You love going to the gym. But sometimes life gets busy and you just want to sweat it out at home. (Or sometimes a pandemic hits and you have to sweat it out at home.) Now is the time to embrace your bodyweight—no, really. Since most of us don’t keep a squat rack next to the china cabinet, bodyweight exercises are a great way to tone, tighten and even strengthen our muscles without leaving the house or lifting a single dumbbell.
But won’t I only get stronger if I lift weights? Not necessarily. No-equipment workouts are great for all fitness levels because they can easily be modified to fit your needs. Beginners can get comfortable with new exercises while safely learning proper form and technique. More advanced users can increase reps or reduce rest time to keep the workout challenging. Bodyweight exercises are also a key component of HIIT workouts—they combine cardio and strength training to promote muscle growth while also increasing your heart rate. A 2018 study conducted by Experimental Gerontology confirmed that high-intensity bodyweight training produces similar changes in muscle mass, physical performance and metabolic health as compared to resistance training. So, yes, you can still build strong, sexy muscles without “pumping iron.”
To get the most out of your equipment-free workout, Luke Zocchi, certified personal trainer (and the man behind Chris Hemsworth’s Thor-level muscles), says to focus on compound movements. “You’ll get more benefit for the time and effort you put in,” he says, “and they’ll help to build your foundation strength quicker by hitting multiple muscle groups at once.” A squat, for example, is a compound exercise because it targets your quads, glutes, hamstrings, hips and core. “Without weights, these moves are great for toning,” he explains. However, if you’re looking to bulk up, dumbbells, kettlebells and ankle weights can add additional resistance to any bodyweight move.
Created (and demoed) by Zocchi and the other trainers behind the fitness app Centr, here is a ten-step, no-equipment workout that combines compound exercises with high-intensity cardio for a full-body burn. You’ll stay with each move for a full 60 seconds, but feel free to adjust your rest time based on your current fitness level. Complete two full rounds with one minute of rest in between and make sure you have a towel nearby (because you’re about to get sweaty).
Beginner: 35 seconds on, 25 seconds off per exercise
Intermediate: 40 seconds on, 20 seconds off per exercise
Advanced: 50 seconds on, 10 seconds off per exercise
*Works your quads, glutes, hamstrings, hip flexors and core.
Step 1: Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Sit back and down as if you were sitting in an imaginary chair. Send your butt back while keeping your chest up and your gaze forward.
Step 2: Lower down until your thighs are parallel to the floor, bringing your arms out in front of you for balance. Press your weight back into your heels making sure your knees don’t extend past your toes. If they do, widen your stance.
Step 3: Push through your heels to return to the starting position.
*Works your arms, chest, quads, glutes, hamstrings and core.
Step 1: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, arms relaxed at your sides.
Step 2: Squat down, place your hands on the floor in front of you and jump your feet back into a high plank position.
Step 3: Bring your feet back into your chest, jump up and reach your arms up high, landing softly. For a low-impact option, step your feet out instead of jumping.
3. Hollow Rock
*Works your core, hip flexors, quads and glutes.
Step 1: Lay on the floor with your arms and legs stretched out. Use your core to lift your top and bottom halves up slightly off the floor.
Step 2: Begin rocking back and forth, lifting your shoulders up off the ground as your legs lower and vice versa, maintaining that wide U shape with your body. Control the movement by engaging your core and glutes the entire time.
4. Monster Sumo Walks
*Works your quads, glutes, hips, hamstrings, inner thighs and calves.
Step 1: Stand with your feet in a wide stance. Squat down until your thighs are parallel to the ground.
Step 2: Begin walking forward picking up one foot at a time. Take four steps forward then reverse and take four steps backward.
Step 3: Continue this movement, keeping your knees wide and your butt low.
*Works your arms, shoulders, glutes, hamstrings, lower back and core.
Step 1: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees and plant your hands on the ground.
Step 2: Begin walking your hands out until you reach a high plank position.
Step 3: Pause here, engaging your core, and walk your hands back to your feet to return to the starting position.
6. Frog Squats
*Works your glutes, hips, quads and hamstrings.
Step 1: Stand with your feet wider than hip-width apart and your hands clasped together at your chest.
Step 2: Sink down into a deep squat until your thighs rest (or almost rest) on your calves. Keep your chest up and your elbows pressing out onto your knees.
Step 3: Lift your hips up, hinging forward at the waist until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Lower back down to the sunken squat and repeat. If your hip flexors are tight or you need a lower-impact option, lift your hips as needed.
7. Crab Crawl
*Works your arms, shoulders, core, glutes, hamstrings and quads.
Step 1: Sit on the floor with your feet flat on the ground in line with your hips. Place your arms behind you with your fingers pointed forward.
Step 2: Engaging your core, lift your hips off the ground and begin “walking” forward by moving your opposite hand with your opposite foot.
Step 3: Take four steps forward then reverse and take four steps backward. Continue this movement keeping your hips lifted.
8. Reverse Crunch
*Works your core (specifically, the lower abdominals).
Step 1: Lie down on your back with your arms at your sides, knees bent and feet flat on the floor in front of you.
Step 2: Curl your knees in towards your chest while using your lower abs to lift your hips up off the ground and crunch in. Lower with control and repeat.
9. Jump Lunges
*Works your quads, glutes, hamstrings and calves.
Step 1: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Step backward into a lunge with your right leg until your knee hovers just above the ground.
Step 2: Drive through your left foot to jump up as you bring your right knee in toward your chest. Land back down in a lunge and repeat.
Step 3: Work one leg at a time. Switch sides during the second round of the workout.
10. Side Gorilla
*Works your arms, legs, shoulders and core. They also help improve hip mobility.
Step 1: Begin in a low frog squat with your toes turned out and feet flat on the floor.
Step 2: Rotating your hips and engaging your core, lead with your right arm and plant your hands on the ground to the left of your feet. Shift your body over to meet them.
Step 3: Return to that squat position and repeat on the other side, leading with your left arm as your body moves to the right. Still not sure if you’re doing it right? This video will help.