Bodyweight exercises are becoming increasingly popular, thanks to a growing trend in high-intensity interval training, yoga and pilates. They can be done anywhere, and require nothing but a willing mind and body.
These nine basic exercises are good at burning calories and firming up the body in the right places. They may not look fancy, but the results are fantastic.
Targeting the major muscles - glutes, quads, core - it's no wonder that squats always get called for in gym class.
To start: Lower body and push your hips back as if you're sitting down. Shift body weight to your heels and make sure tailbone is tucked. Knees should not go beyond ankles.
Not feeling much? Turn the squat into a full-body workout by adding bicep curls or overhead presses with a dumb-bell. Or add cardio by doing squat jumps.
Lying face up, lift legs off ground and keep them as low as you can possibly hold. Lift upper back and extend arms overhead. Keep neck and shoulders relaxed. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds.
To dial down the intensity, bend knees and lift legs higher.
Love or hate them, push-ups are a must for building upper body strength, giving you toned arms, chest and shoulders. Plus, they fire up your whole body in a jiffy, and are the stepping stone to doing burpees.
Start with your knees on the floor and slowly graduate to the man push-up when you are stronger. Always make sure hands are directly under shoulders, and eyes are looking about 30cm ahead. Keep elbows about 45 degrees back; not flared out or tight to your ribs. Another way to train: Rest your body on the floor and push up into plank position as swiftly as you can.
The mother of all core exercises, planks are so popular for good reason; they activate all the parts of the body - arms, shoulders, back, butt, abs and legs - you want to tone.
To do the classic forearm plank, get onto your forearms with body lifted in a straight line. Elbows should be directly under shoulders, and hips in neutral position (not lifted or sagging).
All muscles from shoulders to toes should be activated. Hold for 30 seconds to a minute.
These are particularly good for toning your obliques (the side of your core muscles), which are often neglected in training.
In plank position, turn to face right by lifting right arm. Keep both legs straightened, feet on ground. Hold for 10 seconds and switch sides.
Too tough? Lower bottom knee to floor. If that feels easy, increase the holding time until you feel your body quivering. When you get stronger, raise the top leg to work your core even more.
This is a great exercise to stretch your ab muscles, especially after contracting them repeatedly in crunches or sit-ups. At the same time, it builds strength in your lower back and glutes as you have to lift your chest, arms and legs off the ground. Exhale as you lift, and inhale when you return to starting position. Start by holding for 10 seconds, increasing the duration with each rep.
Besides sculpting your butt, thighs and calves - good for skinny jeans lovers - lunges are a great test of balance. They also switch on your ankle and core muscles. Runners, keep this move in your strength training routine.
To lunge, take a big step forward with one leg, both knees bent and hovering above the ground. Reverse move to return to starting position. Switch sides. Front knee should not go beyond toes.
These are similar to lunges, except that you step out to the sides instead of forward and backward, and keep one leg straightened. Besides working the glutes and hamstrings, side lunges also target the adductors (inner thigh muscles).
If you play sports like tennis or badminton, you'll find that side-to-side movements help improve balance and agility.
This deceptively simple exercise requires significant strength in your glutes and hamstrings.
Lying face up, squeeze butt and lift hips off ground as high as possible.
While at it, contract your pelvic floor muscles to strengthen them. Hold for 10 seconds, increasing the duration if it feels too easy.
• This article first appeared in www.shape.com.sg