By Christopher Travers, MS
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What workout requires no gym membership and only 15 minutes of your time three times a week?
The answer: body-weight training. This training is a mix of exercises, from push-ups to squats, that you can do on your own using no equipment but your own body.
In the eyes of more than 3,400 fitness professionals in the American College of Sports Medicine, body-weight training will be the top fitness trend for 2015. If you want to try it, start with the following tried-and-true classics. You may even remember some of them from high school gym class.
What they do: Push-ups strengthen your chest, triceps, shoulders and muscles in your back.
How to do them: Lying face down, use your arms to push yourself up while keeping your back straight and your toes in contact with the floor. Return nearly to the floor, then repeat. Keep your hands aligned underneath your shoulders. Don’t arch or dip your back. Start with three sets of 10–15 repetitions, then work your way up to sets of 20–25.
Make them easier: Do a kneeling-push-up with your knees on the floor. Just remember to keep your back straight.
Make them harder: Altering your hand position — either wider or tighter than your shoulders — increases the difficulty and targets different muscle groups.
“If you have done burpees before, you know they’re not easy — but they offer one of the most effective full-body workouts you can get.”
Christopher Travers, MS
Cleveland Clinic Sports Health and Cleveland Clinic Executive Health
What they do: You’ll feel squats working your glutes, hamstrings and quads — three major muscle groups that get neglected in the typical office worker’s seated lifestyle.
How to do them: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Slowly move your buttocks backward, then bend your knees and lower your buttocks toward the floor. Be careful not to step up on your toes too much, which is a common mistake. Start with two sets of 10, and increase them as you feel stronger.
Make them easier: An exercise ball leaning against the wall can help you go through the squat motion. If you don’t have an exercise ball, the wall alone will work just fine.
Make them harder: If you have the strength and balance for it, try the “pistol” squat, which uses only one leg.
What they do: Planks are a fantastic workout for your core muscles. I prefer these to crunches any day because they put less strain on your spine.
How to do them: Start by lying face down, then lift your body up on your elbows and toes while always keeping your back in a straight line. Hold each plank for 30 seconds. Start with three repetitions at a time, and work your way up to holding each for 45–60 seconds.
Make them easier: Much like a push-up, you can do planks from your knees if needed.
Make them harder: Try extending one arm out in front of you while you hold the plank position.
What they do: Lunges improve both your lower extremity strength and balance.
How to do them: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, then step forward, allowing your front knee to bend. Your back knee should bend up to 90 degrees but not touch the floor. Return to your original position, then repeat with your other leg. Start with two sets of 10.
Make them easier: There is not a good modification to make lunges easier.
Make them harder: Try stepping backward for a reverse lunge.
What they do: If you have done burpees before, you know they’re not easy — but they offer one of the most effective full-body workouts you can get.
How to do them: Start in a low squat position with your hands on the floor. Kick your feet backward to get yourself into a push-up position, then complete a push-up. Next, return to your original position, then leap into the air to complete the exercise. Start small by doing five burpees at a time. Work your way up to three sets of five, then increase your repetitions to 10.
Make them easier: Use a kneeling push-up.
Make them harder: I don’t recommend it. Burpees are already difficult — but well worth the effort, considering how many of your muscles they affect.
Doing all of the above three times a week, with rest days in between, offers a great jumping-off point for body-weight training. You can increase your repetitions and add more exercises into the mix as you go. Best of all, you can do this workout anywhere.
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