This had to be one of the hardest articles I’ve written so far! If you ask 10 different fitness professionals what their top 5 bodyweight exercises are, you will get at least 4 different answers. Now, this is not to say many of the exercises that we love aren’t the same but there are many variations on the execution of the movements that they can still be very different and challenging.
As a Certified Personal Trainer for 18 years, I will give you the my personal top 5 bodyweight exercises in my humble opinion and why they’ve been chosen. Here they are:
#1. PUSH-UPS – These are my favorite for targeting the chest, triceps (back of arms) and anterior deltoids (back of shoulders)! Push-ups can be done just about anywhere and anytime by just about everyone. Full-body, on-the-knees, modified knees, uneven, 1-arm, against the wall, table or with a clap (just to name a few) will help to strengthen both your upper body as well as to increase your confidence in your physique. Now drop down and give me 20!
#2. BURPEES – Only a few people really love burpees, but once you start doing them, you’ll love them too! Burpees work your entire body as well as increasing your cardiovascular endurance, balance and flexibility. The muscle groups used during burpees include the back (traps, lower back), chest, shoulders, triceps, hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps, calves and your core. If you’re new to burpees then start off with 5-10 until you’ve perfected your form and then anything goes!
BONUS TIP: You can add additional movements to your squats including push-ups, jump squats and vertical jumps. Just make sure you have the basics down first so you can master the proper form and technique for each exercise.
#3. SQUATS – What trainer doesn’t love squats? If you’ve ever had a personal trainer then you’ve probably logged in a lot of squats in your workout routines. Squats, like lunges, are my favorite exercises as the movement is something that we do everyday. Every time you sit down and stand up, you’re doing squats and this includes bathroom visits also!
Squats work your quadriceps (front of the thighs), hamstrings (back of the thighs), calves and glutes. This allows you to target 4 muscle groups with only one movement which is priceless! The key when doing proper squats is to place the weight on your heels, pushing your hips back as if you’re about to sit in a chair, while keeping your abs engaged to support your lower back (inhale lowering down) and exhaling on the way up while still keeping the weight on your heels and squeezing your glutes on the way up.
BONUS TIP: You can add any type of additional movement to make your squats more challenging, including a squat side lift, squat knee ups, squat jumps, prisoner squats and sumo squats to name only a few. If you’re not sure about your technique and form when doing squats, make sure to contact a Certified Personal Trainer in your area to help you get the best results from your workouts!
#4. LUNGES – Ah, what can I say about lunges beyond FABULOUS! Stationary, forward, curtsey, multi, reverse, walking, split and side lunges are just a few that I personally use with my clients. Like squats, lunges target your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and calves. However, unlike squats, lunges are a two movement exercise which means you have to use both legs. Form and safety are the key factors to every exercise and lunges must be executed properly in order to avoid any stress or strain on your knees. This is often one exercise I see people doing incorrectly so please make sure you’ve been trained on proper form!
#5. CARDIO – Whether you’re running, jogging, walking, spinning, dancing, swimming or any variation of these, cardio engages your whole body as well-being an awesome form of cardiovascular exercise. The basic guidelines say 30-60 minutes of cardio everyday, but did you know you can break up your 30 minutes into 3 increments of 10 minutes?
The last exercise I chose for my top 5 list was a big toss-up between cardio, pull-ups and bicycles which work your abs. However, I’ve got to go with my first instinct and say CARDIO! Cardio can be done alone, with friends, family, pets, taking the kids to school and even while shopping. Hiking, mountain biking, skating and any aerobics class you take are included in your cardio workout. When getting in your cardio session, make sure that you’re walking, jogging, running tall, engaging your abs, keeping your shoulders under your ears and moving your arms with the rhythm of your body and making sure to breathe through your nose (if possible).
If you are new to working out or have had difficulty with any of the above exercises, or just want to know how to do them correctly then please consult with a Certified Personal Trainer in your area to make sure that your form, overall safety and any modifications for pre-existing injuries are fully covered by your personal trainer. This will help you get the most out of each and every repetition so you can get a killer workout every time you head into the gym!