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Pete Swatkins

Pete Swatkins

Five bodyweight exercises to include in your home workout

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This week, we found out when we can next get a haircut and when we can meet up for a pint. Still no news on when the gyms will re-open though. Whilst that’s fine for us here at The Fitness Truck, we can imagine some of you are getting a bit frustrated!

What are bodyweight exercises?

Well, the clue is in the name – you use your own body weight to workout, rather than relying on weights or equipment. Gravity is your resistance, and you tweak your positioning to adjust the difficulty. You can jump, push, pull, press etc, and simple changes in the movement can give different benefits.

Why do we love them? Well, bodyweight work has helped a lot of our clients through the lockdown. Usually, our truck arrives at their door, packed full of all the equipment they need for a session. Although we’ve not been able to go to them as normal, we’ve switched over to video sessions. Most people don’t have gym equipment, so we guide clients through bodyweight routines.

No matter what fitness level you’re at, these sessions are challenging yet achievable. Bodyweight workouts are great for beginners – you increase your stability whilst getting to grips with core movementsAs you improve, instead of buying new kit, small ajustments make the exercises more difficult.

A bodyweight session is also an efficient way to work out if you’re pressed for time. No need to pack your kit, jump in the car and head to the gym or studio. Change into comfortable active clothing, and find a space at home (a patio or garage can work well). This saves you time – and probably cuts out a fair few excuses too!

Can you still build muscle with bodyweight excercise?

It’s easy to assume that the way to build muscle is to start lifting weights. Of course, this is one option – but what if you can’t get to the gym? Current closures aside, if you travel a lot or work unusual hours, you may struggle getting a session in. This is where using bodyweight work to build muscle comes in handy – and you won’t need an ever-expanding weight rackIf your goal is to build muscle, then you can adjust these bodyweight movements to help – increase the number of reps you do, take shorter rest times and use movement variations to target key areas.

Whatever your goal, it looks like we’re going to be working out independently for a while longer. With this in mind, we’ve put together our guide to the best bodyweight exercises – and our trainer Louis shows you how to do them at home.

Squats

Simple but effective, the humble squat is a perfect start to your bodyweight repertoire. Squats are great for lower-body work, targetting the thighs, quads, buttocks and hips. As well as adding muscle tone, they improve leg strength, and help with your balance and stability. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointed out at 10 and 2 o’clock. Keep your chest up (eyes forward to help). Bend your knees to a 90 degree angle – your thighs should be parallel to the floor. Use arms to help you balance. Power up from your quads, and squeeze your bum at the top.

Jump Squats

Taking that basic move and making it more dynamic, we get a jump squat. As the name suggests, the squat motion is the same, but including a jump adds power before and after. Instead of using your arms for balance, use them here to drive you up further as you jump. Remember, keep your chest up, power up from your quads and squeeze your glutes at the top. Adding in the motion can mean that your form slips, so take care to do it right.

Split Squat

We start this in a slightly different way, with one leg in front of the other. The back heel should be raised off the floor, and your weight should be on the front leg. Bend from the knee, until your front thigh is at 90 degrees to the floor. Make sure your back knee doesn’t drop down to the floor. Squeeze from the quads to push back up. With this move, the focus is on the hamstrings and glutes. It will improve your balance (squeeze your abs in to help), and stretch out your hip flexors too. If you want to make this more challenging, you could raise the back foot off the floor. Hook your back foot on a bench or chair, then squat as shown. 

Press-Ups

Grab a mat! You’ll need to be facing the floor, supported by your hands and toes. Hands should be flat on the mat, level with your shoulders, arms out sraight. Before you start moving, make sure your chest is up, and your shoulders are retracted – try and imagine you’re pinching a pen between your shoulder blades! Tip: Don’t just ‘dip’ from the shoulders… this isn’t helping!
Bend from the elbows, lowering yourself down until your chest touches the ground. Use your arms to push back up. Press ups are amazing for building upper-body strength – they work your triceps, pectoral muscles, and shoulders.
Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can add difficulty – raise your feet (use a step or bench) to target your shoulders. Try having just one foot on the floor, so you have to work harder to balance. Take your hands wider or closer and note the difference in difficulty. Add an element of travel as you press up, by stepping your arm/leg out to the side. Press ups are great for modifications because the possibilities are endless!

Plank

This exercise targets your core, and you’ll need your abs engaged throughout. To get into position, start by kneeling on your mat. Drop down on to your elbows, then extend your legs so you’re on your toes. You should then have just your toes and elbows supporting you. Ensure your spine is neutral (no bums in the air, and no sagging towards the ground). That’s all there is to it! You hold this position for as long as you can. Easy…

You can adapt this by trying a plank on your hands instead of your elbows, keeping your arms out straight. You could also try lifting one leg or one arm off the ground to really test your balance! Remember, as you add modification, keep checking your spine is neutral so you’re not adding any strain. 

These 5 moves will give you a solid start to your bodyweight workouts. Try them, perfect them and as your ability progresses, start to modify the movements. Keep an eye out on the blog as we’ll be focussing on form, and adding in more exercises for you to try at home.