When Life Gets in the Way
Guest post by Shelly Stinson
No matter how determined you are to get and stay fit, sometimes life gets in the way. Work sends you on an unplanned business trip, your kids tell you last minute that they have somewhere to be right away, or some other emergency happens that derails your plans for getting in a good workout.
While this may make you want to give up because you don’t have time to go through a complete regimen, the reality is that you can continue making progress even when life throws these unexpected plans your way. All you have to do is perform a few different bodyweight exercises.
Effective Bodyweight Exercises
Bodyweight exercises are exercises that don’t require any sort of equipment, which means that they rely on the weight of your body to help you build more muscle and/or lose some fat. This enables you to fit them in whenever and wherever you have time. So how do you plan your own workout when you have to adjust on the fly or you only have a few short minutes to spare on fitness? Which bodyweight exercises are the easiest, yet most effective?
Here are a few to consider:
- Push-Ups. If you’ve not done push-ups since you were in grade school, not to worry. You can begin doing them again now as they’re a great way to work all of the muscles in your upper body, from your chest to your upper back to your biceps. It’s important to keep your core muscles super tight and get your hands under your shoulders for a better chest-working position.
- If push-ups are tough, start with negatives–begin in the top position (on your hands and toes) and slowly lower all the way to the floor. Use your knees to push back up to the top, but then get back on your toes.
- Once push-ups feel easy, you can continue to progress by doing advanced tricep push-ups: putting your hands in a diamond formation or performing, or even trying push-ups on your fingertips. From handstand push-ups to spiderman push-ups, there are several ways to do them. Feel free to change things up!
- Plank. Planks work your entire body and you can do them anywhere you have floor space, making them such a great bodyweight exercise. Start out holding the position just 10-20 seconds and then work your way up in five-second increments until you can go a minute or two with good form. It’s important to keep your body in a straight line–don’t let the hips sag and equally important, don’t let the glutes shoot up into the air. Your elbows should be under your shoulders, belly, glutes, thighs, all squeezing together tight!
- Throw in side planks to switch things up as needed.
- If planks on the elbows are too tough to start with, try them on the hands–like the top of a push-up position. This will also help build your push-up muscles!
- When planks get easy, try shoulder taps (tapping shoulders with hand from plank position), mountain climbers, lifting and lowering your legs, walking planks (walking the plank from forearms to hands and back down), etc. There are plenty of variations to keep you strong!
- Triceps Dips. Most people will work out their biceps without giving their triceps a second thought, but you want to work opposing muscle groups to keep your body in balance. All you need is a chair or set of stairs to do them and you’re on your way to firmer arms. Keep your hands under your shoulders and let your elbows point straight back–not out. Your fingers should point towards you and you want to keep your butt as close to the chair/step/couch as possible.
- The closer you keep your feet to you, the easier the dip will be. Build up by inching your feet further and further away, until you can straighten out your legs.
- To advance the dip (once you can do them easily with straight legs), try putting something heavy in your lap. A kid? A bookbag? OR you can find another chair to place your feet on in order to make the move tougher.
- Be cautious to keep your shoulders in good health while performing your dips — too many or too much stress in this position could make your shoulders feel a little testy. If dips bother you — don’t do them! Work on tricip push-ups instead.
- Squats. Working your lower body is important too, and one way to do that is to do squats. Because you can hurt yourself if you do them incorrectly, you want to make sure you use proper squat form.
- Always keep your feet flat on the floor–don’t lift your heels off the floor–ever!
- Track your knees out wide and keep them wide–on the squat and the stand. And speaking of knees–the squat doesn’t start with the knee bend, it starts with the hips. Send your glutes back first, THEN let the knees bend. If your heels come off the floor, it’s a good chance that you’re starting from the knees. And yes, never let your knees track over your toes. You should be able to see your toes at the bottom of your squat–which should be just below the 90-degree bend in your legs.
- When squats become easy, work on pistol squats–a one-legged squat. Start by standing on one leg and lowering yourself into a chair. Use the same leg to stand back up out of the chair without the other one ever touching the ground. Eventually remove the chair!
- Lunges. Lunges are great for working the muscles in the back of your upper legs, called your hamstrings. This provides you more power in your lower body, making it easier to perform everyday movements such as walking, getting up from a sitting position, and picking up heavy objects from the floor.
- To find your proper lunge position (too many people lunge to far forward or not far enough which can cause incredible knee pain), simply get on one knee–just like a proposal position. Then turn your back toes under (without any other adjustmets) and stand up. That’s YOUR lunge stance.
- When lunging, the goal is to drop the back knee to the floor–NOT push your front knee forward. Why the floor? Don’t you want to be able to get up off the floor when you’re playing with your great-grandchildren? Get on the floor and get used to getting up off it as well.
- To advance, you can work on dynamic lunges (jumping instead of stepping), lunging and bringing the back knee up after each rep for added abdominal work, or even lunging and kicking with the back leg after each rep.
- Crunches. Another muscle group you can work without the use of weights is your abs. By performing crunches, you’ll get a trimmer and more toned tummy, something that most of us strive for in our fitness programs.
- There are several ways to modify and advance crunches. You can perform the basic top-half crunch, you can perform crunches with your feet off the floor, side crunches, bottom half crunches where you pull your feet up and pull your knees towards you, or even full sit-ups. You can perform hollow holds, V-sit holds or reaches, toe touches, etc. You can even flip it over and perform “Supermans” to hit the lower back and balance out the front core training. Work the top, the bottom, the back, and the sides.
- Burpees. Ah, the ever popular, oh so love-to-hate burpee. There’s nothing to a burpee, really. You just throw yourself down and get back up again, right? A couple tips: don’t do a push-up with your burpee unless you want extra work. And don’t worry about jumping both up and down to the ground if you can’t or if your joints are achy. Place your hands on the ground and walk your feet back and then up again. Stand up. No need to jump if you aren’t able. If you are jumping, make sure to jump your feet into a squat stance. If you jump your feet in close together, you’re only putting unnecessary pressure on your knees. Keep your burpees safe!
How to Fit These Exercises In
Because these types of exercises don’t require any weights or other exercise equipment, you can literally perform them anywhere—from your own living room to a hotel room. For instance, you can do push-ups while you’re waiting for a return phone call or squats while you’re on hold.
The key to success is making your fitness routine work for you. Sometimes this means taking the time to tone your muscles and burn some calories, even when you don’t have time to complete a full workout. Every little bit counts!
No time to put your own workout together? That’s ok–Strongfigure has an entire category of workouts devoted to “No Equipment Needed” for those who just don’t have the resources or perhaps the time to swing by the gym.
Let’s Get Started!
Here are 7 quick workouts using all seven of the bodyweight workouts listed above. Use them when you’re pressed for time, away from home, or when life just gets in the way! Don’t forget to pin, screen-capture and save them all!
Shelly Stinson is a writer, foodie, and health nut based out of Denver, CO. You can follow her on twitter at https://twitter.com/shellystins