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Are you still making excuses to put off getting in shape? So what if you don’t have the green for a gym membership or a bunch of pricey newfangled equipment? Neither did the ancient Greeks, and they invented the Olympics. The best at-home exercises work every muscle in your body without spending a dime.
A solid fitness routine consists of three components: cardiovascular conditioning, flexibility training and strength. Walking, jogging, biking or hiking take care of the first factor, and you can find scores of free yoga programming — with workouts as short as ten minutes — to tackle the second. That leaves strength, which is where a lot of guys think they need a personal weight room.
Your body provides all the tools you need to tone and sculpt your physique. Better yet, these functional activities directly apply to real-life movements to keep you strong as you age. Here are 11 best at-home exercises that don’t require any equipment.
Squats are perhaps the best way to rock your lower body. Since you won’t use any equipment when you perform these best at-home exercises, feel the burn by increasing your reps and slowing each repetition to feel the full range of motion. If you must add weight, consider grabbing some milk jugs — or a couple of anvils out of the shop if you’re a beast.
1. Standard Squat
Mastering this basic move is a must. Learning to perform it properly protects your knees.
To initiate the motion, start by standing with your legs slightly wider than your hips’ width apart and visualize yourself sitting back in a chair. Engage your abs to keep your spine straight — if your back curves, shorten your range of motion until you can maintain a neutral alignment. It’s better to perform the movement correctly than to go deep with sloppy form.
Should you dip below parallel? There’s considerable disagreement in the training world. While dipping lower will blast your quads more, it can also result in injury if you don’t have that range of motion. Everyone’s muscles, bones and connective tissues have slightly different configurations, and what works for one body might not be right for yours. Begin by going no further than parallel, advancing to a full Olympic-style squat if you can maintain a straight back and proper alignment.
2. Squat Variations
Now it’s time to have some fun. Scores of squat variations work your leg muscles from various angles. A smart training tip is to choose two to three variations and perform several sets on each leg day, alternating the moves to get a complete body blast. Here are some of the squat modifications you can try:
- Side squats
- Side squats with a kick
- Walking squats
- Plìe squats
- Sumo squats
- Squat lunges
- Single-leg squats
- Goblet squats
- Bulgarian squats
- Squat jumps
The pushup is the quintessential upper body move. Like the squat, you can use scores of variations to add variety to arm day. Do you need more resistance? Have your kiddo sit on your back — they’ll love the “horsey ride.”
1. Standard Pushup
Begin a standard pushup in plank position. Your body should form a straight line from the back of your head to your heels, with your hands slightly wider than your shoulder’s width, fingertips pointed forward. Lower your chest toward the floor, coming within one inch of touching, then push yourself back to a plank.
2. Pushup Variations
You have as many pushup variations as you do with squats, maybe more. Here are some unique twists you can add to this move to work every upper-body muscle:
- Pike pushups
- Handstand pushups — for the hardcore
- Rotating pushups
- Cliffhanger pushups
- Knee-slide pushups
- Pancake pushups
- Hopping pushups
Triceps dips blast the backs of your arms, creating that lovely inverted V-shaped muscle. You can do them from the floor, but work from your stairs or a chair to increase the intensity. Once again, a toddler (or two) comes in handy if you want to add resistance.
To perform a floor triceps dip, sit on the ground, extending your arms slightly behind you with your fingertips pointing toward your toes. Push up into a reverse tabletop position so you’re on all fours with your belly facing the sky. Keeping your torso straight, dip your elbows toward the earth, then push away as you tighten the back of your arms. Avoid the temptation to do fanny dips — while they may work your psoas a little, you won’t get an upper body workout.
You can do the same move by placing your hands on the edge of a chair or two or three risers up your staircase. It depends on your body configuration — if dipping down leaves your fanny touching the steps, choose another prop.
You already know how to get into plank pose from doing pushups. Performing a stationary, isometric hold at the top where you suck in your tummy engages your abdominal muscles. It also hits the hard-to-reach transverse abdominis muscle, which encircles your waist like a girdle, helping to create that desirable V-shape.
Holding a stationary plank is an effective ab exercise. However, you can also try these variations.
1. Bird Dog
In this variation, you lift one leg and the opposite arm off the floor. The challenge is to do so without moving your torso.
2. Side Plank and Starfish
To perform a side plank, slowly shift to one side from a standard plank position. You’ll end up making a tilted T-shape with your body, supporting yourself on one arm. You can stack your feet or place one before the other for additional stability. Do you want a super-challenging twist on this move? Lift your top leg to create a starfish shape with your body.
3. Plank Walk-Ups
This variation combines elbow and straight-arm planks. Begin in an elbow plank, then push yourself to a straight-arm position, maintaining a strong torso alignment. Perform as many repetitions as possible.
Boat pose is an outstanding core finishing move. Like many of the best at-home exercises on this list, you can perform multiple variations to rock your abs and finally achieve that 6-pack.
1. Traditional Boat
You might know a traditional boat pose as a V-sit. This isometric hold works deep muscles like your psoas — there’s more to a strong core than your rectus abdominis. Take a seated position on the floor. Lift your knees so your lower legs are parallel to the floor while tilting your upper body back at an angle, forming the letter V between your torso and upper legs.
Feeling strong? Extend your legs straight, as lengthening the lever increases the intensity. Do you have a bad lower back? In that case, take a variation by placing your lower back against your mat with your hands beneath your tailbone and lift your legs, chest, shoulders and head slightly as you scoop your abdominal muscles toward your spine.
Many people perform sloppy bicycles, but you’ll get the most from this move if you slow down and mindfully perform each repetition. To begin, take the low-back alternative for a V-sit, placing your lower back against the floor. Place your fingertips gently behind your ears.
Elevate your legs and upper torso. Touch one knee to the opposite elbow with control, then extend and repeat on the other side. Perform multiple repetitions.
3. Flutter Kicks
Begin as in bicycle, but place your hands beneath your tailbone to help keep your lower back on the floor. Elevate your legs and torso and flutter kick your feet. This movement engages the lower end of your rectus abdominis muscles.
4. The 100s
Here’s a Pilates-inspired move you can do without a reformer machine. Begin in a traditional V-sit, with your legs extended or bent parallel to the floor at the knee. Extend your arms parallel to the floor and move them slightly up and down with your breath, inhaling as they press toward the floor and exhaling as you rise — you will sound as if you are panting. This exercise targets the upper end of your rectus abdominis and your psoas.
Best At-Home Exercises Requiring No Equipment
What’s your excuse for not getting in shape? You don’t need the money for a gym membership or equipment with these best at-home exercises.
Tone your entire body with these best at-home exercises requiring no equipment. Add a bit of cardio and flexibility training into the mix, and you’ll achieve total fitness without spending a dime.