Grab a Towel for This 5-Move, Full-Body Workout

By , Kristin Vallacher, Programming Director and Coach at The Phoenix Effect
There is a rumor going around that getting fit has to cost an arm and a leg. Between expensive boutique studios, top-notch athleisure brands and new, enticing tech gear and equipment that you just have to have, you can easily spend hundreds on creating the perfect pricey workout routine—but that's not your only option.
Our ancestors survived without top-of-the-line treadmills and stationary bikes, so why can't we? Truth be told, all you really need is your own bodyweight, a towel and a little determination to make all your fitness dreams come true. Using a towel as a piece of equipment in these five moves can both increase the intensity of moves you already know and love, while effectively challenging muscle groups that you can't hit with bodyweight alone.
Adding a towel means adding versatility to your workout. When holding the towel isometrically, you add tension, thereby enhancing isometric strength in the thoracic spine (mid-back) which is an important, but often neglected, muscle group. Using the towel to slide also allows you to engage the core throughout the duration of the movement, once again improving your isometric strength and stability.  

1. Forward Lunge With a Twist

In addition to the benefit of lunges, which strengthen each set of glutes and quads at the same time so as to remove any asymmetry not necessarily visible in squats, the added twist component requires both internal and external oblique muscles, helping the athlete build and maintain strong hips and abs.
Step your right foot forward, bending the front and back knee to 90 degrees and keeping the ankle directly over top of the ankle. While "tearing apart" the towel and holding it in front of the chest, twist over the front knee. Keep tension on the towel throughout the entirety of the movement for maximum benefit. Repeat on the other side, completing eight to 12 repetitions total.
2. Plank With Single-Sand "Compass"
In this dynamic move, you must not only hold an asymmetrical plank and therefore reaps associated benefits, but you must also utilize the shoulder complex in multiple directions.  Moving in all three planes of motion (sagittal, frontal and transverse) is paramount for any sport—including weight lifting—as well as moving the way the human body was designed.
To begin, assume the plank position with the towel under one hand and the other directly under the shoulder. Use one hand at a time to draw the coordinates North, South, East and West while balancing on the other arm and legs. Keep your core tight throughout the movement. Aim for five reps to begin.
3. Plank With Alternating Slide-Out
Much like the above exercise, the plank with alternating slide-out requires the entirety of the core (transverse abdominus, rectus abdominus, external and internal obliques), in addition to the adductors and glutes. Due to the alternating pattern, the athlete is able to isolate one side at a time so as to draw attention to any asymmetry in the body.
You will need two small towels to perform this move. Assume a standard plank to begin, ensuring the shoulders are over the hands and a towel is underneath each foot. Slide your right foot out to the side, making sure not to raise or lower the hips, or to invert or evert either foot. Switch sides until you've completed a total of eight to 12 repetitions.
4. Single-Leg Deadlift
The deadlift is a weightlifting favorite and with this modified move, you'll quickly see why.
Hold the towel with tension in front of your hips as you balance on one foot. Keeping your back straight, hinge from the hips, utilizing the entire core, hamstrings and mid-back as you reach toward the floor. Use the strength in your hamstrings to bring yourself back to an upright position. Try five reps to start, then switch sides. If you cannot balance, stay on both feet.
5. Single-Leg Underhand Row
This balance challenge is a great way to work your arms when you don't have dumbbells nearby.
Balance on one leg while holding the towel underneath the bent knee of the other foot. With the thumbs pointed to the sky, use the mid-back and biceps to pull, or row, the towel toward the torso. The glutes, hamstrings and core, in the meantime, must stay engaged so as to maintain the single-leg balance. Stand up against a wall if balance is an issue here. Perform eight to 12 rows, then switch legs.