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5 Simple Bodyweight Exercises That Make A Complete Workout

If you've just started working out, then the number of workout options available can seem overwhelming. However, a few simple exercises can give you a good full-body workout. Plank exercises are good for the core muscles. Squats build strength in the legs and hips. Push-ups work on your arms, shoulders, chest, core, and legs. Dips work on your triceps, back, upper arms, and shoulders. Pull-ups strengthen the core and upper body muscles.

Once you’ve convinced yourself to dedicate some part of your day to working out, you’re bound to be faced with a bigger dilemma. Where do you start? There’s a world of options out there from cardiovascular training and strength training to weight lifting and pilates. But, you don’t have to feel overwhelmed. If you’d like to start small and still get in a good workout, we have a few simple exercises that will give you a complete workout.

1. Plank

Plank exercises are good for the core muscles.

You don’t need to do situps and crunches to get the perfect abs. Doing planks is a much better alternative. Plank is also a better option for your back as other core exercises like crunches, situps, and leg lifts strain your back.1

What Muscles It Works On

It works for your glutes and hamstrings. It engages a more diverse set of core muscles (front, back, and sides) when compared to other core exercises. It also works on all the muscles at the same time instead of one in isolation. This is important for sports and recreational activities since they engage all your core muscles at the same time as well.

Method

  • Get into a pushup position on the floor and let your elbows be perpendicular and directly under your shoulders.
  • Your body should form a straight line from your head to your feet.
  • Hold this position for 5 seconds and slowly lower yourself down, without breaking your form.
  • Gradually increase the time of holding the plank.

In order to get the best results from this exercise, ensure you try a set of variations as well.23

2. Squats

Squats build strength in the legs and hips.

Squats are one of the most functional exercise routines. They help build strength in your legs and your hips. However, while they might look simple, they need to be done with proper form. When done incorrectly, squats can cause knee pain.4

What Muscles It Works On

Squats work excellent for your leg muscles. It also tones your abs, hip and thigh muscles.

Method

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms straight in front of you.
  • Slowly bend your knees and hips, and lower your buttocks about 8 inches down. Make sure to keep your back flat as you do this.
  • Slowly return to the starting position and squeeze your buttocks on your way up.
  • You could do 8–12 repetitions of this exercise.

While you could stick to the basic squats in the beginning, don’t hesitate to move on to variations for a more holistic workout.5

3. Push-Ups

Push ups work on your arms, shoulders, chest, core, and legs

Push-ups feature in almost every workout there is. This isn’t just because they can be done anywhere and don’t require weights. Like squats and planks, push-ups need a good form as well.

What Muscles It Works On

Push-ups work your chest, legs, shoulders, hips, arms, and core. They can also be modified according to your needs just by changing the position of your arms. When your hands are placed a little inward, they work on your chest muscles and when you place them a little outward, they work on your triceps.

Method

  • Begin in a full plank position with your arms extended. The palms should be flat on the floor and in line with your shoulders.
  • Place your feet 12 inches apart and stay on your toes.
  • Keep your weight evenly distributed and your back straight.
  • Look down and lower your body with your elbows close to your chest, until your elbows are at 90 degrees.
  • Push yourself back up to complete one push-up.

If a traditional push-up is too difficult for you, then you could place your knees on the floor as well. Repeat this as often as you can, and break your repetitions into sets. Challenge yourself by setting goals and make this exercise more fun.6

4. Dips

Dips work on your triceps, back, upper arms, and shoulders

Dips are a part of most bodyweight workout routines. They’re also easy to do and don’t require any equipment. As with any exercise, it’s important to stay in good form when you’re doing dips as well.

What Muscles It Works On

They work on your triceps, back, upper arms, and shoulders and eliminate stubborn fat from the triceps.

Method

  • Find a steady bench or chair. Sit on it with your palms shoulder-width apart and facing forward.
  • Slide off the bench with your legs together, straight ahead of you. Straighten your arms, but keep a slight bend in your elbows.
  • Bend your elbows and lower your body down until your elbows are at 90 degrees.
  • Press the bench and slowly lift yourself back up to return to the starting position.

You could repeat this exercise 10–12 times for optimum results. Slowly build your way up the repetitions.7

5. Pull-Ups

Pull-ups

Pull-ups are difficult to do but extremely effective. You could do a pull up in the gym, on monkey bars, or in your home with a pull-up bar.

What Muscles It Works On

They work on the upper back, core, and arms.

Method

  • Grab the pull-up bar or monkey bar. Place your hands shoulder-width apart.
  • Hang from the bar, bend your knees, and raise your legs a little.
  • Pull yourself up by pulling your elbows down. Go as high as you can.
  • Slowly get back to the starting position.

If there’s a pool around your place, you could also try a pull-up with the end of a diving board. Repeat 12 times or as many times as you can. As with most other exercises, pull-ups have variations that you could gradually incorporate into your exercise regime.8

It’s important to remember that you need to warm up before your workout and cool down after you finish your routine.9 Your body might also get used to the same kind of exercises very soon, so be sure to switch things up if these exercises aren’t challenging you enough.

References   [ + ]

1. Want a stronger core? Skip the sit-ups. Harvard Health Publishing.
2. Calatayud, Joaquin, José Casaña, Fernando Martín, Markus D. Jakobsen, Juan Carlos Colado, and Lars L. Andersen. “Progression of Core Stability Exercises Based on the Extent of Muscle Activity.” American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation 96, no. 10 (2017): 694-699.
3. Front Plank. The American Council On Exercise.
4. How to Squat Correctly. Arthritis Foundation National Office.
5. The 4 most important types of exercise. Harvard Health Publishing.
6. The rise of push-ups: A classic exercise that can help you get stronger. Harvard Health Publishing.
7. Power training provides special benefits for muscles and function. Harvard Health Publications.
8. McCormack, Betsy Nagelsen, and Mike Yorkey. Fit Over 40 for Dummies. John Wiley & Sons, 2011.
9. Outdoor fitness routine. US Department Of Health And Human Sciences.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

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