Due to late hours at work, a lack of access to traditional weight training equipment or personal preference, some people just can’t get to a gym. This is perfectly fine because the body will adapt in size and strength as long as the stress of the exercise is intense enough. Training with bodyweight will build lean muscle, especially if exercises are performed in a slow, controlled manner.
Squats are thought to be one of the best exercises you can possibly do. It’s easy to use progressions to make them harder as time goes by, but you should start by perfecting your form. Here’s how:
- To start, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and put your arms out straight in front of you or behind your head.
- Begin the descent by pushing your hips back and bending at the knees.
- Look straight ahead and keep your chest up to ensure your back remains in a flat, neutral position. Your back should remain in this neutral position throughout the movement.
- Squat down as low as you can whilst keeping your back straight, and then explode back up to the starting position by driving through your heels.
- Your weight should be on your heels throughout the entire exercise.
When it’s time to step up your squat game, there are lots of ways to make that happen. Start by using this exercise list as a guide to getting lower and moving more weight. Keep in mind, these variations aren’t meant to be completed in one workout. Think of it as a checklist. Start at the top of the list and master each move, over time, before progressing to the next.
- Jump Squat
Ready to get explosive? A training program that includes plyometric exercises like the jump squat has been shown to be more effective at increasing strength than programs that rely on weight training alone.
How to: Kick things off in the basic bodyweight squat position (notice a trend here?) and execute the first part of the squat, until we bottom out (a). With your hips back and butt down, notice your hamstrings and glutes will tighten and activate. Release that tension by driving your hips forward and your arms up towards the sky, while jumping off of the ground (b). Return to the ground softly and sink right back into the squat before heading into the next repetition (c). Sets: 4, Reps: 12.
Push ups engage your chest, shoulders, triceps, and core for a complete pushing exercise, and there’s a tonne of different variations to satisfy the beginner to the advanced athlete. They’re kind of a big deal.
To perform a basic push- up:
- Place you hands on the ground slightly wider than shoulder width.
- Lower yourself until your chest almost touches the floor.
- Ensure you keep your body in a straight line throughout the movement by squeezing your glutes and bracing your abs as if somebody was going to punch you in the stomach.
- Keep your elbows close to your body.
If you can’t do a regular push-up don’t panic. It’s easy to work up to push-ups by starting on an incline or a wall. The technique is exactly the same as above, only you’re more upright. Once you can perform 30 reps with good form, you should be thinking about moving on to tougher variations. Here are some great variations you can do to make sure you are constantly challenging yourself:
- Diamond push-ups: To perform a diamond push-up place your hands close together so the tips of your thumbs and index fingers touch. The space between your hands should form a diamond shape, like what you would do at a Jay-Z concert. This variation places more emphasis on the triceps than the regular push-up.
- Feet-elevated push-ups: Get into the position of a regular push-up, but elevate your feet by placing them on a stable surface, or in the foot handles of a TRX. Using a TRX will make the exercise more effective as it will also engage your core. You can increase the difficulty of this exercise by raising the angle of elevation.
- Handstand push-ups: Handstand push-ups target the shoulders, rather than the chest, but they are still a great full-body movement. Before attempting this exercise, master holding a handstand against a wall. Once you can do this for 60 seconds, try pressing up and down to perform the handstand push-up. Again, the TRX is useful here because you transition easily from feet-elevated push-ups to this variation.
- One-armed push-ups: One-armed push-ups are a big jump from regular push-ups, but they are extremely impressive to see.
- Planche push-ups: These are the gold-standard of push-ups. A planche involves holding your body parallel to the ground and takes a great deal of strength and balance. And then you do push-ups as well.