General posture for all of the following exercisesTilt your hips forward so that your lower back is stretched and your belly pops in. Hold your shoulders back so that your chest stands out more prominently. Your back should always be as straight as possible. Keep your abdominal muscles flexed and your hips in a horizontal position, meaning that they should never rotate. Hold this posture throughout the exercises.
Squats (glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves, abs)Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. Then crouch until your lower and upper legs form a 90-degree angle (your butt should be at least level with your knees). Put your arms in front of you for better balance. Rest at the bottom position for a second and come up again until you stand straight. Repeat this ten times. You can hold your hands either straight in front of your chest or swing them back and forth during the exercise. Pointing your eyes looking forward helps to keep your back straight.
- Don’t go down as far
- Don’t pause at the bottom position
- Use your hands to support yourself. First, only use your hands to help you to keep balanced and use them to lift you up only if you can’t perform a whole cycle.
- Remain longer in the bottom-most position. Slow down the movement.
- Pause for a moment in the middle of the movement, before you continue in the same direction as before.
VariationOne-legged squat, or perfect pistol. These are not exercises for beginners, but I still want to mention them because they are great examples of how far you can go only with bodyweight exercises. Extend one leg in front of you while going down in the squatting position with the other leg.
Calf raises (calves)Stand on the ball of one foot (left) on an elevated surface (curb, a step). Hold the other leg (right) bent backward slightly (out of the way). Move the left foot’s heel down below the surface you are standing on. Pause for a second and then stretch the same leg as far up as possible. Repeat the movement going up and down at least ten times and then switch legs and repeat the cycle.
- Instead of doing the exercise one-legged, use both legs at the same time.
- You can support your balance with one hand, but don’t help to push yourself up.
- Slow down the movement.
- Pause at the top and bottom-most positions for a second.
- Add some extra weight, for example, by filling a backpack with water bottles.
Lunges (glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps)Place one leg about half a meter in front of the other. Squat until your knee (the one that’s further back) almost touches the ground. Your front leg should be bent in a 90 degree angle. If not, widen or shorten the distance between legs. Go up again. Your upper body should move up and down in a straight line. Repeat ten times and then switch legs and repeat another ten times.
- Don’t squat down as far.
- Put your hands behind your head. At the bottom-most position, rotate your upper body to the right and left to about 90 degrees to your legs.
- Put your back foot on an elevated surface (a chair, a bench).
- Walk: When you do the up-movement, take a step forward.
Jump lungesThis movement is the same as with normal lunges; the only difference is that you alternate your legs after each repetition, with a slight jump. This movement is more explosive and therefore strains the muscles differently.
Difficulties and variations
- See normal lunges.