Want to get lean? Try these top bodyweight exercises
How do you want to come out of lockdown? Fitter and healthier, or fatter and sicker? A lot of us put up excuses around gyms being shut, or having no access to personal trainers. As much as that may be a discomfort for most of us, here are few body weight exercises to the rescue!
No matter what your weight is – 60 kg, 70 kg, 80 kg or more, it is your body weight that you can use to boost your muscle growth, stamina and endurance, burn fat, and increase your metabolism and much more. We should be able to carry our body weight and handle it. If for whatever reason, you cannot handle your weight nor do a simple pull-up, push-up or a plank, you need to start thinking about your future years, because that means your own body, muscles, joints and spine will not be able to support your weight. Of course, some people cannot handle their weight because of genuine issues like an injury, surgery, spinal issues or excess body fat, but for everyone else, this is an important aspect of fitness.
The following are some simple body weight exercises that have been done for decades by pro athletes, elite trainers, army soldiers and body builders. All of them have these exercises in their fitness regime, whether they practice Pilates, weight lifting, CrossFit or even yoga. The beauty of these exercises is that they train every single muscle of your body and that is the key to overall fitness. The same old routine of Monday to Friday workouts that involve – leg day, back day, upper body day, and core day may lead to missing out on minor muscles if we do not engage in these body weight exercises. Using a workout machine limits us to use the same muscles every single time. Use machines if you have to, but also engage other muscles with body weight training.
Where do I start? If you are beginner, start with one exercise a day. Even if you do one rep a day, it is great. As you develop more strength, you can gradually aim for 5 – 10 repetitions or more. These are free and will not cost you even a penny.
- Push-ups: Irrespective of gender, this exercise is for all. Push-ups are about your will and your skill. Once you learn how to do a basic push-up, it is one of the most fabulous exercises to adhere to. It is a mandatory exercise in defence forces that enables soldiers to train their upper body, shoulders, back, core, chest and glutes. Start with a single push-up and once you have mastered its technique and form, start aiming for higher repetitions. You can gradually add variations like close-handed, diamond, wide-armed and so on. These variations will endlessly challenge and strengthen your muscles every time you do them.
- Pull-ups: The ability to do a pull up defines the level of strength and fitness. The best investment you can make right now is to get a pull-up bar and master a basic pull-up. If you cannot do a pull-up, begin by simply hanging on it to recruit and strengthen your back and arms. Apply variations here as well, like chin-ups, close-handed, wide-handed and more. As you develop strength, you can even strap on additional weight like a weighted vest. No other weight training exercise recruits the number of muscles at a single time than a pull-up does, and that is why it is difficult at first.
Some people have never even stepped into a gym but engage themselves in pull-ups and have chiselled, ripped and lean bodies. While this may not necessarily be your goal, it even works for body toning, boosting metabolism and fat loss. There are ample variations for beginners like a supported pull-up. Nevertheless, make it a part of your lifestyle!
- Lunges and Squats: These are the best exercises for the lower body. They train your quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves and core. If they are easy for you, add variations. If variations become easy too, add plyometrics! So, squat and jump, and then squat again. Similarly, you can try jumping lunges. The idea is to keep challenging your body when it starts to get too easy for you. If you have weak knees, an injury or torn ligaments, please take professional guidance before you try this.
- Planks: These exercises target your core and have so many variations again like pylo planks, side planks, push-up planks, twisted plank, walking plank, forearm plank, and many more. A weak core could mean lower back and neck pains, and planks are perfect for your core. It also targets belly fat.
- Bridge: This is similar to the bridge pose in yoga, also called Setu Bandhasana. Lie down on your back, fold your legs and lift your butt up and down. This exercise targets your legs, lower back, hamstrings, glutes, core, and quads.
- Supermans: These are great to strengthen your lower back and core region (mind you, your core is not just your six-pack, but also the sides and back of your abdominal region). One can time the holds to develop strength and stamina, gradually add variations and multiple repetitions too.
- Calf raises: These can be easily done anywhere, even at the office or while you are standing in a long queue. One can do them with toes pointing towards the front, sideways as well as inwards, and this helps target every single part of your calves. If it gets too easy, hold a weight or add some ankle weights for additional resistance.
- Mountain climbers: This is a great cardio-cum-weight training exercise. It targets the shoulders, core, legs, glutes, hamstrings, back muscles and many other muscles, which no other exercise can.
- Jumping jacks and Skipping: These too are fantastic body weight exercises that come with a bit of plyometrics. If you do not have a skipping rope, skip with an imaginary one.
These exercises do not cost you any money. All you need is your body weight, a few minutes, and discipline to take out those few minutes for yourself. And, you do not have to kill yourself with these exercises. Start slowly with a gradual build-up and keep challenging your body. Some of them may be difficult, but not impossible. Even if you have a goal of lifting heavy weights at the gym, first start with body weight exercises and then progress to other exercises. It is important to learn how to crawl before starting to walk. In most gyms, people ego-lift, which is trying to lift more weight than others, simply to show off, and in turn, end up injuring themselves terribly. There is always a proper training for everything, and body weight exercises should be everyone’s starting point.
If you can do these exercises, it speaks volumes about your fitness levels, the strength of your core, stamina and endurance. Ideally, we should be able to do these exercises even when we are 70 or 80 years of age, and some senior citizens do them. So, start now!
You can find each of these exercises on YouTube or have your trainer demonstrate them, but please get the basic form and technique correct.
Disclaimer: Safety first! Please make an informed decision and seek your health expert’s guidance before beginning any of these exercises, especially if you have an injury, or are recovering from a recent surgery.