So you don’t have access to a gym (or worse, are a ‘no show’ paid member), travel frequently, keep erratic hours and have some other excuse tucked under your frequent flier belt. Let’s take the bull by the horns. The truth is, you always carry the best and most effective piece of equipment with you at all times — your body. Thus, a cracker of a bodyweight workout is always at your disposal. The possibilities are immense, but let’s begin with something easy. With five common exercises — Plank, Squats, Lunges, Pushups and Bridges — done in an effective manner, you can work out most of the muscles in your body, and done with intensity, it is a good workout for the heart as well.

The table (towards the end) demonstrates for beginners how the exercises are done, and the sample workouts should not take more than 20 to 30 minutes. Of course, there are other bodyweight workouts that work equally well, or are even more challenging. We’ll get to those in in subsequent issues.


Squats

Targets: butt/hips, abs, calves, shins, thighs

Stand with feet slightly wider than hip width. Engage core muscle to keep spine aligned. Keeping chest lifted and chin parallel to the floor, hinge at the hips, shifting body weight back and down. Continue to lower till thighs are parallel to the floor, ensuring heels don’t lift and knees don’t drive forward past the toes. Body weight should be distributed between the heels and balls of both feet. Push through the foot to come up to a standing position.

Watch out

  • Don’t arch or round the back.
  • Don’t allow knees to drive too far forward from the toes.
  • Don’t squat too deep if knees hurt.

Glute Bridges

Targets: abs, butt, hips

Lie on your back, knees bent, feet hip width apart and flat. Keeping abdominals engaged, exhale and smoothly lift hips off the floor, preventing excessive arching of lower back. Hold for a few seconds. Inhale, lower to start position.

Watch out

Bad Glute Bridge

  • Keep abdominals engaged throughout.
  • Avoid pushing hips up too high, to prevent hyperextension.

Plank (easier)

Targets: all the core muscles (abs and back), glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings

The wrists should be in line with the shoulders, palms facing down and fingers forward. Feet hip width apart, toes tucked in. Keep the body in a straight line from the back of the head to the feet, engaging the abs (core) to do the hold and the thigh muscles to keep legs straight.


Elbow Plank (tougher)

Elbow Plank

Keep the elbows close to the sides of the body, directly under the shoulders. Hold yourself up as shown, bending the elbows 90 degrees.

Watch out

BadPlank2

  • Keep shoulders away from ears (no shrugging)
  • Don’t allow the back to sag. This puts pressure on the spine.
  • Don’t allow neck to drop
  • Avoid hiking of hips or bending of knees
  • Continue to breathe through hold
  • Distribute pressure evenly between palms/forearms and feet.

Lunges

Targets: abs, butts, hips, thighs

Stand tall with feet together, abs engaged and shoulders relaxed, back and down. Step/ lunge forward with one leg, dropping the body weight down in a straight line, driving hips down towards the floor till the thigh of the front leg is parallel to the floor. Activate the butt and thighs to firmly push off with the forward leg to return to the upright, starting position.

Watch out

BadLunge

  • Avoid swaying and side tilting.
  • Push off the full foot that is forward.
  • Keep the back straight.

Sample workouts 

Here are some ways of designing your 20-30 min workout:

(Go as fast as is safely possible, performing each move with proper control and form)

Beginner

Squats: 10

Rest: 15 Sec

***

Glute Bridges: 10

(hold on top for 5 secs)

Rest: 15 Sec

***

Plank Hold: 15 seconds

Rest: 15 Sec

***

Jumping Jacks: 15

Rest: 60 sec

***

Lunges: 10 on each leg

Rest: 30 sec

(after finishing both sides)

Repeat thrice

Advanced

Squats: 20

Rest: 15 Sec

***

Glute Bridges: 20

(hold on top for 5 secs)

Rest: 15 Sec

***

Plank Hold: 30-60 seconds

Rest: 15 Sec

***

Jumping Jacks: 20

Rest: 60 sec

***

Lunges: 20 on each leg

Rest: 30 sec ( after finishing both sides)

Repeat thrice

Remember

  • Always warm up before you start exercising, and stretch after you finish.
  • Any movement is only as good as the form with which it is performed. Raise the intensity only after form is mastered.
  • Rest and recovery are as important as the workouts themselves. Much of the gains of exercise are lost if adequate recovery is not built in. Start with exercising three times a week for about two weeks, before moving on to a more challenging routine. You could select any combination of exercises, ensuring that upper and lower body movements are balanced. The author is a Delhi-based fitness coach with a clientele that includes CEOs, sports professionals and athletes.

 

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