Getting started on your fitness journey can be challenging for lots of reasons.
I get it: Knowing which exercises to do, or how to put them together to make an effective workout, can seem really confusing.
And what if you don’t have access to a gym? Or what if you don’t even want to go to a gym?
Or maybe you think you don’t have time to exercise.
I’ve got you covered with all that.
Because the truth is that exercise doesn’t have to be that complicated. You don’t need tons of specialized equipment.
You also don’t need to invest hours in killing yourself at the gym.
With a well-designed bodyweight workout routine, you can accomplish a lot in just a few minutes. It doesn’t take any equipment — it just takes YOU.
I have a great 10-minute workout that’ll get the job done.
Let’s run through the basics of this quick, effective bodyweight workout routine. Below, you’ll find some tips to tailor it for your unique needs.
Try This Bodyweight Workout Routine
This workout is performed as a circuit, meaning that you’ll do each exercise one after the other, with no rest in between.
Before you begin this workout, do a light cardio warmup of jumping jacks, jogging or other big dynamic movement to slowly raise your heart rate and warm up the body.
Next, you’ll go through the workout, performing the following bodyweight exercises back-to-back, doing as many repetitions with good form as you can of each for 30 seconds per movement.
1. Squats with Calf Raises
Start with your arms out in front to counterbalance your weight or with your fingers resting on the sides of your head.
Now with your back straight, bend your knees and drop your hips back to lower yourself into a sitting position, keeping your chest upright. At the bottom of the movement, your thighs should be parallel to the ground (or as low as you can comfortably go while keeping your back flat).
[Note: This is the bottom position of the squat.]
Return to the starting position and, at the top, come up onto your toes like you’re about to jump. Lower back onto your heels and then repeat the squatting movement.
Place your palms on the ground, a little bit wider than shoulder-width apart. Extend your legs behind you.
Now, keeping your back straight and your core tight, bend your elbows to lower your chest to the ground. Do not allow your elbows to flair out — keep them tucked close to your core.
[Note: If doing push-ups from your toes is too challenging, try them from your knees.]
Next, straighten your arms to lift yourself back up, without locking out your elbows at the top.
3. Reverse lunges
Stand tall with a straight back, core engaged, and take a wide step backwards with your left leg, bending your right knee to lower yourself into a lunge position.
Both knees should bend to a 90-degree angle (or a low as you can comfortably go).
Return to the starting position with feet together, and repeat the movement with your right leg. Continue to alternate sides.
Return to a push-up position, your wrists directly under your shoulders, with your legs extended straight out behind you, with your spine straight and your core tight.
[Note: If holding this position from your hands is uncomfortable, you can do this exercise from your elbows instead.]
Now, brace your core by drawing your belly button toward your spin and raising your pelvic floor. Hold the plank position for 30 seconds, making sure to breathe.
Take one minute of active rest before repeating the circuit again, for a total of three times through. “Active rest” means pacing to keep your heart rate up and your body warm.
The Big Benefit: Total Body Conditioning
Because this bodyweight workout routine takes you through a full-body circuit, it’s primarily designed to improve overall conditioning.
That means you’ll see improvements in strength and muscular endurance across your entire body.
Since it also raises your heart rate and works your large muscles, this workout will additionally help to rev up the fat-burning process by boosting the metabolism.
[Related: The #1 Cause of a Slow Metabolism]
As you get stronger with this workout, try to crank out more reps — maintaining good form — of each exercise in the allotted time.
Advanced? Try Ramping It Up
To make this circuit even more challenging, you could sub-in some of these bodyweight exercises, or try these options…
Instead of the classic squat, you could perform a jump squat, by exploding upward to jump off the ground, straightening legs as you reach the top ov the movement.
The same thing goes for the reverse lunges. You could perform jump lunges instead, and as you are at the top part of the jump, switch which leg is in the front position each time.
Adding these fast, dynamic movements — called plyometrics — will help to make the exercises more demanding in terms of both endurance and power.
To propel you upwards, your muscles will contract faster and will require more power.
The landing is also a key part of plyometrics — you want to make sure your muscles absorb the weight of the landing, not your joints, so land as softly as possible without locking your joints.
And it is worth noting that plyometrics do cause higher impact forces, so they place more demand on the joints. That’s something to keep in mind if you’re dealing with injuries or other joint conditions.
But if you can safely do them, plyometrics are an excellent way to boost conditioning as well as improve performance in many sports.
To add an extra challenge to your push-ups, increase the height of your feet by placing them on a bench or chair. The higher they are, the bigger percentage of your bodyweight your arms will have to move.
[Woman performing a more advanced push-up variation]
As a side note, you can also make a push-ups less demanding by increasing the height of your torso. So, instead of placing your feet on the bench, instead, you could put your hands against the bench and do the pushup against it. That’s a great way to begin to master full-body (from the toes) push-ups.
I hope this circuit makes the idea of exercise a little less daunting and a little more doable. Because it’s true: you don’t need any equipment or a lot of time to get a great workout in.
Bodyweight exercises can be both effective and efficient. Give this circuit a try and let me know how you make out with it.
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Yuri Elkaim is one of the world’s most trusted health and fitness experts. A former pro soccer player turned NYT bestselling author of The All-Day Energy Diet and The All-Day Fat Burning Diet, his clear, science-backed advice has transformed the lives of more than 500,000 men and women and he’s on a mission to help 100 million people by 2040. Read his inspiring story, “From Soccer to Bed to No Hair on My Head” that started it all.