 3 sets of 8-10 reps, with 30-60 sec in between sets—2-3 days/week for beginners, 3-4 days/week for intermediate, and 4-6 days/week for advanced individuals. Once you get a hang of them, increase the reps by 5. To test anaerobic strength, count how many you can do in 1 minute. For aerobic endurance, count how many you can do with good form until you can’t do anymore.