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Don't let a lack of equipment stand in the way of getting in shape. Bodyweight exercises build strength, boost cardiovascular fitness, and improve flexibility. Using the body for resistance may seem less challenging than traditional strength training, but as long as you focus on form, you can make significant improvements to your physique and overall health.

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Pushups

Pushups are great for the chest, shoulders, and the backs of your arms — the triceps. The core also needs to stabilize during the movement, which means the exercise works the abdominal muscles. In fact, pushups are a great choice for strengthening the entire upper body.

Keep the hips level and imagine a straight line running from your head, through your neck, and along your spine. If your back arches or dips when doing a pushup or plank from your toes, pushups from the knees are a less demanding alternative.

If you experience pain in your wrists when performing pushups, try placing two dumbbells on the floor and holding them instead. This can alleviate the pressure on your wrists.

a woman doing pushups on a yoga mat
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Crunches

A traditional ab exercise, proper form is vital to getting the most from your crunches. While mostly performed by people seeking a six-pack, crunches also strengthen the obliques and the entire core. This can prevent injury when performing other exercises and in daily life.

Neck pain is the most common complaint with this exercise. Place your hands alongside the head, fingertips just behind the ears. Do not interlock your fingers behind the head, as this encourages you to use the arms to help pull your neck up. Tucking the chin toward the chest during the motion prevents excessive pressure on the neck.

man doing crunches exercise in the park
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Wall Sit

The wall sit is a lower body exercise that is isometric — you are holding your body in a still position, as opposed to moving up and down as in a squat. When you slide down the wall, stop at the point where you feel comfortable. If that means the angle between your thigh and calf is more than90 degrees, that's ok.

Keep the back pressed against the wall, not just the shoulders, and keep the neck relaxed. Expect to feel this exercise in your glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, and inner thighs.

woman in fitness clothing doing a wall sit outside
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Tricep Dips

Use a sturdy chair to help with this exercise. Both the shoulders and wrists are vulnerable when performing dips, so it is important to have a solid base of support. Your natural inclination when performing dips may be to either round or archyour back to get the full range of motion from your shoulders. It is important to keep your spine neutral, even if that means not fully lowering yourself to the ground. Flexibility will improve as you practice more.

Tricep dips work the triceps but don't isolate them. The upper chest muscles and the shoulders are also working in this exercise.

young woman doing tricep dip exercise on park bench
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Walking Lunges

Walking lunges are an effective workout for the entire lower body. They strengthen the hips, glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, and even the abdomen. They improve balance and flexibility.

The most common mistake made when performing walking lunges is not taking a large enough step. While it may seem awkward at first, a longer step, which allows you to position the knees approximately over the ankles, is safer for your knees. Smaller steps allow your knee to extend past the toe, which can place excessive pressure on the knee joint.

cropped image of a woman doing walking lunges outside
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Pistol Squat

While the pistol squat is challenging, it is a great addition for those who spend a great deal of time seated at a desk or who want to improve their posture.

The exercise works the lower body and core, but form is very important. Don't get discouraged and try to force yourself lower during the exercise. It is more important to get the extended leg as straight as possible and keep your upper body tall than it is to lower all the way to the ground.

woman doing pistol squats at the gym
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Superman

While mainly strengthening the lower back, the superman also works the glutes and hamstrings. It is a good way to balance out crunches and other exercises that involve contracting the abs.

Many people make the mistake of overdoing this exercise and hyperextending their back. The motion doesn't need to be huge to get the benefits of this exercise. Keep the head in a neutral position (don't crane the neck to look past the hands), focus on breathing, and maintain a neutral spine throughout the entire exercise. Think about extending forward and back, not forcing yourself up as high as possible.

young woman doing back extension superman exercise on mat
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Marching Glute Bridge

Marching bridges should work mostly the glutes, so if you are feeling it in the lower back or quads, you may need to adjust your form.

It is easy for the quads to take over this exercise, putting unnecessary strain on the lower back. Avoid arching your back — press your heels into the floor to effectively target the glutes. Do not bring your knee in past the hip, toward your chest, or the hip flexors will take over.

young woman in a park doing glute bridge march exercise
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Plank Jacks

Plank jacks are a dynamic exercise that mostly works the core. Expect to raise your heart rate and work up a sweat. In addition to strengthening the core, plank jacks engage the hips and back, areas that are important to strengthen if you spend a lot of time sitting.

Keep your abs tight and hips even, and imagine a line moving through your skull, neck, and spine. The motion for this exercise is all in the lower body; don't let your back sag as you jump out with your feet — it is better to jump the feet out less far, or step them out one at a time instead. Keep your eyes on the floor through the entire motion. Looking too far forward or up will affect the position of your entire upper body and can hurt your spine.

illustration of a woman doing a plank jack exercise
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Burpees

Burpees are as close to a full-body option as you can get with one exercise. They work the quads, glutes, calves, abs, chest, shoulders, and triceps. They also get your heart pumping, making them a good choice for HIIT, Tabata, and other interval workouts.

Make every effort to land lightly on the balls of your feet when performing this exercise. As you get fatigued, your form suffers. Maintain proper form through every step, keeping your back neutral and your body in alignment. Perform this exercise in slow motion, pausing after each step until you are confident in your form. Stop as soon as your form fails on any step.

fitness group doing burpees and jumping

Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.