How to Do an Exercise Routine Using Only Your Body Weight

There’s no question strength training is important, especially as you get older. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it not only makes you stronger, but it also reduces symptoms of several diseases and chronic conditions like diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, depression, and more.

Many people have the misconception that working out requires a gym or fancy equipment or an instructional DVD set. But guess what? You don’t need any of those things. You’re carrying around all of the weight you need right now to work out your body and strengthen your muscles.

The Routine

To get the most benefit from each exercise listed below, perform it two to three times per week, and do 15-20 repetitions for each exercise. If you can’t do that many repetitions, cut it in half and work your way up. Or try the modification listed to make it easier. Limit your rest time in between exercises to 60 seconds. (It’s okay to take a little more time if you need it, but try to push yourself as much as you can.)

A couple of important things to keep in mind before you start:

  • Remember to breathe.
  • Take it slow and stay in control. Watch your form so you get the most benefit from each exercise while reducing your risk of injury.
  • Don’t be afraid to work until your muscles fail, quiver, or just can’t do anymore – that’s when muscles grow.
  • Talk to your doctor before starting any exercise routine if you have concerns about your health.

1. Squats

How to do them:

  • Stand with your feet on the floor hip-width apart. Point your toes straight ahead.
  • Keep your knees directly over your ankles as you lower your butt – never let your knees go past your toes.
  • Place your body weight on your heels.
  • Go down until you make a 90-degree bend with your legs. As your butt starts to push out, keep your head, shoulders, and chest upright. Lift your arms straight out in front of you to help you balance.
  • Push through your heels to drive your body back up.
  • Repeat this motion 15-20 times.

Modification:

  • Practice standing up and sitting down in a chair without using your hands.

What it works:

  • Butt (glutes) and legs (hamstrings, quadriceps)

Body-Weight-Squat
2. Push-Ups

How to do them:

  1. Get on your knees and put your hands on the floor underneath your shoulders. Your fingers should point forward or slightly out.
  2. Position your feet so your toes point toward the floor.
  3. Tighten your glutes and legs and lift your knees off the ground. Your body should make a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Don’t stick your butt in the air.
  4. Lower your chest to the floor until your elbows make a 90 degree angle.
  5. Push your body back up and then go down again slowly. (Inhale going down, exhale going up.)
  6. Repeat this motion 15-20 times.

Modification:

  • Put your knees on the floor and bend your legs so your feet don’t touch the floor. The upper body movement is the same.

What it works:

  • Arms (deltoids, biceps), chest, and shoulders

Push-Up
3. Lying Leg Lifts

How to do them:

  1. Lie on your right side. Lift your right arm up and rest your head on it. Place your left hand on the floor in front of your chest.
  2. Bend your right leg for balance and stability and extend your left.
  3. Using your left leg, bend your foot like you’re trying to make your toes touch your shin, and press through your heel.
  4. Lift your left leg as high as you feel comfortable.
  5. Bring your leg back down to hip height.
  6. Repeat this motion 15-20 times.
  7. Staying on your same side, lift your left leg over your right, bending at about a right angle at the knee, and place your foot flat on the floor.
  8. Straighten your right leg, bend your foot like you’re trying to make your toes touch your shin, and press through your heel.
  9. Lift your leg as high as you feel comfortable and then lower it. Repeat this motion 15-20 times.
  10. Turn over onto your other side and repeat this entire sequence.

Modification:

  • Decrease your range of motion by only lifting your leg half way up.

What it works:

  • Inner thighs (adductor magnus) and outer thighs (abductors)

Lying-Leg-Lift_Top-Leg Lying-Leg-Lift_Bottom-Leg
4. Triceps Push-Ups

How to do them:

  1. Get on your knees and put your hands on the floor. Your hands should be directly underneath your chest, your fingers should point forward, and your elbows should be pressed tight to your body.
  2. Position your feet so your toes point toward the floor.
  3. Tighten your glutes and legs and lift your knees off the ground. Your body should make a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Don’t stick your butt in the air.
  4. Squeeze your elbows into your rib cage and lower your chest until your elbows make a 90 degree angle.
  5. Push your body back up and then go down again slowly. (Inhale going down, exhale going up.)
  6. Repeat this motion 15-20 times.

Modification:

  • Perform the exercise standing up. Get in front of a wall and take two to three steps away from it. Lean your upper body in toward the wall and place your hands on it so they’re directly in front of your chest – don’t move your feet. The upper body movement is the same.

What it works:

  • Arms (triceps, biceps) and shoulders

Tricep-Push-Up
5. Forearm Planks

How to do them:

  1. Get on your knees and put your forearms on the floor. Your elbows should be shoulder-width apart and on the floor.
  2. Keep your shoulders directly over your elbows.
  3. Tighten your glutes and legs and lift your knees off the ground. Your body should make a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Don’t stick your butt in the air.
  4. Tuck your tailbone under to protect your lower back.
  5. Engage/tighten your core.
  6. Hold the position for 15-30 seconds.

Modification:

  • Put your knees on the floor and bend your legs so your feet don’t touch the floor. The upper body movement is the same.

What it works:

  • Core and shoulders

Forearm-Plank
6. Back Extensions

How to do them:

  1. Lying on your stomach, place your arms along your sides with your palms facing the floor.
  2. Tuck your tailbone under to protect your lower back.
  3. Engage/tighten your core.
  4. Point your toes away from your body.
  5. Inhale and lift your chest and legs off of the floor.
  6. Reach your fingers back toward your toes. Avoid bending your knees.
  7. Exhale and lower your chest and legs to the floor.
  8. Repeat this motion 15-20 times.

Modification:

  • Follow the same movements above but only lift your chest off of the floor.

What it works:

  • Butt (glutes) and lower back

Back-Extension
7. Basic Crunch

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your back.
  2. Bend your knees so your feet are flat on the floor and hip-width apart.
  3. Place your arms on the side of your body with your palms down.
  4. Inhale, and as you start to exhale, crunch up.
  5. Reach your fingers towards your heels.
  6. Inhale slowly and lower your body back down.
  7. Repeat this motion 15-20 times.

Modification:

  • Instead of bending your knees, lift them up until your shins are parallel to the ceiling. The upper body movement is the same.

What it works:

  • Abdomen

Basic-Squat

Meet the Author

Regan Kust is an AFAA Certified Personal Trainer at Aurora BayCare Medical Center in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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