Getting a full-body workout at the gym is pretty easy. You can simply look around to see what weights are there and which machines are free, and you can craft a full-body routine on the fly. Getting a full-body workout at home, on the other hand, can be a little harder. Since there are no weights, machines, or people to serve as inspiration, imagination is your only guide. And if you don’t have a lot of experience with no-equipment exercises, you might not even know where to begin. Thankfully, there are tons of no-equipment, full-body exercises that are easy to learn, master, and integrate into your at-home workout routine.
There are countless effective no-equipment exercises for every skill level. But if you’re looking for a full-body workout, you want something that targets more than one muscle group. And if you’re looking for an efficient full-body workout, you want something that targets more than one major muscle group. What’s cool? A number of foundational exercises—exercises you’ve been hearing about since middle school gym class — do exactly that. Push-ups can work your arms, shoulders, chest, and abs. Squats can work your legs, glutes and abs. And planks can work your arms, chest, abs, back — even your legs. There’s a reason these basic exercises are so well-known: When done right, they’re really effective at building total-body strength.
But traditional exercises aren’t the only no-equipment, full-body options out there. Glute bridges and glute bridge marches can activate your glutes, legs, and core in equal measure. Mountain climbers can strengthen your arms, chest, abs, and legs—while giving you a taste of cardio. And donkey kicks will work your core, while challenging your legs, glutes (again) and arms, too.
The beauty of all this variety is that you don’t have to do the same workout every single day — which makes it harder for your workout to get stale and old. You can mix and match exercises, based on how much time you have or how you’re feeling that day. And no matter what combination you pick, you can rest assured knowing you’re building total-body strength — and that you’re doing so efficiently. And really, who needs the gym when you can get all of that from the comfort of your own home?
Standard: Start in a tabletop position, with your hands shoulder-width apart and your knees hip-width apart. Your back should be flat, and your core should be engaged. Then, extend your right arm forward and your left leg back. Be careful to keep your back flat and your hips level. Hold your extension for 1 second, then bring your hand and leg back down to the ground in unison. Alternate sides, and complete as many reps as you see fit.
Easier: If you’re having a hard time keeping your back flat and your hips level, consider slowing things down and completing a few much longer reps on each side. When you extend your arm and leg, try holding them in the air for 10-30 seconds. This will help you build strength, while allowing you to concentrate on your form.
Harder: In need of an extra challenge? Add baby pulses to some of your reps. When your arm and leg are extended, hold them in place, and carefully pulse them up and down for 10 seconds before bringing them back to the ground.
Standard: Stand up straight with your feet hip-width apart. Then, bend your knees and send your hips back. Stop once your thighs are parallel to the floor. Hold your squat for 1 second, then squeeze your glutes and press into the floor to stand back up. Once standing, squeeze your glutes, then repeat the process of squatting.
Easier: If you’re new to squatting, focus on your form. Be sure to keep your hips back and your feet flat on the floor. Feel free to cut down on reps. And if you can’t get your thighs parallel to the ground, modify your squat so that you’re dipping as low as you can without lifting your heels off the ground.
Harder: When you reach the bottom of your squat, complete a series of pulses or do a static hold. Either pulse up and down (while still squatting) for 10 reps, or hold your squat for 10 seconds before standing back up.
Standard: Start with your hands shoulder-width apart and your feet hip-width apart. Make sure to engage your core so that your back remains flat; your hips shouldn’t drop, and your spine shouldn’t curve. From there, hold your plank for an appropriately challenging amount of time. That could be 10 seconds, 30 seconds, or even a couple minutes.
Easier: The easiest way to modify a plank is to cut down on the time you’re holding it. Aim for just 10 seconds—or as long as you can hold a plank without sacrificing your form. If you need to take some pressure off your wrists, consider coming down to your elbows to do a forearm plank, instead.
Harder: Make your plank a little more challenging by adding shoulder taps. While holding your plank, lift one hand off the ground, and bring it up to touch your shoulder. Then, place it back on the ground, and repeat the motion with your other hand. Be sure to keep your core engaged, so that your hips stay level. You can also up the ante by rocking front and back while holding your plank, or by doing plank-ups (switching between high planks and forearm planks, all the while maintaining your form).
