A Killer Full-Body Workout Using Only Your Body Weight

If we’ve connected on Twitter or Facebook you may have heard me talk recently about attending a workshop through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). I’m studying to be a certified personal trainer and fully acknowledge that I’m also turning into a certified Fitness Know-It-All. My family, who I was visiting during the class, can attest to this as I put them through fitness assessments and evaluated them relentlessly while there.

In any case, I get such insane satisfaction from helping people with their fitness goals that being a know-it-all is a privilege.

I have a lot to share in coming posts but wanted to start off with the killer workout we did during the workshop. Note that this is a body weight workout that leans towards the beginner level, yet it managed to kick most of our fit butts. I was not sore after this workout, but I seriously struggled during parts of it so I know it was challenging me.

Why was this workout so challenging? Because it uses different tempos than you’re probably not used to and recruits stabilizer muscles that you’re probably not used to working. These muscles, and the ability to balance, are essential for a strong, injury-resistant body.

Warm Up

Foam rolling (self-myofacial release) is the perfect warm up, lengthening and working out knots in your muscles in preparation for activity. Foam roll your calves, IT band, adductors, and lats for five minutes and then spend a few minutes on static stretching (hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds). Foam rolling can take the place of a cardio warm up. If you don’t have access to a foam roller, walking briskly on a treadmill for five minutes and then stretch your calves, hamstrings, quadriceps, and lats. See more information on foam rolling and static stretching.

The Workout

Do two sets of each exercise, paying attention to form and tempo. Rest 30 seconds between each exercise. There are ways to progress these exercises and make them harder (such as adding dumbbells), but try doing it for four weeks, two to three times a week first unless you are already well conditioned. For each exercise, draw in naval and maintain proper alignment, drawing in your naval for core stabilization.

Core

If you are very fit, complete one set of each exercise and then repeat (for a total of two sets). If you are a beginner, start with one set and work up to two.

  • Floor Bridge: Hold for four seconds at the top of the rep for 15 reps.
  • Plank: Hold 10 seconds for 10 reps. Many videos show hands together. Please keep them apart, below shoulders, for proper alignment.
  • Quardruped Arm/Opposite Leg Raise: 15 reps each side, slow tempo, holding four seconds at the top.

Balance

Do each exercise once and then repeat for a total of two sets (one set if a beginner).

  • Single-leg Scaption (two arms): 15 reps with light dumbbells. The video shows a single-arm scaption. If you’re not a beginner, use two arms. Please use a slow tempo and lift your leg only a couple of inches off the floor, directly beside your balance leg.
  • Reverse Lunge to Balance: For the tempo, reach the back leg back for four counts, then return leg and raise knee for one count, and hold the knee raised for four seconds. Use dumbbells for a great burn in the glutes and even add a bicep curl during the balance portion for extra challenge.

Reactive

Reactive exercises establish good landing mechanics, postural alignment, and neuromuscular efficiency. Do 10-15 reps for two sets (one set if a beginner).

  • Squat Jump with Stabilization: Keep your feet hip width apart and knees and toes pointing straight ahead before jumping AND after landing. It’s very important that your feet are pointed straight ahead upon landing. If they are not, correct your form before the next rep. Pause for four seconds upon landing in the squat position, then jump again.

Resistance

  • Push ups: Do these on your toes unless you’re a complete beginner, in which case you can use your knees. Go down for four counts, hold for two counts, and up for one count. Do 15 reps for two sets. The slow tempo will kick your butt!
  • Prone Cobra: Keep your head in line with your spine and do not hyperextend your spine. This is a small, slow movement. Do 15 reps and hold for two seconds at the contraction.

Cool Down

Repeat your warm up. That’s right – foam roll your calves, IT band, adductors, and lats and then perform static stretching.

You did great! Keep this up and you’ll be the owner of very strong stabilization muscles for a very strong body.

22 thoughts on “A Killer Full-Body Workout Using Only Your Body Weight

  1. LOVE LOVE LOVE!
    Reverse lunge to balance – AWESOME exercise! Sonjia taught me this one then we progressed it from a step and using the smith machine (no weight) – HARD HARD HARD!
    Superman and hold? YES! 4 seconds is really a long time – sigh!
    I LOVE the focus on tempo and holds – such a great reminder of the efficiency of each exercise and the value of each position.
    Yay for you! I wanna know more! TYSM!

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  2. These are great. I am looking for body weight exercises to do on a long backpacking trip this summer. I want all my muscles to do some work, not only my legs (hiking) and shoulders (lugging the pack).

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  3. I like this workout for 2 reasons:
    1) It’s a great workout for runners who are worried about bulking up. This workout is great for injury prevention. Especially the “reactive” excercise.

    2) This workout shows that your body is enough to get a great workout. You don’t need to necessarily go to a gym and use equipment to work up a sweat!

    Great post!!!

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    • Kris, Yes, right up your alley! I also think the 4 second hold is long… if someone wanted to make it 2 seconds I think that’d be a-ok :).

      Thanks Michelle!

      Ewa, wow, you’re backpacking AND working out? Smart and hardcore!

      Josie, let me know what you think! I’d bet you’re a bit hardcore at this point but maybe still challenging.

      Christian, great point about runners and reactive exercises. The explosive moves can help anyone wanting to be well-balanced and injury-free. I love the idea of working out with bodyweight sometimes… I love my iron but once a week this whole-body move could be very beneficial.

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  4. ‘Note that this is a bodyweight workout that leans toward the beginner level, yet it managed to kick most of our fit butts.”

    Putting away bath towels and scrubbing to the toilet can kick your but if you concentrate hard, charge it, and rest very little.

    Love LOVE LOVE the passion you are showing through all of this!

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  5. Prone cobra sounds so bad ass, but the video did not deliver! 😉

    I think I’m going to switch up some core work an add the floor bridges and arm/leg raises to my routine though. Thanks!

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    • Haha, oh Sean it’s a small movement that doesn’t deliver a pump, true. But if done correctly it can pound your lats and lower back pretty severely. Glad you’re going to switch it up to your liking though!

      Mary, biggie ups for challenging yourself. Always good to find ways to do it at home too. I found it to be challenging in a different way – fatiguing in muscles I’m not used to feeling.

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  6. Love this workout! I am challenging myself this month to not get in a gym rut. All this can be done at home, and it is still very challenging. I like how you called out what each set of exercises is intended to do. Keeps you focused on the right stuff! Thanks

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    • Thanks Rach and Shira :). I need to spread the word about foam rolling because it literally erased several aches I was having for months. And that we can get a challenging workout with our own bodyweight just rocks… Especially a good burn when put together in a workout.

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  7. Great advice – now I know what I’ll be doing in the weight room tomorrow! I never thought of using a foam roller as a warm-up for any workout too. Thanks for being a fitness know-it-all as you say. The info you share is always so helpful. 🙂

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    • Lindsay, I foam roll after more than before, only because I forget sometimes. But if I’m feeling particularly stiff or sore I’ll definitely do it before… my muscles feel more pliable and ready to go. It’s rockin that you foam roll after already!

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    • That’s a cool goal Tatianna, and smart. Many people, probably not as fit as yourself, dive in and try those workouts w/o a good base of fitness. Then end up quitting or getting injured, not good either way.

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  8. Pingback: Kendra | Stronger

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