Go beyond pushups and planks.
Like your diet or your lower back, your workout routine has almost definitely been knocked out of alignment during the coronavirus pandemic. We all miss having access to gleaming rows of barbells, sweating along with hyper-perky instructors in lung-busting classes, or meeting up with a few buddies for a run. But there’s a thin workout-related silver lining to our new world of at-home streaming and app workouts: the best bodyweight workouts can still help you achieve a lot of your big fitness goals.
Research shows that bodyweight workouts can boost muscular fitness, decrease body fat, and improve aerobic capacity. Plus, incorporating them into your regular routine can help you stave off injury in the long run.
“When we go back to basics, we have an opportunity to fix poor mechanics, create more stabilization, more range of motions, and, eventually, more strength.” says Nike trainer and Rumble instructor Ash Wilking. “This will offer you more control when you do load a movement again, so once you’re back in the gym you’ll be able to lift more efficiently.”
Bodyweight exercises also force you to move like an athlete, says Andrew Slane, group fitness instructor at Equinox and Variis instructor. “It is rare in strength training to hit all three planes of motion, frontal, sagittal, and transverse,” he says. “Think about the difficulty of a lateral lunge, for example. By training with your bodyweight only, you can move more freely and in the process, develop core strength and better spatial awareness, which will really pay off in the long run.”
And given we’re all locked up, there’s no better time than now to think about the long run. Test-drive these bodyweight exercises and workout upgrades, and come out the other side stronger than ever.
1. Work with your speed
The lowering phase of your lifts is called the “negative” or “eccentric” phase. When you slow this portion down, for example spending 4 seconds in the lowering portion of a push-up then pressing back to start in 1 second, your muscles spend more time under tension. You’ll see pretty quickly that this is very challenging. You may notice you’re a little more sore after an eccentric-focused workout.
“This technique could result in more muscle tissue breakdown, which happens naturally in training and eventually creates mass,” says Wilking. “The reality is that you may not build tons of mass with bodyweight training, depending on what level you’re at when you start, but you can maintain strength.”
2. Get some air time
Plyometric training, which consists of things like jumps and throws, can take your bodyweight exercises to the next level. It also admittedly looks pretty impressive when executed correctly.
“Things like plyo push-ups and jump squats work to recruit a diff set of muscle fibers that we tend to overlook,” says Slane. Granted, you won’t be able to rip through a set of plyo push-ups on you first try. Have some grace with yourself, he suggests, and know that it’s normal if it takes some time to get the form down.
3. Add some instability
Simple accessories called gliders, or even a towel or a pair of socks (given how much at-home workout gear is sold out right now) will make your bodyweight workouts extra challenging. By incorporating instability through these accessories, you’ll notice that everything becomes more difficult, adds Slane. “If you don’t have gliders, you can use paper plates on carpet.”
4. Try new moves
For those of you that are willing to try some more challenging bodyweight movements at home, Slane offers up five fun options:
Loaded Beast to Butt Kick
Start in a tabletop (otherwise known as beast) position with your knees hovering two inches above the floor. Send your weight back toward your heels, then jump up as if you were going to attempt a handstand, bringing your heels toward the glutes. Land back in your tabletop position; repeat.
Reverse Plank with Leg Lift
Start sitting on your butt with your legs out in front of you. With your hands by your sides, press up into a reverse plank position. While engaging through the core, lift one leg at a time, trying to put pressure into the opposite heel in the ground.
Start in a high plank. As you go to lower down into a push-up, keeping elbows close to the ribs, drive one knee in toward the armpit on the same side. Press back to start for one rep; repeat on the opposite side. To amp up the difficulty, prop your feet on your couch and set yourself up in a slight decline position.
Isometric Squat to Lunge
Your goal here is to stay as low as possible the entire time. Start in a squat, where your thighs are at or close to parallel to the ground with the weight in your heels. Lunge back on the right foot, press through your left heel to return to that squat position. Repeat on the opposite side.
Using gliders, two towels under your feet, or wearing socks, get into a high plank position. Push away with your forearms, lowering down toward the floor, then brace through the core to pull yourself back to high plank.
Author: Emily Abbate