Standard: Start in a tabletop position, with your hands shoulder-width apart and your knees hip-width apart. Then, engage your core and squeeze your glutes to lift one leg off the ground. Your knee should stay bent in a 90-degree angle, and you should lift your leg until your thigh is in line with your back. Try to keep your hips level and to keep your weight evenly dispersed in both sides of your body. Hold your leg in the air for 1 second, bring it back down, and repeat the exercise on the same side until you feel adequately challenged. Then, switch sides.
Easier: If you can’t lift your leg in the air without sacrificing your form, swap your reps for static holds. Instead of lifting your leg up for 1 second, try to hold it for 10-30 seconds (or as long as you can without sacrificing your form). Then, switch sides.
Harder: If you want to make things a little more challenging, add pulses to one or more of your reps. Once your leg is in the air, pulse it up and down for 10 seconds before lowering it. You can add these pulses to every rep or tack them onto the end of a set.
Standard: Start in a high plank. Your hands should be shoulder-width apart, and your feet should be hip-width apart. Your back should be flat, and your core should be engaged. Then, bend one knee and bring it to your chest. Then, stretch it back out, and place your foot back on the ground. Repeat this exercise, alternating sides, until you feel adequately challenged.
Easier: Take your mountain climbers slow. Instead of taking 1 second (or less!) for each mountain climber, try to spend 5 seconds on each, and focus on your form. The exercise is so strength-based that you don’t need to speed it up to get something out of it.
Harder: Go fast. If you’ve mastered mountain climbers and know you can speed up without sacrificing your form, go all in. And extend the amount of time you’re doing mountain climbers to challenge yourself further.
Standard: Lie on your back with your knees bent, and your feet flat on the floor about hip-width apart. Leave your arms straight at your sides, with your hands pressing into the floor. Then, squeeze your glutes and press into your thighs to lift your butt off the ground as far as you can, while still keeping your feet and your shoulders flat on the floor. Hold your bridge for 1 second, lower your butt back to the ground, and then repeat.
Easier: If lifting up and down feels like too much of a challenge, consider completing a static hold of your glute bridge instead. Once your butt is off the ground, hold it for 10-30 seconds (or as long as you can without sacrificing your form). And make sure your feet aren’t too close to your butt, either. There should be a fair amount of space between your heels and your butt.
Harder: Convert your glute bridge into a glute bridge march. Once your butt is lifted off the ground, bring your knee in toward your chest without bending it any more or less. (Your knee does not need to reach your chest. Just bring it in that direction.) Hold it for 1 second, then bring it back to the ground. Switch sides. You should maintain your glute bridge throughout this process, and your butt shouldn’t lower to the ground until you’ve completed all of your reps.
Standard: Start in a high plank. Your hands should be shoulder-width apart, and your feet should be hip-width apart. Then, bend your elbows and lower your chest until it’s hovering just above the floor. Your bent arms should be parallel to your body (they shouldn’t bend outward), your core should remain engaged, and your back should stay straight. Press into your chest and arms to lift yourself back up into your plank, then repeat.
Easier: Instead of starting in a high plank, start in a modified plank—with your knees on the ground. Your core should still be engaged, and your back should still be straight; there should be a straight line running from your head to your knees. Then, lower your body down and lift it back up the same way you would in a standard push-up.
Harder: Add a walk-out. Start by standing straight up, with your arms lifted above your head. Then, bend over until your hands touch the ground. From there, walk your hands forward until you’re in a high plank. Do a push-up (or a series of push-ups). Then walk your hands back until you’re standing back up. You can tack this walk-out onto each rep, or use it to start and end sets.
Standard: Start by standing straight up, with your feet hip-width apart and your knees bent slightly. Lift one foot off the ground, reach it diagonally behind your body, and plant your toes on the ground. When you’re in the proper position, your knees should be bent and in line with one another. Your front foot should remain planted flat on the ground, while your back foot should be somewhat lifted (your toes should be planted, but your heel should be lifted off the ground). This is called a curtsy lunge. Hold it for 1 second, then press off the ground to return to your standing starting position. Repeat this exercise on one side for several reps. Then, switch sides.
Easier: If figuring out how to curtsy lunge is too confusing, stick to standard lunges, instead. Simply step one foot in front of you, and bend your knees. Your back knee should touch the ground, and your front knee should be directly over your ankle. Repeat this exercise on one side for several reps, then switch sides.
Harder: If curtsy lunges are too easy, try adding a squat. Start by doing a curtsy lunge on one side. When you return to your original standing position, complete a squat. Then, do a curtsy lunge on the other side. Keep alternating, side to side, and squat every time you return to the middle.
A version of this story was published June 2020.
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