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10 Essential Bodyweight Exercises

Bodyweight exercises are crucial to a well-rounded training routine because they’re versatile and can be done anywhere. They also teach you to control your body and help develop solid movement mechanics.

These 10 fundamental bodyweight exercises help you strengthen your joints, activate your core, target the correct muscles and sync all the muscles in your body appropriately.

1. SINGLE-LEG BOX SQUAT

The single-leg box squat strengthens your quads, improves your balance and builds powerful legs. By isolating each leg, single-leg squats also help correct leg-strength imbalances to lessen injury risk — for example, if you can do 8 reps on your right side and only 5 on your left, you’ll know to work on making the left leg stronger.

How to do it: Sit near the edge of a bench, then stand up facing away from that bench. Lift one leg and keep that leg up the entire time. Sit onto the bench and drive yourself up with the opposite leg. Once that gets easy, lower the height of the bench or elevate your feet. Then, add resistance by holding a pair of dumbbells in front of you or wearing a weighted vest.

2. SKATER SQUAT

This is a unique variation on the single-leg squat because it activates your hips and trains you to sit back on your heel to emphasize the glutes and hips.

How to do it: Start standing and lift one leg then bend it down behind you in a one-legged squat while trying to touch your bent knee onto the ground behind the standing leg. Lean your torso and reach your arms forward as you descend. If you can’t reach the ground with your knee, that’s fine — just go as low as you can.

3. HIP/THIGH EXTENSION

The hip/thigh extension helps to build strength in your all-important glutes.

How to do it: Lie on your back in a bridge position and bend one knee so that it makes a 90-degree angle to the floor and stick the opposite leg straight out — knees aligned. With your bent leg, squeeze your glute, push through your heel, push your hips up and keep your hips level as you rise. Keep your straight leg extended throughout the exercise and keep it inline with your torso. 

4. PUSHUP

The pushup is one of the best upper-body exercises. It’s a must-do to strengthen your shoulders, target your chest and core and improve the health of your shoulder joint and girdle.

How to do it: Keep your elbows in as you descend, then at the top, when you think you’ve pushed all the way up, push just a little more and feel your shoulder blades roll around your ribcage.

5. PIKE PUSHUP

Use this pushup variation to target your shoulders and train your overhead-pressing muscles.

How to do it: Start in a pushup position and raise your hips until you have a straight line going from your hands to your hips. Keep your elbows in as you descend, drive yourself back up and keep your hips up the entire time.

6. INVERTED ROW

Most athletes benefit from doing more pulling exercises like the inverted row than pushing exercises like pushups. It helps develop a strong, wide back, healthy shoulders and good posture.

How to do it: Do these on a Smith machine, a power rack, a TRX suspension trainer or rings. As you row, focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together. At the bottom, sink your chest just a little to let those shoulder blades slide along your ribcage.

7. PLANK

Planks build your core and trains you to keep your torso stable against a variety of forces (essential for avoiding injuries). To do the exercise correctly, make sure to activate your core and spine and push through the floor to engage your shoulders.

How to do it: Instead of “bracing your core,” keep your ribcage down like you’re doing a mini-crunch and tuck your pelvis like you’re trying to round your lower-back — your core will turn on automatically. Then hold that position.

8. PULLUP

If you want to add “armor” on your frame and increase the size of your torso, go straight to the source with an essential bodyweight move that targets your lats, the largest muscle in your upper body.

Pullups also strengthen your grip, which carries over to many different exercises. At the top of a pullup, squeeze your shoulder blades and try to drive your chest to the bar, keeping your neck inline with your spine.

9. BEAR CRAWL

The crawl is a fundamental exercise that builds great movement patterns and targets the muscles deep inside your core. As a warmup, it’ll open your joints; as a finisher, it’ll improve your conditioning in a safe environment.

How to do it: Get on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips; keep your knees an inch above the ground. Crawl forward by taking a small step with your right arm and left leg at the same time and alternate. Keep your hips low and your head up.

10. HARD ROLL

The hard roll is an obscure exercise, but if you’re looking to improve movement and avoid pain, the hard roll is essential.

