Though Chuck Norris and Christie Brinkley make a convincing sales team, you don’t need their Total Gym to work your total body. “Body-weight workouts can be just as effective as those done with barbells, dumbbells, or machines,” says Craig Ballantyne, M.Sc., C.S.C.S., owner of turbulencetraining.com. The secret: choosing the right exercises. Try Ballantyne’s body-weight circuit, below, which trains every muscle in your body while challenging your cardiovascular system as intensely as a hard treadmill session.
Perform this workout three times a week, resting at least a day between sessions. Do the exercises as a circuit, completing one set of 8 to 10 reps of each exercise before resting for 2 minutes. Then repeat two more times. Too easy? Shorten your rest period or add another circuit.
1. Bulgarian Split Squat
How to do it: Stand with a sturdy box, ottoman, or chair about 2 to 3 feet behind you, and rest the instep of your right foot on it. Keeping your torso upright, lower your body until your left knee is bent 90 degrees and your right knee nearly touches the floor. Pause for 1 second, then return to the start as quickly as you can. Finish all your reps, then repeat, this time with your left foot on the box.
If it’s too easy: Hold the bottom position for 2 seconds, and take 3 seconds to lower your body.
If it’s too hard: Slightly decrease the elevation of your back foot by placing it on a 4- to 6-inch-high step or box.
2. Decline Pushup
How to do it: Get into pushup position with your feet on a bed or sturdy chair. Your body and arms should be straight, and your hands slightly more than shoulder-width apart. Without allowing your hips to sag, lower your body as far as possible. Pause for 1 second, then quickly push yourself back to the start. If it’s too easy: Narrow your hand position to less than shoulder width and pause for 4 seconds at the bottom of each rep. If it’s too hard: Put your feet on the floor.
3. Inverted Row
How to do it: Secure a stick, bat, or pipe across two chairs or other stationary surfaces that are about 3 feet high. Lie under the “bar” and grab it with a shoulder-width, overhand grip, and hang at arm’s length. Keeping your body straight and rigid, pull your chest as close to the bar as you can. Pause, then lower yourself to the start.
If it’s too easy: Hang towels from the bar and grip them instead.
If it’s too hard: Use an underhand grip.
4. Split Squat
How to do it: Perform this exercise just like the Bulgarian split squat, only this time place your back foot on the floor, instead of on a box.
If it’s too easy: Place your front foot on an object that’s between 4 and 6 inches high.
If it’s too hard: Stand close to a wall when you do the exercise so you can use your hands to help with balance.
5. Side Plank with Reach
How to do it: Lie on your right side with your legs straight, and prop your upper body up on your right elbow and forearm. Raise your hips until your body forms a straight line. Then brace your abs and hold. With your left hand, reach under your torso and behind you. Then raise your left hand above you until your arm is straight. That’s 1 rep. Do all your reps, then repeat on your left side.
If it’s too easy: Raise your top leg and hold it.
If it’s too hard: Begin with your free hand on your opposite shoulder. Hold the position for 10 seconds, lower yourself, then rise and repeat for 60 seconds.
Courtesy of Menshealth.com