“The biggest misconception about bodyweight exercises is that you can’t build muscle or tone up while doing them,” shares Natalie Dau, a Reebok brand athlete who’s launching her fitness app RockStarFit in May.
Not only do these exercises rev up your metabolic rate, they build muscle and tone the entire body. Plus, they are safe to do regardless of experience, age or fitness level.
“Benefits of doing them include increased flexibility, strength, better balance and improved posture – which only comes from doing these compound movements and improving your core strength,” says Natalie.
So once the standard exercises (squats, push-up, lunges) become easy, both Natalie and coach Muhammad Fazrul (or Faz) of TripleFit gym recommend variations to amp up the burn. To get started, try these five power-packed bodyweight moves.
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There’s no escaping the bread-and-butter of all leg workouts, according to Faz. “If you want to make it harder, try box squats or chair squats before progressing to squat jumps or pistol squats.” To build core strength, he suggests doing a hollow body hold to engage the anterior core muscles, and a superman hold (single leg squat with arms out) to work the posterior core muscles and the glutes.
Awkward as they look, the dreaded bear crawl is Faz’s go-to move for good reason. “The bear crawl strengthens your core and works your entire body, especially your shoulders, arms and glutes,” says Faz. “When you crawl, your hips go from fully flexed to fully extended, taking the joint through its entire range of motion. It’s a no-brainer conditioning tool as this exercise increases your muscular endurance and improves overall conditioning.”
If the bear crawl (eventually) proves to be too easy, Faz recommends doing them with Hindu push-ups, a push-up variation that starts from a downward dog position, before transitioning into an upward facing dog pose (see above).
However you choose to do them – knees on the ground, against a wall or with your hands in a diamond shape – the compound exercise, when done properly, engages multiple muscle groups. “It is amazing for your core, helps to improve posture and prevent lower back injuries. And you can do it pretty much anywhere, anytime,” says Natalie.
While it’s no one’s favourite bodyweight exercise, according to Natalie, the burpee is great for burning fat and getting a full-body workout. “The correct version is to have your chest to the ground, but you can scale it without your chest hitting the ground.” She adds that they’re more explosive than hill sprints, and works on your coordination.
Trying to tone that tricky tricep area? Natalie recommends doing dips to work those hard-to-firm places on the back of the arms. “Try dips with your legs bent for beginners, and straighten legs out for a challenge.”
This article was originally published in Shape.