How to do it: Lie on your back with both arms overhead and both legs straight. Reach your right elbow to left knee as if you were pinching a ball in front of your chest. Now, turn your head toward your left armpit and use your head to “pull” the rest of your body until it falls onto the left side. Then, turn your head toward the right and pull your body back to the starting position. Do a few reps and then switch sides. Keep your arms and legs relaxed; it’s your core that should do all the work.

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HIIT for Beginners Week 2: Bodyweight Strength Circuit

WELCOME TO HIIT FOR BEGINNERS!

Today’s session features a body weight-only interval training strength circuit that can easily be done in a small space at home. In the workout video below, we’ll focus on multimuscle moves designed to bring your heart rate up while also building strength and endurance. Listen to your body throughout the sessions, and modify or skip any moves that are too much for your current fitness level. (I’ll also provide options throughout the routines to help you make it work for you.)

HIIT FOR BEGINNERS WEEK 2: BODY-WEIGHT STRENGTH CIRCUIT

This workout can be logged as “Calisthenics” in your MyFitnessPal app.

Tell us when you’ve completed this week’s workout. Share it in the comments below, or tag us in your checkins @MyFitnessPal so we can cheer you on!

HERE IS YOUR WEEK 2 WORKOUT SCHEDULE:

Day 1: HIIT for Beginners: Body-Weight Strength Circuit

Day 2: Moderate-Intensity Cardio (walking, cycling or try this steady-state session)

Day 3: Active Rest Day

Day 4:  Total-Body Strength Training (try this 30-minute session)

Day 5: Stretching or Flexibility Work (try this 8-minute total-body stretch)

Day 6: HIIT for Beginners: Walking Intervals

Day 7: Active Rest Day

Looking for a full at-home program that includes everything from high-intensity interval training to total-body strength training, brain fitness, prehab exercises and more? Check out “Walk STRONG: 6 Week Total Transformation System!” This balanced program has everything you need to succeed, including online support and accountability. Save 20% when you use the exclusive MyFitnessPal promo code “3Z74EZAT” at checkout on Amazon.com.

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8 Travel-Friendly Bodyweight Exercises You Can Do Anywhere

The busy holiday season can disrupt our fitness routine, making it hard to sneak in our workouts. Even if you cannot make it to the gym for your favorite class or take a jog outside, you can get an efficient workout in your living room or hotel.  

Try this quick and easy equipment-free workout video to keep yourself moving. Start with 1 set of 5–10 reps of each exercise for a quick 5-minute workout. Increase the number of sets for more intensity.

SQUATS

Make sure your knees don’t extend beyond your toes. Keep your weight in your heels, maintain a neutral spine, keep your chest open and flex at your hips.

REVERSE LUNGES

Extend your leg back into a lunge, maintaining a neutral spine and shoulders above your hips. Switch legs.

LATERAL LUNGES

Legs start wide, and step or shift your weight laterally (side-to-side) as you push your hips back. Each side is one rep.

PUSHUPS INTO SIDE PLANK

Start on your knees or toes, and drop your body into a pushup. As you push up, open into a side plank. Each side is one rep.

PLANK PRESS INTO MOUNTAIN CLIMBERS

Start in a plank position with your hands below your shoulders. Complete two mountain climbers (starting with your right leg), then replace your hands with your elbows and press back to your hands (starting with your right hand). Repeat on the left.

BRIDGES

Start on your back with your knees soft and feet hips-width on the floor. Squeeze your glutes, pull your navel in and lift your hips off the floor, engaging your glutes and hamstrings.

BICYCLES OR DOUBLE-LEG HIP THRUST AND PUSH

Start in a supine position, and pull your right knee toward your chest. Contract your abs to lift your shoulders off the floor and alternate leg presses while you slightly rotate your torso.

REVERSE CRAB WALK

Start in a seated position, and push up into a bridge. Lift your right hand and left leg, and reach across the body toward your toes, keeping your hips off the floor and rotating your torso. Repeat on the left.

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