There’s a time and a place for complicated maneuvers, but your daily fitness routine isn’t one of them. A workout routine needs to first and foremost get done — and a daily turkish getup or Olympic lifting are probably not going to get you there. Fortunately, bodyweight workouts are an incredibly effective way to get fit, without ever leaving your living room. In fact, a new study in the International Journal of Exercise Science found that six weeks of bodyweight training (just 11 minutes of exercises, three times a week) was enough to significantly boost cardiovascular fitness and power output among participants. Other research in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research compared running at 85 percent aerobic max effort on a treadmill to bodyweight training and found exercises using your own weight provided nearly double the training stimulus, encouraging muscles to adapt and grow stronger, faster.
“It’s easy for guys to think if you’re just using your own weight, you’re not really getting a workout,” says Derek Holmes, a personal trainer in Chicago. “But the guys that think that are usually the ones who have never done a proper bodyweight workout.”
So what exactly does that entail? The seven moves here will set you up for a total-body workout with all of the gains you’d get from hitting them gym—minus a few pains. “You are less likely to injure yourself doing bodyweight workouts, because your own strength and mass are the limiting factors,” says Holmes. “With machines, you can sometimes cheat your way into pulling more weight than you are ready for, which can cause muscle strains or disc problems in your back.”
This workout is short — about 15 minutes — by design. The goal is to move quickly from one exercise to the next without taking breaks in-between (no selfies, men). “A continuous circuit will keep your heart rate up, helping you max out on calorie burn and cardio benefits,” Holmes adds.
Bodyweight Move #1: V Sit-Ups
When you want a core that is circus-trapeze-artist strong, this is your move. Like a regular sit-up on steroids, here you’ll start in a seated position, knees bent, feet flat on floor. Keeping your spine straight, lean back slightly and lift your feet off the floor (straighten legs but do not lock your knees) until you find your balance in a seated V. That’s tough enough, but now, you’ll simultaneously lower your legs and upper body toward the floor, maintaining that balance as you widen the V-shape. When you’ve reached as far as you can go, engage your core and raise both legs and torso back to original position. Do 10 reps.
Bodyweight Move #2: Wallstand Pushups
Due to their total core engagement, along with triceps, biceps and glutes, classic pushups are often considered one of the best bodyweight moves you can do. Ah, but we’ve got that beat. In this move, you’ll still be doing a pushup, but you’ll be doing it at a decline, your feet hiked up your living room wall so that your body forms a 45-degree angle with the floor (if you ever play “wheelbarrow” with your kids, it’s that). From here (arms straight) you’ll bend your elbows and lower your shoulders toward the floor, then straighten. This position has the additional benefits of working your trapezius and deltoid muscles, along with the extra load your arms will be bearing, giving you max pushup benefits.
Bodyweight Move #3: Burpees
Yes, this move appears early and often in many home workouts—but there’s a reason for that. With one single exercise, you can activate (wait for it) your calves, quads, hamstrings, glutes, core, back, pecs, biceps, and triceps. If there ever was a one-and-done exercise, this might be it. Start in an extended pushup position. Push through your toes and jump your feet forward, landing them just outside of your hands on either side, knees bent. From this crouched position, jump straight up into the air. Land with bent knees and lower hands to the floor. Jump your feet back into an extended pushups position again. Do a push up. Do 10 reps.
Bodyweight Move #4: Dips/Modified Dips
The single-best way to build your triceps, to do these right you’ll need two pieces of sturdy furniture of equal height (a table and countertop will do the trick) that you can push close together. Position yourself between them, arms straight and angle down and slightly away from your body. Transfer your weight to your arms, lift your feet off the floor (bend knees if necessary), and bend your elbows until your arms form a 60-90 degree angle (or as deep as you can go). Straighten arms. Repeat 10 times.
Modified dip: Sit on a sturdy chair. Place hands at the edge of your seat. Lift and slide hips forward until they are in front of the chair and weight is supported by arms and feet. Bend elbows; let butt sink toward floor. Straighten arms and return to start. Do 10 reps.
Bodyweight Move #5: Jump Squats
Burn, baby, burn: These glute monsters will set your legs on fire while pushing your heart rate through the roof. Start standing with your feet slightly wider than hip-width. Keep your arms relaxed and slightly bent at your sides. Bend your knees and sink your seat to the floor, until thighs are parallel with the ground. Push through your heels and explosively jump straight into the air, straightening your arms and legs. Land with slightly bent knees. Repeat 10 times.
Bodyweight Move #6: Step/Jump-Ups
Find yourself a chair, bench or stair, about two feet off the ground. Stand about a foot away, facing it. Step up with your right foot, swinging your left leg and right arm through and forward, finishing with them in front of your body, knee and elbow bent at 90 degrees. Step down with your left foot first. Do 10 step-ups on the right side, then repeat on the left.
Make it harder: Stand about a foot away, facing the bench. Bend both knees and jump with both feet to the top of the bench. Hold two counts then jump back down. Do 10-15 times.
Bodyweight Move #7: Star Planks
Finish your workout off with a move that requires precision, balance, and a whole lot of arm and core strength. Start in an extended pushups position (arms straight, feet about a foot apart). Keeping your body in one long line, lift your right foot a few inches off the floor and extend your right leg behind you. Once you’ve found your balance, lift your left hand a few inches off the floor and extend your left arm in front of you. Hold for as long as you can (aiming for 30 seconds), then release back to standard extended pushups position. Repeat on the opposite side (left foot, right hand). Rest for 30 seconds, then repeat. Do 4 complete sets.