No gym? No problem! Your own bodyweight, everyday objects and resistance bands all help you build strength in your chest, abs and biceps without heavy free weights or machines. You might have to be a little creative at times, but with these moves, you never have an excuse to skip your workout.
Chest Exercises Without Weights
Push-ups are the classic body weight exercise for your chest. Of course there's the standard version, but once you master it, move on to challenging variations.
The diamond, or close-grip, push-up targets your triceps at the back of your upper arms as well as the chest muscles. Get into a classic push-up position, but place the hands under your shoulders or even closer to form a diamond with your fingers. Keep your abs contracted in toward your spine and your body rigid as you bend your elbows to lower your nose to the floor and rise back up.
The uneven position of the staggered push-up throws off your center of gravity, requiring slightly more activation from your chest and triceps than the standard version.
From the classic push-up position where your hands are shoulder-distance apart, stagger your hands so that the right hand is about 6 inches in front of the left hand. Keep your abs firm as you bend and extend the elbows 90 degrees. Repeat with the left hand forward of the right.
Push-Ups on a Stability Ball
A stability ball adds instability, so your abs and your chest must work harder to keep you in position. Use a stability ball in one of two ways to do a push-up: place the tops of your feet on it and walk your hands out to assume the standard push-up position, or place your hands on the ball to perform the push-up action.
Incline or Decline Push-Ups
An incline push-up, in which your hands are on a bench, coffee table or chair, makes the push-up a little less intense than the classic variation in which you're parallel to the floor. It also puts more emphasis on the upper portion of the pectoralis muscle.
To increase intensity on the lower pecs, do push-ups on a decline by placing your feet on the elevated surface and your hands on the floor. Pay close attention to your body position during these variations. You want to keep the torso rigid and not allow the hips to sag or hike upward.
Weightless Biceps Strengtheners
Biceps workouts are often synonymous with pumping iron. Your biceps activate when you do daily activities such as carry grocery bags, lift a pot of boiling water to make a pasta dinner or haul a briefcase. Think of how your arms work during these actions and use them to inspire ways to work your biceps without weights.
A chin-up bar isn't required for this standard move. If you have one, use it, but a sturdy shower rod, door jam or tree branch can substitute. Use a stool or chair to step up to the bar and grab it with an underhand grip, hands shoulder-distance apart.
Once you're hanging, bend your elbows to pull your chin up to and above the bar. Keep your elbows close to the sides of your torso. Use control to lower back to the arms extended position.
Use an unconventional heavy object, such as a large jug of laundry detergent or a backpack filled with books, to perform traditional curls. Hold the object's handle with an underhand grip and keep the upper arm right against your torso as you flex and extend the elbow. Move slowly through the full range of motion so you completely extend the arm at the bottom of the curl.
The inverted row works your back, but also your biceps as you use a rowing action to pull your body up and down to a fixed bar. Use a stable horizontal bar that's about three feet off the ground — again, a tree branch or playground bar would work. The bar should be high enough to allow your arms to extend fully.
Lie under the bar and grasp it with an underhand grip, hands about shoulder width apart. Extend your feet so your body forms a straight line and pull your body up to the bar. Straighten the arms to the starting position to complete one repetition.
Resistance Band Curls
Resistance bands offer a portable, easily-stored alternative to weights. These long tubes of latex stretch like a rubber band to provide resistance and build strength. To work your biceps, stand with both feet on the center of the band and hold a handle or end in each hand. Slowly curl the handles up toward your shoulders, pause momentarily and extend, with control, to the beginning position.
Train Your Abs Equipment-Free
Research published by the American Council on Exercise showed that ab exercise machines worked the abs no better than classic bodyweight moves such as the crunch, plank and side plank.
When it comes to training your stomach muscles, crunches are an oldie but goodie and can be effective when done properly. They primarily target the rectus abdominis, the broad sheath of muscle that covers your torso.
Lie on your back and bend your knees with your feet planted in the mat. Cup the back of your neck and head with your hands and slowly lift your head and shoulders up off the floor. Move deliberately and feel your ribs pull together and towards your pelvic floor as you lift up and down.
Plank works the deep muscles of your abdomen, such as the transverse abdominis, and can be done just about anywhere. Get into the top of a push-up position, hug your belly button into your spine and hold for 20 to 60 seconds at a time. Alternatively, balance a rigid body on your toes and forearms. Side plank has you balance on the sides of your feet and one hand or forearm.
Train the muscles at the sides of your abdomen, or your obliques, as well. These muscles are responsible for rotation and side bending. Use a medicine ball, phone book or jug of water for resistance.
Sit on the floor and bend your knees. Grasp the heavy item with both hands and hold it just a few inches in front of your chest. Lean back slightly and rotate side to side. Keep the ball centered at your chest; don't let it drop toward the floor as you twist.