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One of the biggest challenges we face, in this age of technology and everything being available at the click of a button, is to remain healthy and active. The modern era may have made life easier in a lot of ways, but has brought along a unique situation that doesn’t require us to even move from our couches anymore.

This situation has, as a result, promoted a lifestyle that has given rise to a number of chronic diseases owing to a lack of physical activity. While the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week for an average adult, keeping up with that goal is not easy.

Those averse to joining a gym or those who cannot find the time to do so can still remain active by performing simple exercises over the course of a day, even in the comfort of their own home. After all, 150 minutes of exercise in a week translates to about 30 minutes of activity five times a week, which doesn’t seem like a mountain to climb in any case.

Even without the use of external weights or joining expensive group classes, one can remain fit by committing to a range of bodyweight exercises that can be performed at home or in the neighbourhood park.

  1. Benefits of bodyweight exercises
  2. Types of bodyweight exercises
  3. Jumping jacks
  4. Push-ups
  5. Pull-ups
  6. Dips
  7. Squats
  8. Reverse Lunges
  9. Planks
  10. Tips for bodyweight exercises
  11. Takeaways

Even if you do not follow an elaborate exercise plan, performing bodyweight exercises has several benefits, the likes of which improve the quality of your daily life:

  • Burns calories and fat: Bodyweight exercises employ the use of all muscles of your body and use your body weight to build resistance, which helps in burning calories at an impressive rate and cutting down the fat you end up accumulating by sitting all day.
  • Promotes muscle growth: By creating resistance with your own body, these exercises help the muscles grow as they are constantly being used for various movements.
  • Compound exercises: Bodyweight workouts are primarily compound exercises, which means multiple muscles of the body are used while performing a single movement, thereby requiring a lot less time for a full-body workout.
  • Functional strength: Full-body exercises give you strength that can be useful for various household chores.
  • Less fatigue: That feeling of tiredness and fatigue after returning from a hard day at work is banished thanks to regular exercise that keeps your energy levels up through the day.
  • Improves balance, stability and posture: Bodyweight exercises create awareness in your body and help improve the body’s overall stability by engaging both sides of your body at the same time. The poor posture you assume while sitting in front of a computer, browsing on the phone or even while lounging at home is also addressed.
  • Flexibility: Without exercise, the body tends to become stiff and the muscles become compressed over time. Regular exercises help in increasing flexibility, easy movement of the muscles and keeping the range of movement in your body intact.
  • Boosts immunity and fights disease: Regular exercise is necessary for the body to utilise all the nutrients you get from the food you eat. Exercising helps build immunity in the body that prevents you from falling sick.
  • Fights stress and mental health: Exercising is known to produce large amounts of endorphins in the body, which in turn creates feelings of positivity in the mind, helping you ward off stress and all its related symptoms and factors.

There are several bodyweight exercises that can be done on a daily basis to remain fit as well as to keep your routine versatile and wide-ranging. However, some of these basic movements can not only help you burn calories, but also build muscles and stay in shape.

You may have performed multiple repetitions of this exercise during the physical education class at school, or at home with your parents in the morning. Jumping jacks are repetitive movements that are a great cardio workout and even an excellent warm-up exercise before performing more serious movements.

How to do it:

  • Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart, arms by your side and palms facing each other.
  • With a little jump, widen your legs sideways and raise both your arms up, above your head, without bending them. Both your arms and legs should move at the same time.
  • Take another little jump and bring your hands and legs back to the starting position. This is one rep.
  • To begin with, perform this for a minute, rest and repeat.

One of the go-to bodyweight exercises, the push-up is a simple yet powerful exercise to gain strength in the body against your own weight. It is often performed as a universal warm-up exercise before heavy workouts in the gym but is also an excellent workout by itself. It helps tone the chest, triceps, shoulders as well as the core muscles in a single movement.

How to do it:

  • Lie down on your stomach on the floor. Place your hands just under or beside your shoulders, palms open.
  • Push your hands down into the ground to lift your body up. Your neck, back and legs should be in a straight line once your arms are fully stretched.
  • Lower yourself back down to the resting position but do not let any part of the body touch the floor again during a set. This is one rep.
  • Repeat the movement as many times you can in one go, and aim to do at least 10 reps.

Pulling up your entire bodyweight clean off the ground with just the help of your arms makes for an extremely strong workout. A pull-up works not only the arms but the back and the core muscles too. All it requires is a parallel bar that can be easily installed at home, or can be found in the neighbourhood park.

How to do it:

  • Hang on a parallel bar with hands gripping the bar at a shoulder-width distance, with palms pointing away.
  • Without swinging your body back and forth, pull yourself up the bar by keeping the feet together, and squeeze the back and shoulders.
  • Try to get your chest to touch the bar, or your chin above it and pause for a second.
  • With a slow movement, return to the starting position. 
  • This is one rep. Try to do as many reps as possible.
  • If the exercise seems too difficult to do, try to place a chair and stand at the top of the movement, and drop yourself down by creating resistance in the arms.

