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Use your body weight as your equipment

No time to exercise? • Don't have exercise equipment? • Hate the gym? • No more excuses! • Exercising at home, using your body to create resistance in what is called body-weight exercise, is a great way to get you moving. • If you work out regularly, supplementing body-weight exercises is handy for days when time is an issue. And if you are not, it will help to build stamina and introduce movement into a sedentary lifestyle.

"The best thing we can do is to get up out of our seats and move," says Cedric Bryant, chief exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise.

"It doesn't have to be very strenuous, nor does it have to be complicated; we just have to move."

Body-weight exercises provide a complete workout, each exercise working multiple muscle groups without using any equipment. Your body's weight will be creating the resistance and you have the option of designing your personal routine whenever and wherever you want in the privacy of your own home, watching TV or in a hotel room when traveling.

Down the road when your body adapts to the exercises, as it will, you may add intensity to make your workout more challenging.

One way to do so is by slowing down the repetitions. Going slower automatically makes the exercise more intense. Try taking eight to 10 seconds to complete each movement. You can also increase repetitions. Say if you were normally performing 12 reps, increase them to 20, and so on.

The body-weight home workout

These first four movements are demonstrated in the photos. After the workout be sure to stretch.

• Warm up for five minutes by walking, marching or lightly jogging.

• Select three to six exercises (described below), and do eight to 12 repetitions of each with a maximum rest of 15 to 30 seconds between exercises. Gauge rest time by your current fitness level. This will complete one circuit.

• For a more challenging workout, complete two to three circuits.

• Want more cardio benefits? Add a three-minute burst of a cardio movement after each exercise: jumping jacks, jogging in place, shaking it up with dance moves or shadowboxing.

Some body-weight exercises

Pushups are a total-body workout. The compound exercise strengthens muscles in chest, shoulders, arms, back, abs and legs.

Squats strengthen lower-body muscles, the hips, legs, back, buttocks and abs.

Front and back lunge with knee lift works the core and lower body while strengthening balance.

One-leg squat and reach is a balance exercise that strengthens ankles and targets buttocks, hips and core.

Heel raises strengthen leg muscles. Stand tall with hands resting on a support.

For more challenge, perform heel raises with one leg.

Shadowboxing is a cardio spike. With knees bent, stay light on your feet and practice throwing a few jabs and uppercuts.

Use controlled movements, and don't just swing loose arms. Get in that stress-relief mode!

If you are 50 or older and have not been exercising, check with your physician before beginning any exercise program. Trainer Sally Anderson is happy to hear from readers but cannot respond to individual queries. She can be reached at

Your move

Jeff Szilage, 64, and his wife, Kandy, 63, demonstrate the body-weight home workout, albeit outdoors on a sunny day at the Vinoy Tea Garden in St. Petersburg. Sally Anderson


For traditional pushups (Jeff demonstrates): Lying on a mat, place hands shoulder-width apart, your weight supported by your hands and the balls of your feet. Keeping body in a plank position — back straight — bend your elbows and lower body toward floor, then push upward until arms are almost straight; do not lock elbows. Modification, as needed: Perform the pushup on knees, still maintaining a straight line from neck to torso. Wall pushups (Kandy demonstrates): If it is difficult to get down onto the floor, try a wall pushup: Stand about 3 feet away from a wall, placing hands shoulder level on wall. Keeping back straight, lean into wall until heels come off floor, then push back to standing position.


For chair squats (Kandy demonstrates): Stand tall with feet shoulder-width apart; do not allow knees to move beyond toes. With shoulders back, chest high and keeping weight on heels, bend at knees and hips as though you were sitting in a chair. For wall squats (Jeff demonstrates): Stand with back against a wall, placing feet about 2 feet in front of you. Slowly slide down wall until thighs are near parallel to floor, knees over ankles. Hold as long as you can, slowly returning to standing. Modification, as needed: Do not lower thighs parallel to floor.

Front and back lunges

Keeping back straight, shoulders over hips, step forward with right foot into a lunge position (as Jeff demonstrates), keeping the knee over the ankle and back heel off the floor. Lower your body, without leaning forward, until back knee is 3 to 4 inches off the floor. Pushing off from front foot, return to standing position, lifting right knee to hip level (as Kandy demonstrates). Keeping back straight, take lifted knee to the back in a reverse lunge. Push off from toes to return to original position. Modification, as needed: Eliminate knee lift and hold on to a support.

One-leg squat and reach

Place a ball or book on floor, 2 to 3 feet in front of you. Standing on right leg, bend knee while extending left leg to the back (as Jeff demonstrates). Slowly lower torso, reaching out with left arm to touch ball, right arm extended forward from shoulder. Slowly return to standing position and repeat desired times; repeat on opposite leg. If this is too difficult, with arms extended from shoulder (as Kandy demonstrates), balance on one leg with knee slightly bent, opposite leg extended to the back, and hold for as long as you can.

Use your body weight as your equipment 05/24/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 24, 2011 4:30am]
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