Whether you’re lucky enough to have access to a full gym, or you’re looking for ways to get in your workouts at home, or on the road, some of the best workouts you can do require no additional gear at all.
That’s right, there are many exercises that you can do with your own bodyweight, challenging your strength and leaving your muscles (and fat!) burning. When the only thing you need for your workout is the space to actually complete it — whether that be a gym, a park, or your hotel room — then any and all excuses will fly out the window as you stay on track with your healthy and active routine.
If you have ever dropped into a plank, then you know the immediate feeling of your entire core engaging to keep you stable and in place. According to Shape, “The plank is one of the best exercises for a flat, toned stomach because it works all the muscles in your core, including the rectus abdominus (the “six-pack muscles” you can see), transverse abdominus, internal and external obliques, hips, and back.”
There are so many great workouts that you can do, incorporating the classic plank. You can even play around with different variations like side plank, balancing plank, or (try this tough plank challenge!) moving up and down in your plank along to the music.
One of my personal favorites, because of that engrained love to-hate relationship, is the burpee. The burpee is where you drop into a plank position from standing, perform a pushup, jump your feet forward to meet your hands, and then jump up with your hands in the air. They will get your heart rate up fast, working the whole body.
“In fact, burpees are one of the best exercises ever to boost your conditioning and endurance for sports and other activities,” said Krista Stryker for Mind Body Green. If you’re looking for a good way to test your fitness level, you could try this 100 Burpee Challenge and see how long it takes you!
Push-ups are a standard workout that we all know. But if you’re relatively new to training, you may think they’re too hard — and, even something you need to work up to. Not true! “There are so many different variations of push-ups, no skill level is left out of reaping the benefits of this exercise. Beginners can do push-ups against a wall by walking their feet out away from the wall far enough to make the exercise challenging,” said NASM certified trainer Jody Braverman.
Regardless of your current fitness level, push-ups are a great exercise to have in your arsenal. If you’re bored with the standard, you can always change it up with one of many variations, like the diamond, plyo, or Spider-Man push-up.
One of the most underrated exercises of all time? The squat. According to Nerd Fitness, “The setup for the squat is incredibly simple. Stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips. Your toes should be pointed slightly outward – about five to 20 degrees outward. Look straight ahead and pick a spot on the wall in front of you. You’ll want to look at this spot the entire time you squat, not looking down at the floor or up at the ceiling.”
Squats work to strengthen the whole body, stabilize the core, and lift the booty. You can do a simple bodyweight squat, also called an “air squat”, or, if you have access to additional equipment, add in weight and perform a front squat, back squat or lie squat.
Another highly underrated exercise is the lunge. This movement has so many varieties including reverse lunges, forward lunges, plyometric lunges, and side lunges, just to name a few.
“Mastering proper form can provide optimal results and minimizes your risk of injuries. During front lunges, it’s essential that you lower straight down with your pelvis flexed forward and your back straight. Ensure that you step your foot far enough forward so that the middle of your front knee is directly above your ankle during the downward motion. Lower your hips until your knees are about 90 degrees bent and place your weight on the back two-thirds of your front foot during the exercise,” says health and fitness expert Maria Hoven.
If you’re like me, then you may remember the crab walk from elementary school gym class. But you probably haven’t really seen or heard too much about it since. Believe it or not, this exercise is one that we should continue to build into our fitness regimen. The crab walk works the triceps, core and hamstrings all at one time.
“The tendency when you get tired is for the buns to fall, really kick those hips up in the air — that really makes it a hamstring exercise and a core movement at the same time,” says Mercola Peak Fitness.
Balancing table pose
If you’ve ever found yourself in a yoga class, then you’ve likely experienced what is referred to Dandayamna Bharmanasana, or more widely-known as “balancing table” pose. This standard yoga pose is often found at the beginning of our practice to help warm the body as we prepare for movement while simultaneously helping build strength in the abdominal muscles and lower back.
“Because of the balancing challenge, this pose also helps to improve focus, coordination, and overall physical equilibrium. When you coordinate your movement with your breath, the pose also helps to relieve stress, fatigue, and tension,” according to Yoga Outlet.
Likely the most familiar bodyweight exercise of all the time is the jumping jack. “The primary benefit from doing jumping jacks is that it elevates your heart rate. You breathe more deeply while jumping, which delivers oxygen to your bloodstream and ultimately to your muscles. You burn fat at a rapid rate, promoting weight loss,” says Livestrong.com.
I love incorporating jumping jacks into my fitness routine on a consistent basis, whether using them as a quick warmup before my run, or, building them into a HIIT workout. Since no equipment is required, it really is the perfect exercise to have in your repertoire.
Up there with burpees on the my list of love-to-hate exercises? Mountain climbers. Mountain climbers are great because they work the entire body. “The primary muscles used when performing mountain climbers include the abdominal, gluteus and leg muscles. Secondary muscles, such as the shoulders, arms and spine, also get a workout from the intense exercise,” says fitness instructor Adrienne Weeks.
Upon starting mountain climbers, you will immediately notice your heart rate increase, making this a great cardiovascular exercise. If you’re looking for a good workout to try with the mountain climber, this core-burner would be perfect!