The tricep dip is another bodyweight movement that requires the body to be lifted in the air with just the help of your arms. A ‘pushing’ movement rather than a ‘pulling’ one like in the pull-ups, this exercise helps work the triceps, shoulders as well as the chest muscles and the core. A simpler movement of the exercise, if you do not have access to a pair of parallel bars in the neighbourhood park, is to perform this movement against a park bench or a chair in the house.

How to do it:

  • Place both your palms on the edge of a bench or chair behind your body. Put your feet on the floor ahead, with the knees almost straight.
  • Slowly bend your elbows to lower your body as much as you can, keeping the back straight and heels planted.
  • Lift yourself up with a powerful movement until your elbows are fully straightened. This is one rep.

A powerful workout for the legs, a simple movement of standing up and sitting down repeatedly helps keep the lower half of your body in shape, and the muscles moving. Another exercise gym-goers swear by, bodyweight squats can be performed anywhere and work as a great warm-up for more strenuous workouts. They work all the muscles in the lower body, including the glutes, hips, thighs and calves.

How to do it:

  • Stand straight with feet comfortably apart from each other. Take your hips back and lower your body by bending your knees. Keep your arms straight and raised in front of your body for balance.
  • The knees should not extend the toes at any stage.
  • Keep the back straight throughout the movement.
  • Go all the way down, or at least beyond the 90 degree line your thighs form with the lower limbs and pause for a second.
  • Push the ground down with your feet and lift yourself up to return to the standing position.
  • This is one rep. Continue to do at least 10-15 reps and three sets, or continue doing it until you can do all in one go.

Lunges are another great exercise for the lower section of the body, besides it also keeps the core and lower back muscles engaged throughout. Performed either while walking, moving forward or back, any form of lunges are great for activating the hip flexors and stabilising the body and are great for flexibility.

How to do reverse lunges:

  • Stand straight with your feet slightly apart. Take a step back with your right leg and bend both the knees to form right angles at both the front and back legs. Your hands can be resting on your waist for balance.
  • Do not plant the right knee on the floor and keep it slightly raised. Pause for a few seconds.
  • Return your right leg back to the standing position. Your back should stay straight through this movement.
  • Repeat the movement by taking the left leg back and bend both knees the same way. Return to the standing position after a few seconds.
  • This is one rep for both legs. Repeat at least 10 times to complete a set.

Staying still is the key to this exercise as your body fights against gravity while engaging the core muscles to their fullest. Planks are a great way to burn excess fat from the mid-section of the body.

How to do it:

  • Lie down on the floor on your stomach with your hands under your shoulder, palms open. Keep your feet flexed and the bottom of your toes flat on the floor.
  • Keep your forearms planted on the ground and lift yourself up.
  • Your body should be in a straight line from your head all the way to the toes.
  • Keep the body tight and still while breathing normally.
  • Hold this position for as long as you can.
  • Get back down once you start shaking or can’t hold the position anymore.

Bodyweight exercises can be done anywhere at home or in the park next to where you live, but some precautions and tips can be useful in making you get better at them in less time:

  • Use a yoga mat for exercises like the plank or a soft surface to prevent the elbows from bruising.
  • Do some light, on-the-spot running or brisk walking to warm yourself up before getting into these exercises.
  • You can do a circuit of any of these exercises and repeat them over and over.
  • Do not perform these exercises immediately after having a heavy meal.

Bodyweight exercises are a great way to stay fit without ever having to set foot in a gym, which can be expensive for some people. These exercises are fun, engaging and involve the use of multiple muscles in the body.

These exercises alone can be a great workout for anyone and can be performed even when on a holiday or while travelling as they do not require the use of additional equipment.

Most of these exercises are also customisable and you can gradually gain enough strength to be able to perform more difficult movements like the pull-ups and dips over time.

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References

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  2. Lipecki K and Rutowicz B. The Impact Of Ten Weeks Of Bodyweight Training On The Level Of Physical Fitness And Selected Parameters Of Body Composition In Women Aged 21-23 Years. Polish Journal of Sport and Tourism. 2015 Jun; 22: 64-73.
  3. Kanda K et al. Effects of low-intensity bodyweight training with slow movement on motor function in frail elderly patients: a prospective observational study. Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine. 2018 Jan; 23: 4.
  4. Zebis MK et al. Electromyography Evaluation of Bodyweight Exercise Progression in a Validated Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury Rehabilitation Program: A Cross-Sectional Study. American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation. 2019 Nov; 98(11): 998-1004.
  5. Botton CE et al. Electromyographical Analysis Of The Deltoid Between Different Strength Training Exercises. Medicina Sportiva. 2013; 17(2): 67-71.
  6. Health Harvard Publishing: Harvard Medical School [Internet]. Harvard University, Cambridge. Massachusetts. USA; Strength training relieves chronic neck pain..
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