The key to bodyweight exercise is mixing it up. Challenge yourself. If you're not sore the next day, you didn't work out hard enough. "When you push yourself, you'll be building muscle, increasing bone density, strengthening ligaments, and burning calories for up to 36 hours after your workout," says Mark Lauren, author of 'You Are Your Own Gym.' When push-ups become too easy, switch to a different grip – wide, narrow, or staggered hands – or pause during the motion. Try one set on an incline, the next on a decline, and the next with one hand on a basketball. For all of the exercises below, aim for three sets of 10 reps unless noted otherwise. Time yourself and try to do them more quickly the next time around. If you can't finish a set, complete it with the easier version.
The No-Weights Workout: Bodyweight Glossary
Standing, pushing, or pulling with one limb builds balance and stabilizer muscles. Try one-handed push-ups or one-leg squats.
Slowing your movements forces tiny muscle adaptations. Do a push-up by lowering for five to 10 seconds, then raising for five to 10.
Contracting muscles as you move, as in a jumping jack, builds integrative strength between muscles and joints.
Explosive exercises, like jump squats or mountain climbers, build fast-twitch muscle for speed and power.
Developed for Olympic speed skaters, Tabatas are short bursts of intense effort, followed by brief rest. Try doing 20 seconds of an exercise like a squat, and then rest for 10. Repeat for four minutes.
Credit: Photograph by John Loomis
Holding muscles static, as in a plank, hones balance and builds core strength.