‘Too much time to get to the gym…’,’Gym subscription costs too much…’, ‘I am afraid to go to the gym during pandemic’. No matter the reason, you should know that your body is a sufficient equipment itself to perform a good training and stay in shape! Of course, as Mariusz Pudzianowski says: ‘Nothing will be done by itself’. However, I will give you a list of exercises that you can perform at home or anywhere you want, together with a sample workout structure. The only thing you need is a bit of self-motivation. Let’s go!
Note 1: If there are 2 photos, the first represents the starting position, the second represents the exercise in the end phase of the motion, and then you should come back to the starting position again – this sequence is 1 repetition.
Note 2: Being at home I highly recommend working out barefoot. You get better contact with the floor and therefore better stability. Additionally, you work on the functionality of your feet.
Since it’s responsible for stabilization and therefore for proper technique of almost all the exercises, it’s important to always activate the core while working out.
1. Side plank
Tips: Keep the body in a straight line; lift your hips in the air and come back to the starting position (it equals 1 rep).
2. Bird dogs
Tips: Keep your abs contracted through all the motion (look at my lower back in the first and second photo); simultaneously lift your arm and opposite leg; don’t arch your back = don’t lift the leg over your glutes; after the setup, stay on 2 limbs through all the set.
a) Air squat (easy) – Even though in bodyweight version is not too demanding, the conventional squat is still a very functional exercise that everyone should do. To make it harder, extend the time under tension, experimenting with the time of concentric and eccentric phase (e.g. 5:1:1, which means 5 sec descending, 1sec ascending, 1 sec pause). To brace the core correctly, take a breath using the diaphragm (360 breathing method).
Tips: Keep your core and glutes engaged; try to keep the chest in the most upright position as possible; push the knees out; feet positioned out up to 30 degrees.
b) Single leg sofa squat (intermediate) – great variant instead of usual squats, your quads will burn if you do enough reps. If keeping the second leg elevated is too hard, start with sliding it on the ground.
Tips: Keep your core tight (don’t arch the lower back); keep the glute engaged (don’t let the load go through the knee).
c) Supported/Unsupported pistol squats (hard) – to perform it unsupported, the body requires a lot of stability, as well as ankle mobility (I’m personally still learning to perform it). Tips are the same as for the sofa squat.
d) Cossack squat (hard) – to make it easier you can perform it supported, holding on to sth
Tips: Stand in a wide stance; try to keep as most upright posture as possible; both heels should touch the ground through all the motion.
2. Unilateral deadlift
Tips: Brace the core; perform the eccentric phase slowly and concentric dynamically.
3. Reversed lunges
You can perform regular lunges, however the reversed version is technically easier and doesn’t put that much stress on the knees.
Tips: Don’t lean too much forward; avoid pushing the knee over toes; don’t overextend your back = keep glutes and abs engaged all the time.
Tips: Don’t push yourself out with the supporting leg; keep the core tight.
5. Hip thrusts /Glute bridges
Probably the best 2 bodyweight exercises that focus solely on glutes strengthening. And glutes are very important element in the correct technique of many exercises. Also, if you have a sedentary lifestyle, these 2 exercises are definitely for you. Both exercises can be performed bi and unilaterally.
a) Bilateral (easy) – glute bridges on the photos below
Tips: Engage abs = don’t arch lower back; push with the knees out during the concentric phase; hold at the top of the motion for 2-5sec.
b) Unilateral (hard)– hip thrusts on the photos below – great variation to identify muscle imbalances. If you feel more your quads and hams over the glute, it means that your glute is dormant and requires activation.
Tips: Same as for the glute bridges; + drag your chin close to the chest while going up.
6. Donkey Kicks
Tips: Contract the abs; don’t kick the leg too high = don’t arch the lower back;
7. Calf raise
Put some shoes for this exercise. Find yourself an elevation that will let you get full range of motion. If it’s too hard on 1 leg, start with bilateral version.
Tips: Try to do the concentric phase dynamically and then slowly descend, keeping the tension through the eccentric motion.
8. Hamstring slides
For this exercise you need a towel or any kind of material that will let you slide your legs on the floor.
Tips: keep the glutes engaged and elevated through all the motion.
9. Copenhagen Adductions
To perform it, you’ll need a chair and something soft to place your leg on. If the straight leg version is too challenging, start with the bent knee. This exercise will strengthen your adductors and therefore help with overall knee stability.
Tips: Keep the body in a straight line (don’t arch your lower back).
10. Abductor leg raises
This exercise helps to strengthen gluteus medius and minimus, the two often neglected muscles, which also play an important role in the knee stability.
