Whether you're working on the perfect beach body, losing that holiday or baby weight, or just keeping up a healthy exercise program, staying in the groove can be challenging if you're busy with work or school.
I know that when I'm on the road for business, stuck at home in a blizzard or off visiting relatives, my commitment to my routine can wane-and commitment is one of the two most important components to reaching your fitness goals.
It's easy to remedy this: a simple program of bodyweight exercises will help you maintain your fitness program and make it much easier to hit the gym again when you get back home. When you're busy at home with the kids, or working late at the office, a program that doesn't require equipment can also help you to take an exercise break. Combined on alternate days with a gym-based simple starter workout, you can really supercharge your metabolism.
The five best bodyweight exercises for burning fat and gaining muscle that I've found:
The good old-fashioned push-up is a versatile upper-body move:
- The push-up your chest, arms and shoulders.
- You can work muscles differently by moving your hands closer or wider apart, keeping your feet on the floor or raising them on a bed or chair, using a device like the Iron Gym to add range of motion, or trying one-arm or handstand pushups.
- You must also engage your abs, helping to strengthen your core.
Proper push-up form:
- Body straight, abs tight, and neck straight.
- Begin with your arms fully extended, and lower yourself with your elbows close to your body.
- If you're performing a strict push-up, go down until your nose touches the floor.
- Slowly push yourself back up.
If you have no weights, the single best lower-body exercise you can do is the walking lunge:
- Start with your feet together, making sure you have a good unobstructed space in front of you.
- Step forward as far as you can with your right foot.
- With your weight on your right foot, lower your left knee until it just grazes the floor.
- Stand up and bring your left foot together with your right.
- Repeat, stepping forward with your left foot.
Important form note: keep your back straight and your hands at your sides at all times.
Try about 100 feet of walking lunges at first, then extend the distance as your fitness improves. You will feel it.
The bear crawl is a whole body movement, so simple in theory but challenging in practice:
- Get down on your hands and feet, with your butt in the air.
- Move your right hand and left leg forward.
- Move your left hand and right leg forward.
You'll probably notice at first that you're not used to synchronizing your hands and feet like that, but practice makes perfect. Crawl until it burns.
To target your core, forget sit-ups, which can injure you if not done correctly. Instead, use the plank. It's an isometric exercise that engages and strengthens your abs, back and stabilizer muscles:
- Lie face down on the floor, with your arms bent, palms down and your weight on your forearms.
- Raise your torso so that it's rigid and flat from your head to your feet, with your weight on your toes and forearms.
- Contract your abs and hold your position for 15-60 seconds.
- Lower your pelvis so you're again lying on the ground, rest for a moment, then repeat.
I've saved the best for last. And by "best" I clearly mean "the one that hurts." The first time you do burpees, don't be surprised if you're gassed by 15-20 of them. If you remember the squat-thrust from high-school gym class, you have most of a burpee:
- Start in a squat position and place your hands on the ground in front of you.
- Thrust your legs out behind you, so that you end up in a push-up position.
- After you do a push-up, pull your legs back into a squat position.
- Now jump into the air, as explosively as possible, reaching for the sky.
- Land and assume the squat position for the next rep.
If you can only do one exercise, the burpee is it.
These five exercises will provide you with a rounded, challenging workout no matter what your fitness level. If you need some visual help, YouTube is an excellent resource. Add some resistance bands or an Iron Gym to work your back and you may not even need a gym membership.
Now crank your tunes and get started!