Working out at home can feel like an extremely challenging task for several reasons, from motivation and accountability to know which exercises you can, or rather should be doing.
The good news for every one of us is that our body is one of the best tools we have when getting in a great workout without any equipment needed. Bodyweight performance exercises (exercises that force us to push or pull our weight) are, in fact, one of the most proven ways to tone and slim your body while adding on the muscle. Bodyweight exercises also prepare you for the many physical activities you’ll need to perform every day.
We’re a big fan of bodyweight exercises and recognize their importance here at Cornell Performance Academy. Below are 9 of our top-rated bodyweight exercises that you can perform in the comfort of your own home without equipment.
Topping the list coming in at number 1 is the pushup. Pushups are one of our favourite exercises of all time for many reasons, one of them being that they are a compound exercise; a movement, or rather exercise, that uses several muscle groups at once.
When done correctly, pushups engage your core, biceps, triceps, deltoids, and lower body—and that’s to keep you stabilized. The benefit of using and engaging several muscle groups at once is that it causes your heart to work harder to get oxygen-rich blood to your muscles. This means that pushups can also be seen as a form of cardiovascular exercise that increases heart health.
Another significant benefit of pushups is that they can easily be performed regressively or progressively. For example, adding in variations to your pushups with things like shoulder taps, mountain climbers, or even negatives (slow tempos down) will help you add more effectiveness to pushups without weight. Other variations of pushups can be achieved by simply switching up your hand placements to help isolate and work on different muscle groups.
Next up on our list are squats. Squats are also considered a compound exercise and can be a crucial exercise to mix into your at-home workout routine. While performing squats, you’re doing much more than engage and working your quads. You work on balance and stability, engage your core and back, promote circulation throughout your body, and you’ll even burn more fat compared to other exercises due to muscle gain.
Squats are one of the oldest and most useful functional exercises, meaning that you’ll be able to perform daily activities such as bending down to grab just about anything from your bottom cupboard or shelves.
Like pushups, one of the additional benefits of squats is the variation in how you can perform them by merely switching your foot placement. From wide-stance and narrow-stance squats to tip-toe squats or even jumping squats, you shouldn’t have any concern worrying about a good workout.
3. Bulgarian Split Squats
Technically speaking, a Bulgarian split squat isn’t a zero-equipment exercise as it requires some lifted surface, whether that’s a couch, chair, bench, or even a small table. Nonetheless, they can still be performed anytime, anywhere, which is why they’re on this list. If you’ve ever performed a Bulgarian split squat or have seen someone do them, you’ll know very well how much of a lower-body burner this exercise is. You end up feeling these in your quads, glutes, inner thighs, hamstrings, and even your calves.
If you’re not familiar with how to perform them correctly, this should help:
- Stand with your back to your elevated surface (bench, chair, small table)
- Keep your left foot on the floor about 2-3 feet in front of the elevated surface while placing the top of your right foot on the surface, laces down.
- Keep your hands either behind your head or together in front of your chest and engage your core.
- To perform your first rep, bend your knees to lower down into a split squat.
- Your left knee should ideally form a 90-degree angle so that your thigh is parallel to the ground and your right knee is hovering above the floor.
- Next, drive through your left heel to stand back up to your starting position.
- Now repeat until you reach 8-12 reps on your left leg, then switch to your right leg.
4. Walking Lunges
Another staple exercise that targets your lower body is walking lunges. Like squats and Bulgarian split squats, don’t get stuck thinking that walking lunges only work your legs. When performing walking lunges, you’ll be working your glutes, calves, hamstrings, core, and lower back for stability and balance. Additionally, lunges are a great way to improve your overall flexibility and strengthen your hip flexors.
For variations, consider switching how and where you hold your hands, at your sides, out in front, or even above your head. You’ll also use your core and lower back for balance.
5. Mountain Climbers
While mountain climbers are seen predominantly as an exercise that targets your core, performing them is an excellent way to target your whole body while building both cardio endurance and strength. Mountain climbers work several different muscles, including the shoulders, hamstrings, core, triceps, quads.
If you’re not familiar with how to perform them correctly, this should help:
- Get yourself situated in a pushup plank position.
- Holding your plank at the top, bring your right knee in toward your chest.
- Then quickly alternate your legs to bring your left knee in toward your chest.
- Performing this alternating move with both legs is considered one rep.
One of the best ways to approach them or think of them is to imagine yourself almost running, driving your knees up into your chest while holding that plank position at the top.
6. Dead Bugs
Dead bugs are considered a safe and extremely effective way to strengthen and stabilize your core, spine, and back muscles all at once.
One of the significant benefits of performing dead bugs is that they are known to help improve your posture and help relieve and prevent lower back pain. By performing them regularly, you’ll start to notice an improvement in your balance and overall coordination.
Ah, the plank. Whether you hate or love them, planking is a great exercise that has several benefits.
While they can look relatively easy, holding a plank position can be deceiving. While you’re in a plank, you’re working your entire core, along with your glutes and your back. Planks can be performed anywhere and in several different positions or variations.
Despite many common misconceptions, planking can significantly reduce back pain. By training your core muscle groups to activate and support your body, you’ll be taking an immense strain off of your back.
8. Hip (Glute) Bridges
While glute bridges target your glute (butt) area, they are known for activating and strengthening your core stabilizer muscles as well. Glute bridges effectively work the hamstrings, lower back, abs, in addition to the glutes.
Incorporating glute bridges in your routine can help combat what’s known as dead butt syndrome, resulting from not adequately working particular muscles that strengthen and engage your glutes.
Here’s how to perform glute bridges properly:
- Lie on your back with your hands at your sides, knees bent, and feet flat on the floor hip-width apart.
- Squeeze your glutes and abs while pushing through your heels to lift your hips off the floor until you form a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.
- Pause and squeeze your glutes at the top, then slowly lower your hips to return to the starting position.
9. Jumping Jacks
Last but not least on our list, we have jumping jacks. Jumping jacks are a great addition to your home workouts, whether you’re doing them at the beginning of your workout or at the very end to finish things off.
Jumping jacks are considered a full-body workout that can target major muscle groups, strengthen your bones, and can significantly improve your cardiovascular fitness and heart health.
We recommend aiming for anywhere between 100-200 jumping jacks per workout to reap the benefits. You can do these in sets of 30 seconds or reps at a time or finish them all in one go!
Ready to Level Up?
Whether you need help with the above exercises or you’re looking for a complete and personally customized training program, our elite performance coaches are ready to help you level up and reach your fitness goals. Get in touch with our team today to inquire about gym memberships and personal training.