Tips: Keep the body in a straight line; rotate your leg internally and aim with the heel to the ceiling – this will help you activate the right muscles.
One of the best bodyweight exercises that primarily targets the pectoralis muscles, but due to the need of stability we need to engage almost all the body to perform it correctly.
a) Upper body elevated (easy)
b) Classic (intermediate) – to increase the load, put a backpack filled with some weight
c) Legs elevated (hard) – in this version hands stay on the ground, and legs on the elevation – exactly opposite to the first version with upper body elevated (to increase the load, put a backpack filled with some weight)
Tips: Hands neutrally (don’t twist the wrist in or out); Depress your shoulder blades; keep elbows maximum 45° from the body; keep the core tight (don’t let the lower back to arch).
a) Table (intermediate) – to make it easier you can keep the knees bent; to make it harder put your legs on an elevated surface
Tips: Brace your core; keep the shoulders depressed; retract your scapula in the first phase of the motion and aim with your chest to touch the table.
b) Sliding floor pull-up (intermediate) – for this exercise you will need a towel. Also prepare yourself enough space to be able to fully extend the arms.
Tips: Brace your core; depress the scapula in the first phase and aim with the sternum forward.
c) Door (hard) – to increase the load, put a backpack filled with some weight
Tips: Brace your core; depress the scapula in the first phase (2nd photo) and aim with the chest to the ceiling.
3. Pike push-ups
Depending on the level of advancement, the progression in this exercise should be the same as in the normal push-ups. Elevated upper body -> Standard (the photo) -> Legs elevated.
Tips: Keep the back straight; fingers pointed forward; elbows around 45-60° from the body.
4. Hindu push-ups
Tips: Don’t rush, control the body through all the motion; to reset the position, elevate and move back your hips.
5. Prone Y raises
Tips: Engage abs and glutes to take stress off the lower back; retract and depress the scapula before each repetition; keep the position for 2-3 sec in the last phase (2nd photo).
6. Prone W press
Tips: Engage abs and glutes; Control the motion; try to keep the arms high through all the set;
7. Triceps push-ups
Tips: Keep your palms externally rotated to avoid shoulders collapsing forward; don’t shrug the shoulders; to make it harder, place your legs on an elevated surface.
8. Biceps table curls
Tips: Keep the body in a straight line by engaging the abs and glutes; to make it harder, place legs on an elevation.
Before every workout session, remember to do a warm-up. 5-10min of dynamic stretching will be sufficient before a bodyweight training. All the unilateral exercises should be performed given number of reps per each side. For the sake of length of the article, I haven’t included abs exercises (not considering the 2 core exercises). Perhaps in the future I will dedicate a separate post to this topic. 🙂
In a bodyweight workout I highly recommend doing a circuit – 1 set of each exercise equals 1 circuit. Using different muscle groups after each other, you can do shorter breaks between each set and therefore save more time. Additionally, such a workout will also positively affect your cardiovascular fitness.
Of course, these are only sample plans, so you need to adjust them to your own capabilities. Always prioritize the technique over the volume in training. Depending also on the time you want to dedicate to the workout, play around with number of sets and reps, make it more or less challenging, and make it also enjoyable. Just bear in mind that all the muscles play a role in your body. So don’t neglect any of them (e.g. don’t play a cool bro from the gym, pumping only chest and biceps), but take more holistic and healthy approach. 😉
*amrap – as many reps as possible
- Bird dogs 3×10-15 reps
- Leg lateral raises 3×10-15 reps
- Squats 3x 15-30 reps
- Hamstring slides 3×8-12 reps
- Push-ups (choose yourself a variation) 3x amrap
- Table pull-ups 3x amrap
- Pike push-ups 3x 5-15reps
- Biceps table curls 3x amrap
+ Optionally 1 exercise for abs at the end.
- Side plank 3×8-15 reps
- Copenhagen adductions 3×8-10 reps
- Step-ups 3x 10-15 reps
- Unilateral deadlift 3×10-15 reps
- Hindu/Regular Push-ups 3x amrap
- Door/Floor sliding pull-ups 3x amrap
- Prone Y raises 3x 8-12reps
- Triceps push-ups 3x amrap
+ Optionally 1 exercise for abs at the end.
No matter the place and time, you can always stay active! Lack of equipment, time or even money is not an excuse. Start to work on your health and shape here and now, wherever you are. If something stops you, it is probably only that lazy part of you. I hope this article will inspire you to be active also at home. See you in the next one! 💪