Fitness has evolved in such a way that each individual training method has introduced new and elaborate exercise equipment with the advancement of modern technology. Some have even resorted to bringing back older training equipment and modernising them.

The exercise mat, or the yoga mat as it has come to be known, however, remains an unsung hero in the world of fitness for its usefulness in any style of physical activity. 

Whether you’re starting out on your fitness journey or are a seasoned veteran of various exercise routines, the humble yoga mat is enough to help you get a full-body workout, without using any other equipment like weights, resistance bands or fancy exercise machines.

Floor exercises are as varied as any other form of workout, and can be as intense as any other fitness activity that requires you to access a fully equipped gym or a large empty space for you to move around in.

  1. Benefits of floor exercises
  2. Types of floor exercises
  3. Tips for floor exercises
  4. Takeaways

Floor exercises are a great way to have greater control over your body as they are a combination of strength as well as flexibility movements. Here are some of the benefits of doing floor exercises:

  • Builds muscle and strength: You don’t have to perform numerous sets with dumbbells and barbells to build muscle mass. Some of the most basic bodyweight exercises, like push-ups and crunches, are great for toning and building muscles as well as gaining strength in the body.
  • Improves flexibility: Static stretching movements performed on the floor help increase the range of movement in different parts of the body.
  • Improves balance and stability: Performing floor exercises helps build balance in the body as both sides of the body provide resistance while performing various movements.
  • Aids in weight loss: Strength training exercises performed on the floor are as effective for burning calories and triggering weight loss as other forms of workouts.
  • Improves digestion: Various floor exercises like crunches and bridges help in improving the functioning of the digestive system and prevent stomach gas from accumulating.
  • Helps women recover faster post-delivery: Post-delivery weight loss as well as gaining back strength in the body is possible through various floor exercises as they are low-impact movements.
  • Helps recover from surgery and ailments: Injured athletes, such as those recovering from a herniated disc in the lower back, benefit greatly by performing floor exercises as a way of rehabilitation. Those who have undergone surgical processes to treat various conditions are also recommended floor exercises to ease the impact on the body, and yet be able to exercise and get better.

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Floor exercises are varied in nature and can range from compound exercises to isolated movements. They can target every major muscle in the body without the need of any additional equipment like external weights.

These exercises can be performed in multiple combinations, depending on which particular part of the body you want to focus on. You can perform about five exercises from this set at a time, and mix up your training by changing it around every day.

Even though floor exercises have a low impact on the joints, it is a good idea to workout with a trained professional who can correct your form on the spot. Before you begin, remember to warm up to reduce the chances of workout injuries.

