1) The Push-Up
The Push-Up: Arguably the most famous body weight exercise, the Push-Up is used from the Military to Cheerleading tryouts as a “Feat of Strength” or in order to build strength. Targeting muscles in the Chest, Shoulders, Triceps, and Core, the Push-Up can be done anywhere with multi-level options. For a Level 1 Push-Up drop the knees onto the floor, take the hands out wide at the chest line with the palms pressing into the floor. Hold the Abdominals in tight and ensure that hips and gluts are in line with the back. Slowly lower body to the floor until the elbows are bent to 90 degrees, while focusing on squeezing through the chest and arms. Then push body up. For a Level 2 Push-Up complete the same movement, but with the knees lifted; so on the toes. Complete 3 sets or 12 repetitions, 3 times per week.
2) The Squat
The Squat: The Squat and all its variations have been a fitness trainer favorite for years. The Squat helps to strengthen and reshape the lower body by working the Quadriceps, Hamstrings, and Gluteals, as well as the smaller secondary mover muscles. A Level 1 Squat would purely be a Body Weight Squat. To try, stand with feet slightly wider than hip width apart with toes pointed outward slightly, but with the knees facing forward. Hold the abdominals in tight, lift the chest, and sit back and down consciously pressing through the heels. Sit down until the gluts are slightly higher than the knees, then lift up and squeeze the gluts and pelvis forward slightly at the top of the movement. Repeat at a 2 -4 second count down and 2 – 4 second count up. For a Level 2 Squat the concept of Progressive Overload comes into play. The load or weight added to the exercise will increase the intensity of the exercise, as such hand weights or a weight barbell can be used to make the Squat more challenging. Squats can be varied by using a wide stance versus a narrow stance, single-leg squat, and even an Inner Thigh or Plie Squat. Having said that it is best to start with the basic Squat and complete 3 sets of 12 repetitions, 3 times per week. As a first step to increasing intensity try adding more load through hand weights at 5 lbs. increments.
3) The Plank
The Plank: The Plank, also known as the Hover and Table, is a truly an incredibly effective way to train the muscles in the Core. Like the Squat, the Plank has many variations and levels to increase or decrease difficulty. For a Level 1 Plank place the hands on the ground ensuring that the wrists are in a straight line with the elbows and shoulders. Drop the knees to the ground and ensure the hips and gluts are in a straight, but diagonal line with the rest of the Core. Focus on sucking the belly button in like it is kissing the spine. Hold that for 45 seconds and repeat for 3 sets. For a Level 2 Plank complete the same exercise with the knees lifted; up on the toes. To increase intensity further, try alternating a lift of one foot up off the floor for 5 seconds at a time. For best results complete 3 sets of 45 second holds, 3 times per week.
4) The Lunge
The Lunge: The Lunge can be stationary, backward stepping, or forward stepping in its most basic description. A stationary Lunge is sometimes referred to as a Split Stance Squat. It is best to begin with a stationary lunge, which will target the same muscles as the Squat, but with a naturally increased load because of the front leg carrying most of the weight. For a Level 1 Lunge begin by standing with the feet hip width apart and take one giant step forward, keeping the feet hip width apart. Tip the back hip up and focus on pressing the weight through the front heel. Hold the Core in tight, lift the chest, and lower the body ensuring that the front knee stays in line with the heel and does not come forward at all. Additionally, ensure that both knees are bent at a 90 degree angle at the bottom part of the movement. It can be helpful to ensure a mirror to ensure proper exercise technique. For a Level 2 Lunge, keep the same movement, but add additional load like hand weights or a weight barbell. Complete 3 sets of 12 repetitions on each leg.
5) The V-sit
The V-sit: Last, but certainly not least, is another great Core exercise. The V-sit tones and tightens the Core while also exercising the Hip Flexors. For a Level 1 V-sit, sit on the floor with the knees bent slightly in front of the body. Hold the Core in tight, lift the chest then tip the Torso back on the diagonal until the Abs Catch. Reach the arms out straight to the front close to the knees. Keep the back straight and hold for 45 seconds. For a Level 2 V-sit, complete the same exercise but lift the feet off the floor and extend the arms out to the side of the body on a diagonal. To increase Core Strength complete 3 sets of 45 second holds, 3 times per week.