8 Challenging Bodyweight Exercises for When You Can’t Hit the Gym

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Many people love going to the gym, spending hours each week making use of the abundant collection of weights and equipment. Others prefer to build their own fully equipped gyms, investing in dumbbells and other gear to replicate the experience at home.

But those aren’t your only options.

If your membership has grown dusty with neglect (or never existed to begin with), and you don’t have the extra money or time to purchase your own fitness equipment, you have everything you need to get a full-body workout in the comfort and privacy of home—and you’re already carrying it everywhere you go.

With bodyweight exercises, you can work all of the major muscle groups without a single piece of gear. If you don't have the time or interest to go to the gym, these exercises allow you to still get a challenging and intense workout. Best of all, you can do them anywhere—from your living room floor to a hotel room to your backyard.

Certified Fitness Trainer Trudie German, founder of Body Envy, shares these eight effective moves that use your own body resistance to build strength, balance and flexibility, while burning calories and raising your heart rate. Just grab an exercise mat, your favorite playlist and get started! (And go ahead and wear your pajamas, we won’t tell.)

As these exercises engage the entire body, you will feel the benefits everywhere, but each one targets specific muscles.

“For a full-body workout, it’s best to do the same number of reps for each exercise, but it’s fine to cut down the number of reps until you can do the move comfortably [and correctly],” German notes. “For an optimal workout, each exercise should take 20 seconds with a rest of 15 seconds, repeating [one to] three times.”


Target muscles: Glutes, hamstrings
  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
  2. Lower into a squat position.
  3. Jump up, then kick your legs back into a plank position.
  4. Step or jump back up to the starting position.


Jump Squats

Target muscles: Abs, quads
  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
  2. Lower into a squat position, engage your core and jump up explosively.
  3. Land lightly and move back into the squat position.


Mountain Climber Crossovers

Target muscles: Glutes, hamstrings
  1. Start in a plank position with your hands and feet shoulder width apart.
  2. Bring your right knee across to the left side of your chest.
  3. Return and repeat on the other side. Continue alternating sides.


Pushups with Alternating Leg Up

Target muscles: Deltoids, pecs and triceps
  1. Start in a plank position with your hands shoulder width apart.
  2. Center one foot and lift the other leg up, keeping it straight.
  3. Move into a pushup, bending at the elbows and coming down 90 degrees, keeping your core tight and your extended leg straight.  
*Keep your spine straight and don't lock your elbow in the extended position.



Target muscles: Abs, obliques, shoulders
  1. Start in a push-up position.
  2. Contract your abdominals to keep your spine in a neutral position and prevent your glutes from sticking up or sagging down.
  3. Keep your back flat — picture your body as a long straight board.
  4. Hold for 30-60 seconds or as long as you can.


Lunge Hop

Target muscles: Calves, quads
  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
  2. Step back with your right leg and lower into a lunge position. 
  3. With your core engaged, jump up explosively. Land back into a lunge position on the opposite side.



Target muscles: Glutes, abs
  1. Start with on your back on the ground with your feet flat on the floor and knees bent with arms at your sides.
  2. Push your hips up to the sky, keeping your core tight without arching your back, and then come back down to a hover, just above but not touching the ground.
  3. Extra credit: Squeeze and hold at the top for two seconds.


Plank Jacks

Target muscles: Deltoids, abs
  1. Start in a plank position with your hands shoulder-width apart and feet together.
  2. Hop your feet out, keeping the plank position intact, and then hop your feet back together.