In its “Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2016: 10th Anniversary Edition,” the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) ranked body weight training as the second-most popular fitness trend, surpassing personal training and yoga. And according to their November/December issue, this trend is going to be even bigger in the coming year.
Body weight training consist of exercises that rely on gravity and your body weight to apply force on your muscles, and can be done with little to no equipment. While push-ups and squats are effective, they can get boring and not everyone is able to do them. To spice up your body weight workouts, Pipe Dream came up with five exercises you can do in the gym, or just in your room.
1. Arm Circles
Muscles targeted: Biceps and Deltoids (Shoulders)
From either a standing or seated position, hold your arms straight out to the sides with your palms facing the ceiling. Maintaining a slight bend in your elbow, make tiny circles going forward while keeping your arms parallel with the ground. After 16 circles, go in reverse for 16 more circles. Repeat this sequence two more times with no rests in between sets to really feel the burn.
Post-exercise stretch: Put your arms at your side and flex your wrist so that your palms face the floor. Turn your wrists out and in so that your fingertips are facing the back and pointing towards you, respectively. Push your chest forward. Hold for 10-30 seconds.
2. Tricep Dips
Muscle targeted: Triceps
Sit on the ground with your knees bent, legs together and feet on the ground in front of you. Place your hands on the ground beside you with your fingertips facing forward. Lift your butt off the ground and support yourself on your feet and hands: this is your starting position. Keeping your torso and pelvis stable, bend your arms at the elbow and then straighten back up. Repeat eight times and then rest for 10 seconds, and do one or two more sets. To increase the intensity of the workout, try doing one-legged dips.
Post-exercise stretch: Take one arm overhead, bend down at the elbow, hold on to the outside of your tricep and relax your shoulder. Hold for 10-30 seconds and switch arms.
3. Side-Lying Leg Lift
Muscles targeted: Abductors, Tensor Fasciae Latae, Gluteus Medius (Side of the Leg)
Lie on one side either supporting yourself on a bent arm, or lying all the way down with your arm extended under you. Keep your body in a straight line with your shoulders stacked on top of each other, as well as your hips. Lift your top leg up and back down 8 times. Hold the last one on top and pulse up without letting your legs touch. Rest for 5 seconds and repeat 2 more times. To make this more difficult, eliminate the rest.
Post-exercise stretch: From an upright seated position, bend and hug one leg across your body while twisting so the opposite shoulder is to the knee.
Muscle targeted: Gluteus Maximus (Butt)
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Place your arms on the ground next to your body. While keeping your feet, arms and shoulders on the ground, lift your pelvis up and down, squeezing your glutes when you hit the top. Complete 16 reps, rest for five seconds and repeat two more times. To increase the intensity, try the bridges up on your toes, leaving a space between your butt and the floor and/or take out the break in between sets.
Post-exercise stretch: Stay on your back and bend one leg across the other creating an upside-down “4” shape. Lift the leg that is still touching the ground up and hug that knee to your chest. Hold for 10-30 seconds and switch legs.
Muscle targeted: Rectus Abdominus (Abs)
Lie on your back with your legs extended upward, perpendicular with the rest of your body. Place your hands by your sides and lift your head off the ground to alleviate pressure from the lower back. Drop both legs to the right side of your body and then circle your legs around so your body makes a straight line. Complete the circle by lifting your legs up and over to the left side of your body and return to the starting position. Repeat four times, then switch directions. Keep the motion slow and controlled.
Post-exercise stretch: Lie on your stomach and press your palms into the floor while pushing your upper half away from the ground, keeping your hips and legs down. Lift up until you feel a stretch in the core.
During all of these exercises, remember to breathe and listen to your body, modifying the exercises when you feel necessary. Additionally, any prolonged stretching of 15 or more seconds should be kept for the end. Alternatively, the exercises can be broken up so that you can stretch after you finish the two arm ones, again after the 2 lower body ones and then again after working on your abs. However if you feel tightness or pain you can briefly stretch after each exercise. Keep in mind that everyone is different; some exercises may not be safe for certain people. Talk to your doctor to figure out what is best for you.