  • Knees to chest: Lying down on your back and lifting your knees to reach your chest and holding it in the same position for a few seconds works the hip and lower back muscles, along with toning the thighs.
  • Piriformis stretch: The piriformis muscle is located deep inside the glutes. If you have a running injury, then performing this stretch will also help to relieve any pain in your hip.
    Lie down on your back with your knees bent. Put your right ankle over your left knee, and pull the left knee as close to your chest as possible. Hold the position and repeat the movement for the other leg as well.
  • Superman: Lie down on your stomach with the arms and legs extended all the way. Keep the stomach braced, and lift both arms and legs off the ground to form an upwards curve. This exercise is great for strengthening the muscles of the back.
  • Crunches: No other exercise gets as much credit for the gains that follow in the form of six-pack abs and a toned stomach. Lie down on your back with the knees folded, and feet placed on the mat or floor. Now lift your shoulders off the ground, till you are just able to see between your knees. Feel the tension and pressure on the muscles in the stomach. (Tip: you can support your head by intertwining the fingers and placing them behind your head.)
  • Push-ups: A favourite of bodybuilders, push-ups are a great way to train multiple muscles - including the muscles in the chest, shoulders, triceps as well as the core. Although there are over a dozen variations of this exercise, here's how to do a basic push-up:
    • Lie down on your stomach.
    • Place your hands underneath the shoulders.
    • Now, extend your arms fully to lift your body up - only your palms and toes should be on the mat/floor.
    • Make sure that your body is in one line from head to heels at the top of the movement.
    • Now, bring down your body down by bending your elbows but keeping the entire body straight from head to heels. This is one rep.
  • Glute bridge: An excellent exercise for the glutes as well as the hamstring muscles, the bridge position requires you to lie down on your back with knees bent and then raise your torso off the floor by driving the pelvis upwards - keep your arms planted on the mat/floor on each side of the body for support.
  • Plank/side plank: Planks are a great way to burn fat from the midsection of the body, besides building core strength. The conventional plank requires you to balance your body weight on your forearms and toes for as long as possible - it is important to suck the belly button in and keep the back straight to engage the core. The side plank requires you to down on your side with one leg over the other and propping yourself up on the arm of whichever side you’re lying down on.
  • Russian twist: Either performed with weights or without, the Russian twist is also a great exercise to tone the stomach and the sides of the body. Sit on the floor with the knees bent and feet raised off the floor (your body will lean back slightly in this pose), and twist your body from side to side slowly. 
  • Lying quad stretch: The quad stretch that is usually done by runners in the beginning of a long run can also be done lying down on your sides. Remain straight on one side of your body and raise the leg on top behind you, and pull it with your hand to touch your glutes to feel the stretch in your front thigh muscles, also called the quadriceps.
  • Leg raise: Another ab muscle shredder, the leg raise is a fundamental exercise for the stomach, especially the lower abs. Lie down on your back and keep your hands slightly under your buttocks. Raise your legs straight above to a perpendicular level from the ground and lower them back down without touching the floor, and repeat.
  • Cobra pose: Also known as the Bhujangasana, the cobra pose is an exercise to stretch the back muscles as well as the muscles in the torso by hyperextending them. It is also an excellent exercise to ease lower back pain.
  • Donkey kicks: A staple in the animal movement series of exercises, donkey kicks help in toning the glutes as well as the thigh muscles. Get down on all fours and lift the right leg up towards the ceiling as high as you can, and repeat with the other leg.
  • Side-lying leg lifts: A simple stretching exercise that works on the flexibility of the leg muscles as well as the sides of the body, the side-lying leg lifts require you to lie down on one side, with the bottom hand resting under the head and the top hand used for balance. With one leg stacked on top of another, lift the top leg upwards as much as possible and repeat. Then turn over on the other side and repeat with the other leg for at least 15 repetitions.
  • Flutter kicks: Another core and ab-shredding exercise, one has to lie on their back on the mat with the legs fully stretched for this exercise. Raise both your legs off the floor and keep them straight, while balancing yourself with the arms resting beside you. Move your legs up and down alternatively at the same time for 20 seconds at least and feel the stomach churning with the movement.

Floor exercises are easy and accessible to all, regardless of their level of fitness, age or gender. But like other workout routines, even these set of exercises must be performed keeping a few things in mind:

  • Warm-up before performing a floor exercise routine to free up your arms, legs, hips and neck muscles with some rotational movements. Remember to stretch and cool down afterwards. (Read more: 10 easy and effective stretches for the whole body)
  • Pick a mix of strength training and flexibility movements to make it a complete workout.
  • The living room floor of your home is a great place to workout. Set a workout music playlist of your choice, or put on a workout video you can perform to.
  • Make sure there is enough space for you to move about on the floor without knocking anything over. You can also do these exercises in the neighbourhood park - all you need is the right workout clothes and a mat. (Read more: The right sports bra)
  • Wear comfortable clothing that doesn’t get trapped under your body and stretches while doing floor exercises.
  • Floor exercises can be performed with or without shoes, depending on your comfort.
  • Pick a consistent time. If you find early mornings to be the best time to workout, make it a point to do it at the same time every day. The same applies to working out in the afternoon or evening.
  • Hydrate yourself frequently, not only during the workout but throughout the day.
  • Follow a regular diet to supplement your workout and reap the best rewards for your efforts.
  • If you feel discomfort while performing any of the exercises, stop immediately to avoid workout injuries.
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Floor exercises are convenient, simple and can be tailored to suit your requirements and fitness goals, and can be performed in the comfort of your own home.

There is a lot of variety in floor exercises. So there's little chance of you getting bored of them - you can change your routine pretty much on a daily basis, and make your own combination!

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