Fitness / Strength Training

These Are the Most Effective No-Equipment Exercises

No weights or machines? No problem. We lay out the most beneficial moves sans equipment.

It’s happened to the best of us: We gear up, cue up a killer cycling routine, and head straight for the gym— only to find out it’s temporarily closed (curse you, maintenance!).

With heavy hearts and glutes dying to feel the burn, we sullenly make our way back home. At this point, you may be tempted to give up for the remainder of the day, but don’t change out of your gym clothes just yet! You already have the only workout machine you need on you.

Your body is the best tool you have for getting a great workout in with no equipment needed. Body weight training exercises (moves that force you to push or pull your own weight) can tone and slim your body while adding definition to your muscles. They also prepare you to take on physical activities you need to perform every day from lifting your kids to practicing good posture and carrying heavy bags.

Inspired by the idea that we can become harder, better, faster, and stronger using our body alone, we spoke with some of our Aaptiv trainers. With their help, we discovered the most beneficial exercise moves you can do, no equipment required. Tried and true, they’re staples for a reason.

If you haven’t already, you’ll want to include these in your routine—even when you get back in the gym.

Squats

Squats are well known and pretty crucial to your workout routine. They’re a true multi-tasker. While performing them you practice balance, burn more fat compared to other exercises (due to muscle gain), activate your core and back, and promote circulation. Plus, it’s one of the oldest and most useful functional exercises, which means you’ll have no problem squatting down to reach the bottom of the fridge.

When talking with some of our trainers, squats were almost unanimously recommended for working out with no equipment. Mike Septh told us, (“I’m a firm believer in performing movements that require the most muscle recruitment that in turn burn the most calories.” Kelly Chase said, “They tone, tighten and firm up your whole body, especially your legs/booty.”

But, before jumping right in, take Candice’s advice. “Single leg and double leg [glute bridges] along with squats are super beneficial lower body exercises that activate glutes. Doing glute bridges prior to lunging and squatting helps ensure you get actual glute engagement when you squat, lunge, etc. so you are working the right muscles. Activation makes a huge difference—wakes ‘em up!”

Aaptiv classes with squats: Glute Mania, Chain Reaction, Power Up Training, Ultimate Butt Burner

Lunges

Septh and Chase’s previous comments also apply to lunges. Unlike standard squats, lunges involve a major shift of weight since you’re stepping forwards or backwards. Septh calls them lunge complexes because you’ll make forward, reverse, and lateral moves. Don’t get stuck thinking this move only targets your legs, though. No matter the variation, you’ll be working your glutes, calves, and hamstrings. You’ll also use your core and lower back for balance. Doing lunges also increases the flexibility of your hip flexors.

Another way lunges differ from traditional squats is that they train each leg individually. This is known as unilateral training. Rather than solely improving your strength, unilateral exercises increase your balance and coordination. This brings your core and back strength into play. Focusing on one leg at a time with lunges can even help with symmetry and muscular imbalances.

Aaptiv classes with lunges: Glutes To The Max, It’s So Hard, Volume Up, Burn On

Planks

You’ll find planks among Ceasar Barajas‘, Jessica Muenster’s, and Amanda Murdock’s favorites exercises to do with no equipment. Murkdock (who recommends “planks all day long”— ouch) says that they work the entire body, can be done anywhere, and have a lot of variations. Muenster specifically favors plank jacks with palm-to-elbow movement because they also raise your heart rate.

Although it looks simple, plank post can be deceiving. In fact, while in a plank you’re working the entirety of your core—including the transverse abdominus, rectus abdominus, and obliques. Your glutes are also at work, carrying your back and bum. Despite its difficulty, this position can be done safely and without complication.

Planking even lends itself greatly to reducing back pain. Once your abs learn to activate and support your body, you’ll be taking a big strain off of your back. The improved posture has a domino effect on your neck and shoulders, eliminating pain brought on by slouching.

Aaptiv classes with lunges: Plank+, Core Form, Upper Body Bruiser

Push-ups

Ah, the push-up. While lunges are a unilateral exercise, push-ups are a compound exercise. Compound exercises use several muscle groups at once. This classic move engages your core, biceps, triceps, deltoids, and lower body—and that’s just to keep you stabilized. Using this many muscle groups at once causes your heart to work harder to get oxygen-rich blood to your muscles. So, in short, push-ups can also be a form of cardiovascular exercise that increases heart health.

Like planking, when properly done pushups will train muscles needed to support proper posture. They also prevent lower back pain and guard against potential injury. But if you find yourself bored of the same old thing (hi, freshman P.E. class push-ups), take a cue from some of our trainers who prefer variations.

“Push-ups are a great exercise that can be done regressively or progressively. Adding things like shoulder taps, mountain climbers, or even negatives are great ways to add more effectiveness to push-ups done without weight,” explained Septh. Similarly, Barajas mentioned a change simple as switching up your hand placements (wide, narrow, etc.) will work different parts of the muscles.

Aaptiv classes with pushups: Raise Up, Grab The World, Upbeat Arms

Balancing poses

“Several moves come to mind from the Yogic standpoint,” Barajas included, “and it’s not necessarily yoga. For example, holding any of these for periods of time: Plank Pose (on elbows and/or hands), Chair Pose (holding in a seated pose), High Crescent Lunge, Balancing Half Moon, Tree Pose—basically any of the balancing poses.”

Poses such as these work wonders. They stretch your limbs and muscles, can increase flexibility, improve posture (due to pulling up and posing properly), and building strength (because of differing core and muscle use).

Aaptiv classes with balancing poses: Short and Sweaty Power Flow, Warrior Mat Flow

Get started with any of these no equipment moves and keep them in your arsenal when you need a quick, do-anywhere workout.

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Fitness Strength Training

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