If you’re looking for a few simple exercises, that you can do anywhere to boost your health and fitness, while building muscle and trimming your waistline as quick as possible, you’ve arrived at the right place!
Functional bodyweight and resistance training allows you the freedom to use things in your enviroment to get in a good workout. You don’t need an expensive gym membership or to buy tons of expensive gear for your home. If all you have is your own bodyweight and perhaps some heavy objects lying around your house for resistance, that’s all you’ll really need.
You can use actual weight training equipment too. However, functional training requires that you do practical exercises that mimmick movements people do in everyday life, which tax the entire body; unlike the typical isolation movements a personal trainer at the gym might suggest, such as bench presses, bicep curls, lat pulldowns, leg extensions, etc.
Let’s go over 4 key functional bodyweight exercises you can start with, all of which you can add extra weight to as you progress for even more resistance.
Squats tax the entire upper and lower body. If you were going to incorporate one resistance exercise into a training routine, squats should be number one on that list. You can start off just using your bodyweight for resistance, then work up to a barbell, kettlebell or some other form of weight held in front of you.
Heavy low rep sets will help to build muscle fast, higher rep sets are great for cardiovascular and neuromuscular conditioning. Squat down as far as possible to engage as many muscles as possible. Any form of squatting burns lots of calories in a short time, due to how taxing they are on the body.
See this StrongLifts article to learn how to squat with weights, without injuring yourself.
Sprints are the unsung hero when it comes to combination cardiovascular and muscle building exercises. While jogging at a slower pace is purely an aerobic (cardiovascular) exercise; sprinting short distances as fast as you can, with short rests in between, offers you both aerobic and anaerobic (muscle/strength building) benefits. Look at the lineup of runners at any professional track and field meet and there’s no arguing that those athletes have superior development over distance athletes!
Sprint in intervals for best results. For instance: sprint for 1 minute, rest for 1 minute, then repeat 5 to 10 times for a great sprinting workout. Alternatively, if you have a track nearby, you can sprint for 100 meters, walk back to where you started (fairly quickly), then repeat. Or use markers like telephone poles on the side of the road: sprint from one pole to the next, walk (fairly quickly) to the next, then sprint again and repeat 5 to 10 times.
Sprinting burns more energy than almost any other bodyweight training exercise and can be used exclusively if you’re looking for an uncomplicated way to get in shape quickly. Add a weighted vest as you progress for a more taxing workout. This is an excellent article on proper sprinting technique if you’re unsure about the technical aspects of this exercise.
Pullups should be the core of any training routine. They work the entire upper body and core, burning far more calories than bench presses, bicep curls, and leg extensions. Pullups can be performed as a standalone exercise anytime you have a few minutes and an area to do them.
If you don’t have a pullup bar handy or a stable overhang, monkey bars found at any local playground will make for an excellent and challenging alternative.
If you find it difficult to complete a single pullup just yet, check out this YouTube video detailing how to progress to your first pullup and then beyond:
Dips are yet another superior exercise that targets the entire upper body and core. They can be performed anywhere and are far superior to bench pressing, pushups, or pec-deck exercises, for balanced chest, shoulder and arm development. If you don’t have a dip bar around, use your imagination and find a couple of sturdy countertops or appliances with a space between them you can fit in between to do your dips.
Alternatively, playground equipment will always have handy provisions you can use to do some dips. The beauty of using a playground is that you can combine a number of different exercises together in a circuit for a fast and maximally taxing workout. Just don’t use the equipment while kids are hovering around; not only will this be distracting for you, but might be intimidating to the children or creepy to their parents!
This WikiHow article explains how to do dips properly and includes instructions for machine dips at the gym, bench dips for beginners, and actual true dips on dip bars.
The 4 bodyweight exercises detailed above are all anyone needs to tone up and improve cardiovascular conditioning quickly. For even better results, combine a few or all of them into a circuit routine; completely a set of one, then immediately moving on to the next, and resting for a minute or two before starting the circuit over again. Repeat a circuit 4 or 5 times and you’re done.
Last but not least, don’t try to workout at high intensity every day of the week. Exercise causes inflammation, taxing your body’s repair systems and energy reserves. Inflammation accumulates and can/will result in injury if you push too far, too soon. Start with 3 days per week for a month, then work up to a maximum of 4 or 5 workout days per week. Go for a long walk on recovery days if you just can sit still.
There you have it! All you need to get fit – without spending cash, suffering long wait times at the gym, or breaking your back in the process.
All the best!