As you already know from Monday’s post, we are taking it back this week to the very basics and fundamentals of bodyweight exercise. This will serve two purposes. First to give everyone a refresher on why we do things the way we do, and second to bring our newer community members up to speed. So, today, we’re going to look at the seven most fundamental bodyweight exercises and their purposes. Don’t jump the gun on this one. These seven exercises build the foundation for all the others. Remember, these are the fundamentals, not the advanced stuff. The advanced stuff is coming in the near future.
Monday, we covered stretching, and now we will get right on with exercising with a run down on each exercise just like the stretches, then finish off with a little workout theory and practical information.
The Push Up
- Movement: Lie face-down on the floor. Place your hands on the floor under your elbows. Push yourself upwards, keeping your back straight and your eyes forward.
- Important: Do this exercise slowly with complete control of your entire body.
- Purpose: Develop strength in your chest, shoulders, triceps and core.
Bodyweight Inverted Rows (also called horizontal pull-ups)
- Equipment: You will need a bar and something to hold it. The bar should be high enough to keep your shoulders off the ground when lying underneath it and holding it. Or to put it another way, when lying underneath the bar, on your back, you should not be able to grasp it with both hands.
- Movement: Grasp the bar with both hands about shoulder-width apart. Keeping your heels on the ground, and your core stiff, pull yourself toward the bar with our arms, and lower yourself slowly.
- Important: Keep your body straight and your core muscles tight. No slouching.
- Purpose: Develop strength in your upper and middle back, biceps, and core stabilizing muscles. Exact opposite as a Push Up.
- Equipment: Chair or platform of the same height as a chair.
- Movement: Lying on your back with your ams by your sides, place your feet not he chair. Lift your pelvis off the floor followed by your back. Keep your upper shoulders on the floor. Return to the starting position slowly.
- Important: Keeps your abs tight and don’t sag your lower back.
- Purpose: Stregthen your lower back, glutes and hamstrings.
- Equipment: A chair may be necessary for balance when first beginning.
- Movement: Standing with your feet comfortably apart, squat down just like you are sitting on a chair. Use the chair a few times to get the motion right. Do not let your knees go forward of your toes for correct form. Once your knees are at 90 degrees, return to the standing position.
- Important: Keep your spine straight and your abs tight.
- Purpose: Strengthen your quads, calves and core stabilizers.
- Movement: Lying on your side, position your bottom forearm on the floor under you. Raise your entire body until you are balanced on your forearm and your bottom foot by lifting your pelvis and trunk with your core muscles.
- Important: Keep your core muscles all tight to prevent sagging your body in the middle.
- Purpose: Core muscle strength
- Movement: Lying on your back, position your hands by your sides. Raise your knees until your back and thighs make a 90 degree bend. Now, using your abdominal muscles, raise your pelvis and lower back off the ground keeping your upper back and shoulders stable on the floor. Return to the starting position.
- Important: Use your Abs. Don’t use your leg momentum to do the exercise.
- Purpose: Core muscle strength
Roll- Ups or WWII Sit-Ups
- Movement: Sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you. Raise your arms to the from at shoulder level. Slowly and controlled, lower your upper body until you are lying flat. Keeping your arms outstretched, roll your torso back int the sitting position.
- Important: Use your abdominal muscles and hip flexor muscles to do the work.
- Purpose: Core muscle strength, Core stabilizers and Hip Flexors strength
The first exercise in the series, the push up, is probably the most familiar to you and is important to the whole family of bodyweight exercises. Primarily working the chest, triceps and anterior shoulders, the push up is a staple in bodyweight exercises. It has hundreds of variations and is easy to add into any routine. Mastering it is an integral part of any over all bodyweight routine.
Next comes the Bodyweight Row, or Horizontal Pull-Up. This exercise is often overlooked in favor of the traditional pull-up. Unfortunately, the traditional pull-up is listed as the opposite of a push-up, but it is actually the opposite of a hand-stand push-up, a much more advanced push up variation. The horizontal pull-up uses the upper body’s pulling and reaching muscles. The horizontal pull-up focuses on the posterior shoulders, latissimus dorsi and biceps; with a secondary strengthening of the core stabilizers, glutes, and hamstrings. Depending on the angle of the body, the Trapezius and Rhomboid muscle groups can be part of the primary focus.
Even though push-ups and horizontal pull-ups are partnered exercises, you should not expect to be able to do as many pull-ups as you can push-ups. At least not at first. Despite the geometry and physics being almost identical, the common use of your muscle groups is radically different. Unless you make a living pulling on ropes or towing vehicles with your body, you will generally be able to do more push-ups than horizontal pull-ups. However, in order to develop your muscles in an even fashion, as much effort must be put into your “pulling” muscles ad your “pushing” muscles.
You probably figured out that four of the seven exercises described above focus on core strength and stability. You’re also probably wondering why, as well. I expect you also want to just get on with the muscle building exercises and skip this boring core strength and stability talk, right?
Sorry. You’re going to “listen” and pay attention. I’ll promise you one thing now. If you skip out on this part, and just go on and start doing flags, plyometrics, and other more complicated and advanced exercises without having at least a good understanding of how your core muscles hold it all together, you will likely injure yourself and blame me for it. So, pay attention now and thank me later. Besides, you may just drop a spare tire.
The Half-Bridge focuses on the lower back, glutes and hamstrings (back of your legs). You’ll feel each one as you do more reps of the half-bridge. Especially your hamstrings. If you don’t then you are doing them wrong. Later as you progress to more advanced bridging exercises, you will need this basic strength and coordination.
The Plank develops all of your abdominals, lower back the oblique abs. It’s commonly misperceived that the plank only exercises the obliques, but that’s bad information. Also, depending on how well developed your shoulders are, you may feel some shoulder soreness the day after doing planks. Secondarily, the plank exercises exercise your hip adductors and abductors. The muscles that open and close your legs like scissors.
The Reverse Crunch and Roll-Up (WWII Sit-Up) develop the main ab muscles with the added benefit of the hip flexors being brought in with the Roll-Up. If you really want to build some killer core strength, add them together in your workout.
Finally, the bodyweight squat develops lower body strength and power as well as balance. These will benefit you greatly later on with more challenging exercises and a workouts.
That’s more than enough for today. Be sure to come back Friday when we will wrap up the week with workout building and exercise pace. Remember to sign up to our blogcast and never miss a post. Plus, on occasion, we get a killer deal from vendors on new products.