How to Get a Great Body Weight Workout

Body Weight Exercise

Woman doing inner thigh leg lift
Getty Images/Dave and Les Jacobs

Most of us know that strength training is important for burning fat and building strong muscles and bones, but we often shy away from weight work because we don't have the right equipment.

Dumbbells, barbells, and other tools can add intensity to workouts, but you don't have to have expensive equipment to get a great workout. There are a variety of ways to work your body with no equipment necessary.

The Pros Cons of Body Weight Workouts

The great thing about bodyweight workouts is that you can do them anywhere: At home, at work, in a hotel room or your mother-in-law's guest room. All you need is a few minutes of time and a few ideas for your workouts.

The downside of training with no added weight is that it's sometimes hard to challenge your body and, if you never get any equipment, it's hard to progress.

With your body weight as your only resistance, the only way you can progress is to gain more weight, which probably isn't an option. Still, something is always better than nothing and there are ways to make the exercises more difficult.

Tips For Getting the Most Out of Your Body Weight Workouts

If you're not using any equipment, you'll need to employ some techniques to make your workout challenging.

  1. Use one leg at a time. Try one legged deadlifts or one-legged squats. Having to support all of your body weight with one leg will add more resistance to your exercise.
  2. Go slowly. Take 8-12 seconds to complete each repetition.  That increases your time under tension, adding more intensity to your exercises.
  3. Change the tempo.  Another idea for changing the tempo is to add some pulses to your exercise.  For example, squat to a bench and then do 8 small pulses up and down.  Repeat that 8 times and you won't need any weight to feel the burn.
  4. Increase your repetitions. For example, if you were using weights, you might do 12 to 16 squats. Without weights, you can increase your reps to 20 or 30 (or more) to make up for the lack of added weight.
  5. Do compound exercises. Working more than one muscle group at a time is a great way to get more intensity out of your body weight exercises.  Things like squats, lunges, and pushups fall into that category.
  6. Try circuit training. Another way to keep the intensity up is by setting up your program in a circuit style - Doing one exercise after another with no rest between exercises.  Try doing a set of pushups followed by a set of lunges and you'll see how tough that is.  Try this 10-Minute Body Weight Circuit Workout.

    El Cheapo Equipment

    If you want to use some type of resistance but don't want to spend money on equipment, try these ideas:

    1. Full water bottles and unopened soup cans make great dumbbells.
    2. Fill an old sock with sand or pennies and tie it at the end. Voila! Your own dumbbells.
    3. If you travel, take resistance bands with you for a simple way to add intensity without having to carry much equipment.
    4. Use your staircase for things like dips, pushups, lunges and more.
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