Body weight exercises are a really convenient way to work every major muscle in your body! They're also great at boosting your metabolism and improving the way your body burns fat. Most of the exercises below are explosive, or plyometric, and all can be done using very little - if any - equipment.
The great thing about these exercises is they give your heart and lungs a jump start, leading to improved fitness. If you're an athlete of any kind (from beginner to advanced) these exercises will help improve performance by increasing lung capacity. The greater your lung capacity, the more air your lungs can hold. The more air your lungs can hold, the harder you can push yourself!
1. Tabata Sets
A Tabata workout is a set of eight high intensity intervals performed for a total of four minutes. The intervals consist of 20 seconds of high intensity exercise, followed by 10 seconds of recovery. Squats, push ups and sprints on a spinning bike or by running are a few good ways to incorporate a Tabata. Named after the researcher who developed the technique, Tabatas were created as a means to improve athletic training and performance. Integrating a few sets of this type of exercise numerous times a week could really improve the way you feel when you're working out.
Example of a Tabata
Set your stop watch for 4 minutes and GO!
20 seconds on [fill in the name of the exercise, examples above]
10 seconds off
Repeat this series a total of 8 times.
2. Box Jumps
Box, or plyo jumps aren't easy, but get easier and more comfortable after you do a couple sets. To do a box jump, all you need is a step, riser or plyo box. Jumps usually vary between 6 and 42 inches, but some people have been known to jump six feet +. Start by standing in front of a step. Bend your knees and push off the balls of your feet to land on the box. As quick as possible, spring off the step - both feet together - landing on the ground. Without resting, repeat.
Tip: Start with a lower step to build your confidence. After you complete three sets at any given height, raise it a couple of inches.
Try This: Bend your knees and swing your arms forward as you jump up and onto the step. Perform 12 jumps, rest one minute, then 10 jumps, rest one minute, then 8 jumps. Try this every other day. You might surprise yourself with how high you'll be able to jump.
3. Lunge Jumps
Lunges are great because they work one side of your body independent of the other, improving balance and coordination. Lunge jumps are just an extension of that by including a scissor step bringing both feet off the ground at the same time. Start in a lunge position with one leg extended out, knee bent and opposite leg back. Quickly spring off the front and back feet at the same time, switching place. The front foot is now in back and the back is now in front. Continue alternating for a set of 20 to 30 jumps, always landing in a lunged position, with your front knee bent and back leg extended.
Tip: Balance is important with this exercise. It might be helpful to place your hands on your hips or extend them out at your side.
Try This: Do three (3) 45-second sets of lunge jumps, each with one-minute of rest in between.
4. Squat Jumps
It's as simple as it sounds! This exercise is great for working the quads, glutes and of course the heart. Start with your knees bent in a squatting position and spring up off the ground, jumping into the air. When you land, make sure your knees are bent. Repeat.
Tip: It might be helpful to push your arms in the air every time you jump up. The momentum will help!
Try This: How many squat jumps can you do in one minute? After your minute, take two minutes of rest and repeat again!
5. Weighted Step Ups
OK, so maybe this exercise isn't entirely body weight, but it's not far off! If you've ever walked up a set of stairs with a loaded grocery bag over your shoulder or suitcase in your hand, you've done a weighted step up. If you're ready to get a little sweaty, you can easily shift this to become a part of your workout. All you need is a step (any height, but ideally no higher than the top of your knee) and weights (a barbell, dumbbells, kettlebells, or anything you can hang onto). Simply step up, then step down. Alternate legs, leading with your right leg on the first repetition, then lead with your left leg on the second repetition, and so on.
Tip: Plant your entire foot on the step, not just the ball of your foot. Keep your back straight and avoid leaning over your knees when you step up. If you feel that you have to lean over, you probably need less weight or a lower step.
Try This: Three sets of 30 alternating step ups, increasing the weight by 5 to 10 pounds with each set.
Want more tips like this? Hang out with me on Facebook. I’ll be posting some really great health and fitness tips over the next few weeks, and I don’t want you to miss out. See you there. Traci