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How to Strength Train Using Only Your Body Weight

Many hardcore weight lifters will laugh at strength training using only your body weight, but for most women, the goal behind strength training is to strengthen bones, improve balance and tone muscles – all of which are easily accomplished without added weight.

And, truth be told, women don’t have the necessary amount of testosterone (male hormone) necessary to build large muscles lifting heavy weights.  If you are a hardcore weight lifter, it might be difficult to believe you can continue to gain strength and power when you put down the weights, but research shows it more than just possible – it’s probable.

You can train every muscle in your body without lifting a barbell or going to the gym. Using only your body and a pair of stable shoes you can exercise anywhere, anytime you like. You don’t sacrifice strength and toning when you switch out additional weight, but you do reduce the likelihood of injuries and will also work your cardiovascular system harder than you did before.

The combination of cardio and strength training also increases the number of calories you burn for the next 24 hours. These are some of my favorite exercises I do at home. I’m not particularly fond of going to the gym, but recognize the need to keep my body strong and toned.

Here are some simple bodyweight exercises you can use to gain strength and enjoy a more toned and slim body:

The Pushup

You might be intimidated by the push up – or think it’s not as powerful as the bench press, but you would be wrong. Fitness trainers will tell you that to achieve gains you need enough resistance to fatigue your muscle within 15 repetitions.  The trick is to find the variation of the pushup that allows you to achieve that goal.

For some this might be doing 10 pushups while on your knees and hands in the classic pushup position, and for others it may require a variation that places more stress on your shoulders, chest and abdominal muscles.

Although they may seem simple, the pushup is incorporated into most programs because they work. Here are several variations that change the muscle groups used and increase the effort needed to complete.

The standard pushup position starts with you on the floor, hands flat at shoulder level, toes supporting your weight and your legs and back straight. If you feel stress in your lower back, tuck your pelvis forward to reduce the curvature of your lumbar back. Push-up until your elbows are straight, but not locked; bend your elbows until your chest either touches the floor or comes close. Keep your neck in neutral position, looking at the floor approximately six inches in front of you.

If you aren’t able to do the standard pushup you can place your weight on your knees with your feet in the air. If the standard pushup is too easy you may move your hands slightly wider than your shoulders or slightly inside your shoulders, Once you master the standard push-up try raising into the up position and raising one arm off the floor so your body is a T position. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat with the other arm. Incline push-ups can be done with your feet on a chair your arms on the ground.

Bear Crawl

These work the whole body from shoulders, core to quadriceps. Bear weight on your toes and hands with your bottom higher than your head. Now move forward, keeping your abdominal muscles tight and your pelvis tucked. Crawl for 10 – 15 “steps” and repeat.

Plank

This is a foundational exercise that you should be doing whether you enjoy weight lifting or just do cardio work. The plank will help strengthen and tone your shoulders, abdominals and glutes (buttocks). In fact, just two weeks of these and you’ll notice a significant change in your abdominal muscles.

Get into the standard push-up position with your weight on your elbows instead of your hands. Keep your elbows directly below your shoulders. Tighten your abdominals, tuck your gluteal muscles and hold for 30 seconds. Over two weeks build up to holding this position for 2 minutes.

Wall Sits

These are wonderful for your glutes and quadricep muscles. Elite athletes love these because they build strength and help improve coordination. You’ll like them because they will tighten your buttocks and tone your legs.

Place your back up against a wall and slide down into a seated position with your ankles, knees and hips at 90 degrees. Hold this position for 30 seconds and build it up to 2 minutes over 3 weeks.

The Lunge

Not only this will exercise strengthen your legs and tone your glutes, but it will also help to improve your balance and tone your abdominal muscles.

Start standing with your feet shoulder width apart. Move your right leg forward and bend your forward knee to sink down. Be sure your knee NEVER goes past your toes, as this places too much stress on the knee joint. Concentrate on using your gluteal muscles to raise and lower your body.

Drive your weight through the heel of your right foot as you rise to the standing position. Now move your left foot in front as if you are taking a step, bend the left knee and then drive through the heel of your left foot, using your buttocks to rise up to the starting position again.

Do 10 of these to begin as one set and move up to doing 3 sets of 10 repetitions.

Calf Raise

This strengthens your calves and your shins. Remember to not only do the raises but also stretch your calves afterward so they don’t become too tight. Standing with your feet shoulder width apart rise up on your toes and lower back to the ground. If you aren’t able to keep your balance, hold on to the back of a chair (without wheels!) or a counter top.

Work toward doing them without holding to anything. Once you can do 3 sets of 10 repetitions, move to a set of stairs. Keep your toes on the edge of the steps while raising up and dropping your heels below the step.

ContraLateral Limb Raise

Your upper, middle and lower back muscles are as important to a toned and strong body as your abs, legs and arms. This simple exercise will activate your spinal chain and improve the balance in your back muscles.

Lie on the floor, face down with your arms straight above your head and your legs straight. Lift your right arm and left leg off the floor as far as you can at the same time. Hold for the count of 3 to 5 and then lower to the floor. Repeat with your left arm and right leg. This is one repetition. Do 5 repetitions, working up to 3 sets of 10 reps.

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