In today's busy lifestyle, not everyone has time to get to the gym. You can build strength and muscle without going to the gym, buying expensive home exercise equipment or even lifting a single weight. In fact, many world-class athletes such as Olympic gymnasts use bodyweight exercises as a primary means of building strength.
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Pull Your Weight
Pullups and chinups are functional exercises that build grip strength in your hands and forearms while strengthing your biceps, triceps and shoulders. Your back and core muscles will also get a workout. Portable pullup bars can be purchased inexpensively at any sporting goods store and installed in one of the doorways of your home.
Classic squats and their many variations target your quadriceps, hamstrings and calves as well as your core muscles. Most people add a heavy barbell to increase the intensity of their squats, but you don't have to. According to "Muscle and Fitness," jump squats using only body weight can produce up to 40 percent more power than with a barbell.
Explosive Strength Exercises
Plyometrics are explosive, powerful movements that increase strength by putting an intense demand on your muscles. Athletes that need to run fast or jump high often use plyometrics to build explosive strength. Fitness enthusiasts can use plyometric exercises such as squat jumps, plyo-pushups, alternating lunge jumps and box drills to build strength without using weights.
Planks target your entire core including your obliques and lower back, and they can work your shoulders and hips if you add in arm and leg movements. To do a basic plank, begin in pushup position, bending your elbows and resting your weight on your forearms. Maintain a straight line from head to toe and engage your core. Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds.
Go beyond the basic pushup and try a pushup trio of classic pushups, decline pushups and triceps pushups to build strength throughout your upper body. Begin with one set of 20 classic pushups for general upper body conditioning. Next, do 20 decline pushups to hit your shoulders. Create a decline by propping your feet on a short stool. Finally, do 20 triceps pushups to work the back of your arms by placing your hands close together under your shoulders, with your elbows at your sides. Complete this rotation three or more times.
While you are down in pushup position, add in two or three sets of mountain climbers to work your core. Beginning in pushup position with a straight line from your knees head to feet, bring your right knee forward towards your chest. Return to starting position and bring your left knee towards your chest. Alternate your legs for 30 to 60 seconds for one set.
Strong Calf Exercise
Standing calf raises are an effective exercise to sculpt strong calf muscles. You can perform these standing on the floor or on the edge of a stair for a more full range of motion. Use your calf muscles to lift all of your weight on your toes and slowly back down. Do three sets of 20 or more repetitions for maximum results.
Dips for Strength
According to powerlifter and trainer Jesse Burdick, in an article for MuscleAndFitness.com, adding dips to your workout routine is one of the fastest ways to build upper body strength. Dips using parallel bars target your chest and triceps. If you bring your knees up and keep your body more upright, you will focus more on your triceps. You can also use a chair or weight bench for triceps dips.
Switch to One
An alternative to adding weight to increase the difficulty of your body-weight exercises is to switch to using only one limb on each exercise. Some examples are the one-arm pushup, one-arm pullup, one-leg calf raise and single leg squat. Use these variations to build strength more quickly, one side at a time.
Work out Like Kids
One of the best ways to stick with any workout plan is to make it fun. Switch up your routine by adding in a few old-school kid's exercises from your elementary P.E. days, like bear crawls and crab walks. To do a bear crawl, walk forward on all fours with your bottom in the air and legs almost straight. For the crab walk, begin by sitting the floor and lift your hips up. Walk forward and back on your hands and feet for at least one minute.