When you think about working out, your mind probably goes to cardio, like walking and running, or lifting weights at the gym. But if you're looking for something new (because let's face it, that type of exercise can get monotonous), you're not alone. Enter: Bodyweight exercises, which are one of the easiest ways to get cardio and strength training in one workout.
Unlike machines or free weights, which usually only target one or two muscle groups at once and take time to use, with bodyweight exercises, “you can transition from one move to the other extremely quickly, so you are building strength while incorporating cardio,” says personal trainer Brooke Emory.
The wonderful thing about bodyweight exercises is that you don't need any equipment because you're using the weight of your body as resistance. What's more, you can do them anywhere, whether you're at home, the gym, the park, or in a hotel room. And trust us, you'll never get bored because they force you to work in different planes of motion.
“Bodyweight exercises are suitable for any fitness level and any age. All you need to do to increase or decrease intensity is to modify the rep scheme or timeframe,” says Emory.
You can start maintaining—and building—muscle mass by incorporating these beginner-friendly, bodyweight exercises into a full-body workout, mixing and matching moves depending on what area of the body you're working on. Feel free to modify the exercises as needed. For example, if you can't do a traditional push-up, drop to your knees for a modification. And if high-impact exercises, like burpees, do a number on your knees, you can eliminate the jump and simply step up to stand. Go for an AMRAP (as many rounds as possible)-style workout for 15 minutes, using this rep pattern:
● 4 hand-release push-ups
● 6 froggers
● 8 burpees
● 10 V-ups
● 12 squat jumps
● 14 high knees (7 per leg)
● 16 shoulder taps
● 18 mountain climbers (9 per leg)
Keep reading to get started!
1. Hand-release push-ups
Targets: Shoulders, chest, and triceps
Why it works: Trainers recommend this push-up variation for its ability to standardize the movement (no two-inch "reps" here!) and increase the power of your push. Plus, it pinpoints pecs better than pretty much any other kind of push-up.
How to: Start in a high plank position with your shoulders directly over wrists, glutes tight and feet just wider than shoulder-width apart. Lower body to the floor, keeping a straight line from your shoulders to toes. Lift hands off the floor by pinching the shoulder blades together. Press palms back on the floor and push your body back into a high plank position.
Targets: Core and glutes
Why it works: This multi-faceted move works everything from your shoulders to your core to your glutes and calves. Plus, it gets your heart rate up.
How to: Start in a high plank position with your shoulders directly over wrists, glutes tight and feet just wider than shoulder-width apart. Jump your feet to the outside of your hands, with your glutes lower than the knees in a deep squat position. Hands can either release or stayed glued to the floor. Jump your feet back into a high plank position.
Targets: The entire body—arms, chest, quads and glutes
Why it works: The explosive plyometric element (the jump) will get your heart pumping while working your chest, arms, shoulders, legs, glutes, and core. "Without a doubt, this is my favorite bodyweight move,” Emory says.
How to: Start in a high plank position with your shoulders directly over wrists, glutes tight and feet just wider than shoulder-width apart. Lower body to the floor, keeping a straight line from shoulders to toes. Jump your feet outside of hands, with glutes lower than knees in a deep squat position. Driving from your heels, explode off the floor to jump, reaching your hands toward ceiling.
Why it works: Consider this move a sit-up on steroids that will help you carve out some killer abs. Perform this move on a mat or a blanket to protect your back.
How to: Start on your back in a hollow body position, with your head, shoulders and feet hovering off of the ground. Think of the curved shape of a banana—that's how your body should look. Compress the core to bring the upper- and lower- body together in an upside down pike position. Balance on your glutes and reach hands to touch—or get close to—your toes. Slowly lower back to a hollow body position.
5. Squat jump
Why it works: This plyometric exercise tones your butt while torching major calories. Be sure to “finish with bent knees. The movement should be fluid,” Emory says.
How to: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Stabilizing with your weight in the heels, lower your glutes below the knees in a deep squat position. Then, explode off the floor from the squat to jump. Land softly back down to the ground.
6. High knees
Targets: Quads and hamstrings
Why it works: Talk about cardio and strength. This running-like exercise will crank up the pace and allow your leg muscles to shake out before tackling the rest of the routine.
How to: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Drive one knee toward your chest so it's at a 90-degree angle. Quickly switch sides. While alternating legs, swing your arms as if you're sprinting in place to make it a full-body move and increase your heart rate.
7. Shoulder taps
Targets: Shoulders and core
Why it works: This move tests your balance while strengthening your upper body. The key is doing it with control. Aim to keep your hip bones pointed toward the floor the entire time. “Try not to rock your body; it defeats the purpose,” Emory says.
How to: Start in a high plank position with your shoulders directly over wrists, glutes tight and feet just wider than shoulder-width apart. Without moving your hips, tap your right shoulder with your left hand, then the left shoulder with your right hand.
8. Mountain climbers
Targets: Shoulders, arms, and core
Why it works: "Running" on the floor will boost your cardio and strength. If you're having trouble keeping up the pace, simply alternate toe taps. Bring one toe a couple feet closer to the chest and then bring it back to plank, alternating sides.
How to: Start in a high plank position with your shoulders directly over wrists, glutes tight and feet just wider than shoulder-width apart. Keeping your hips in line with the shoulders and toes, alternate driving one knee toward chest, then the other, as if running across the floor. Be sure to maintain your form throughout the movement, keeping your shoulders over the wrists. People tend to move their shoulders away from their wrists as they get tired.