By Deborah Ryan
When you are forced to workout without a gym, don’t think your workout can’t still be intense. You already know the basic bodyweight exercises like squats, lunges, push-ups, and plank holds. These are excellent foundational exercises. For many, this is all you need. However, don’t stop there if you are looking for ways to step up the intensity of workouts without equipment.
First thing’s first. Before we add difficulty and intensity to the foundational movements you know so well, it is important to review your form to establish a good foundation. Check out this resource from ACE that demonstrates proper form for numerous body exercises.
Now let’s step it up a notch. Move from a two-legged squat to a one-legged squat. The one-legged approach will put more bodyweight on each leg. This can be done in two ways. Either you can lift one leg in front of you while you squat down with the other leg. This is often called a pistol squat. This will also maximize the use of stabilizing muscles in your leg.
If the balancing part is a bit too much, you can place one leg behind you on a bench or chair before squatting down. This is sometimes referred to as a Bulgarian Split Squat. You are still putting extra weight on one leg at a time (and it is still quite challenging).
Take that lunge off the ground. Jump lunges will surely get your heart rate up and push those leg muscles. Do you still want a way to add weight? Simply find household items to place over your shoulders. A tote bag on either shoulder or a backpack filled with heavy items is a simple way to do this. Switch it up more by adding side or curtsy lunges. A curtsy lunge is performed by placing the back leg behind the front leg creating a curtsy.
Push-up repositioning. To increase the intensity of a standard push-up, try mixing up your hand positions. You could elevate your hands on a sturdy surface or bring your hands all the way together. These may be more challenging if you are not used to these positions.
However, if you need a greater challenge, try lifting your hands for a Hand Release Push-up. Keep your body posture firm and tight through your core, once in the down position with chest on the ground, lift both hands up, then push up again with your hands pushing firmly off the ground. To take it up one more notch, try clapping your hands together in between each push-ups.
Plank it up. There are many ways to perform a proper plank hold. As long as your form is good, you can be on your hands, elbows, or your sides. You can even add a stack of books or a kid on your back for an extra challenge.
A plank hold can be intense enough, but if you are looking for a challenge I have one for you. Instead of keeping your plank stationery, try traveling across the room from side to side. You can also tap each shoulder while holding your plank. If that is not enough, hold your plank with your head close to a wall, then instead of tapping your shoulders put one hand at a time up on the wall.
Watch this video for more ways to exercise without equipment.
It can be frustrating when you don’t have the equipment you are used to, but this change in workout style does not need to hinder your progress. Research suggests that you can counter the negative effects of detraining (a break in weight training) by cross-training.
Take these exercise progressions and create a list of sets to perform in a predetermined amount of time. Switching to a cross-training workout for a couple of months will force your body out of memory mode and may challenge your body in new ways.
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” – 1 Corinthians 9: 24-27