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Hard-Hitting, Equipment-Free Bodyweight Exercises

Pump some iron... without the iron.

Every guy wants to get ripped, but not all of us have time or inclination to hit the gym. Whatever your reason, you can still get a great workout with nothing but some time, some space, and your own bodyweight. We'll break down the fundamental movements you should know, and the variations you can use to target different muscle groups and keep things interesting.

First, a few pointers: all of these exercises (and most exercises in general) require a strong core, so try to keep your abs flexed throughout each movement. Also remember to keep breathing – you don’t want to inadvertently hold your breath and end up winded five reps into your workout.


Push Ups

Chest, Triceps, Shoulders, Core

This is a simple exercise that gives you a great base from which to start a workout routine. And while everyone knows how to do them, not everyone knows how to do them well.

You should make sure you have your form down – keep your back flat, butt down (not in the air) and – for the standard hand position, hands just about shoulder-width apart in the “up” position.

Breathe in as you go down and maintain that back position and tighten your core as well, try to keep your elbows in instead of flared out as your lower yourself. Breathe out as you push yourself up – again maintaining that form, until you’ve reached the starting position.


Variation: Close-Hand Push Ups

The close hand variation is as it sounds – your hands are positioned much closer together, closer than shoulder-width apart.

This way, as you go down, the push-up places emphasis on your triceps.



Variation: Wide-Hand Push Ups


This variation places a bigger emphasis on your chest and shoulders.

Your hands should be placed outside of shoulder-width apart, but not so much that you can’t perform a push-up in proper form.



Variation: Diamond Push Ups


This one is a little tougher. Make a diamond with your hands, and keep them in that position for the whole exercise.

This movement will hit both your triceps and chest hard, so you'll probably be able to do fewer reps than with a normal push up.


Variation: Handstand Push Ups


This variation is a very difficult one – true handstand pushup calls for you to do a freestanding handstand while pushing your body weight up and down.

To make it a little easier, place your feet up on a wall so that you have your back against it (or have a buddy hold your feet). Keep your back straight as possible while engaging your core. Once you’re positioned properly, lower yourself until your arms are parallel to the floor and your elbows are bent at about a 90 degree angle. Then push yourself back up into a handstand to end the rep.

This variation is a doozy (literally), so be wary of feeling dizzy afterward and make sure you keep breathing throughout the exercise.


Sit Ups

Abdominals, Obliques

The sit up engages your hip flexors and works your abs, and can be done with your feet either being held by a friend, or secured underneath a couch to keep them in place.

Lie on your back and bend your knees, bringing your feet back towards your butt. You can have your hands joined and behind your neck for support in the traditional way or have them in fists to each side of your head.

To do a sit up – well, just sit up. Tighten your core as you focus on using your abdominal muscles to rise up, bringing your shoulder blades up off the ground and your chest towards your knees. Try to breathe in as you come down and out as you come up.


Variation: Alternating (Twisting) Sit Ups

Hold your hands behind your neck, and as you come up, twist your upper body so your left elbow touches your right knee. Switch sides on the next repetition.

This will target your obliques (the sides of your core) a little bit more.



Flutter Kicks

Hip Flexors, Abdominals, Obliques

Lie on your back with your legs straight and feet close together. Lift your legs about six inches off the ground in the starting position, making sure your core is tight.

From here, lift one leg higher than the other and then slowly bring it back to the six-inches-off-the-ground starting point.

Do the same with the other leg to complete one rep. The trick here is to keep your movements slow and in control so that you're not kicking wildly. Your upper body should stay nice and still while your legs move.

That’s all there is to it. It sounds easy, but do it continuously for a minute or two and your core will be on fire (in a good way).


Wall Squats

Hip Flexors, Core, Quadriceps

If you have trouble squatting with a barbell, these will get you used to the movement.

Get a wall with some space and stand in front of it like a kid at time-out – up against it. Your toes should be flush with the wall, your feet just barely over shoulder-width apart, and your arms extended out to the sides for balance.

Now imagine yourself sitting back into a chair. Your face is going to get close to the wall as you lower your hips, and your knees will stop at the wall – that's how you know you're down low enough.

As you practice, you'll be able to get deeper and deeper, but your initial goal should be to get your thighs parallel to the floor. Because the wall will stop your knees, it'll force you to emphasize the sitting back movement. Make sure you're not flaring out or bending your knees inwards to compensate – you want a slow, smooth sitting motion.

This is another exercise that involves a strong core, so keep it engaged while you squat down. As you improve, you'll gradually be able to position your feet closer together for more of a challenge, but start wider and work your way in.


Variation: Air Squats

Just imagine what you’ve learned from wall squats and this exercise will come naturally.

The only difference here is that there’s no wall, and you can have your hands straight out in front of you or on your hips. Again, ensure a tight core throughout the exercise.



Lunges

Hamstrings, Hip Flexors, Core

These hit the back of your legs while squats will take care of your quads (the front portion). Start standing with your feet shoulder width apart and hands on your hips. With one foot, make a long lunging step forward, so that you bring the heel of the back foot up off the ground. You should end up with your front knee bent at a 90 degree angle, but not pushing past your toes.

Then step back and repeat with the other leg. Keep your back straight for this as well, leaning only slightly forward to help with balance.

Walking Lunge

Instead of standing in place and stepping back, bring that back foot up as you stand and step off with that same back foot and repeat with the next step.


Burpees

Quads, Chest, Triceps, Hip Flexors, Core

An exercise that's both loved and hated by many – and you’re probably going to feel the same way.

Not only is this a great muscle builder, but it’s a cardio-heavy exercise as well. Because of the high-intensity, constant movement, you'll be short of breath in no time.

Start standing, and squat down so that you can put your hands on the ground and kick your feet back into a pushup position.

Do a controlled push up, then jump your feet forward and stand back up into a squat position.

Swinging your arms upward, jump straight up in the air, landing gently on your feet in the standing position.

Then rinse and repeat. If you feel burned out after just a few, don't worry – they're intense, and it takes some practice to do high-rep sets. Just like anything, the more you work at it, the better you'll get.



Workout Routines

Here are just a few sample routines you can try out with these exercises. Each one is meant to use a set of exercises such that they hit your entire body – and some only take 15 or 20 minutes, depending on how hard you push yourself. Try them every other day to give your muscles time to recover in between.

Routine 1

  1. Push Ups, 10 of each variation

  2. Air Squat/Lunge Superset, 10x3

  3. Twisting Sit Ups, 1x10 or 2x10


Routine 2

  1. Push Up Ladder. Pick a hand position and start with one push up. On your next set, do two, and so on until you reach 10. That'll add up to 55 push ups.

  2. Air Squat Ladder. Same deal as above – start with one and work your way up to 10.


Routine 3

  1. Wall Squat 10x3 or 5x5

  2. Lunge/Push Up Superset 10x3

  3. Flutter Kicks x30

  4. Burpee Ladder to 5


Routine 4

  1. Air Squat 1x10

  2. Close Grip Push Up 1x10

  3. Lunge 1x10

  4. Burpee 1x5

Repeat all of the above three times.


Routine 5

  1. Wall Squat 10x5

  2. Push Up 10x5

  3. Burpee Ladder to 10 or more


Those are just some ideas – feel free to tweak them yourself. Find what movements are most effective for you, develop a routine that's doable but challenging.

It you hate going to the gym or don’t want to shell out for a membership, fine-tune your routine and stick with it. If you're a gym-goer, get used to these movements and you'll be able to get a solid workout in when you're on the road. Bottom line: you don’t need weights to get that pump going. 



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