For many reasons, people (women in particular) are intimidated by dumbbells (that aren’t pink…), barbells and squat racks. Rather than cross over to the free-weight section of their gym (where the ‘gym rats’ hang out), they head for the machines (hamstring curl, leg extensions, seated shoulder press, chest press and row, to name a few).
While machines have their place in some people’s fitness programs (correcting muscular imbalances, rehabilitating injuries, improving range of motion and breaking through plateaus are how I typically use them with my clients, when I use them at all…), they’re not so great for metabolism raising, fat burning or improving day-to-day functional movements. The three primary reasons people choose to exercise.
Why? Because you sit at machines, rather than standing on your own two feet. Sitting does not require you to activate your glutes or engage your core to any great extent, both of which will dramatically improve your posture, fitness level and caloric burn.
For those of you who are still not convinced that you need to learn to love free weights (or get to the gym in the first place), I’ve put together a list of my favorite body weight exercises. Exercises that can be done at home with minimal equipment, or at the gym in the corner or in the ‘stretching’ section of the weight room.
These are all ‘bang for your buck’ exercises, in that they use multiple muscle groups and require you to stabilize your shoulder girdle and core throughout. When done correctly and at a good tempo, they’ll also elevate your heart rate, blurring the lines between ‘cardio’ and ‘strength training’.
A word of warning; some of these exercises are not for beginners. Just because you’re not lifting dumbbells or barbells doesn’t mean the exercise is easy; pushups and pull ups require you to push and pull 75-100% of your body weight (dumbbells are starting to sound like a good idea after all, aren’t they!).
That being said, there are modifications that you can do as you progress towards full pushups and pull ups. I’ve written previously about learning to do chin ups; you can apply the same rules in your quest for the pull up, just widen and reverse your grip (palms face forward). Check back tomorrow for ways to progress your ‘knee’ pushups to full on ‘toe’ pushups. Click on the links below for exercise descriptions and images.
Fitknitchick’s best body weight exercises
- Pull ups or chin ups
- Planks (of all type)
- Squats (there are tons of great variations)
- Lunges (again, variations aplenty)
- Bird dog (looks easy, but isn’t and is extremely beneficial to all)
- Back extensions (on the ball, floor or the back extension apparatus)
- Burpees (half or full-on)
- Skipping rope
Anything I missed?
As always, I love to hear from you!