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Boost fat burning and conditioning with these moves.
Bodyweight-training circuit workouts are a great way to get lean and conditioned without the need for special equipment. You just need a bit of clear space, and half an hour of work can give you amazing benefits.
But it doesn’t have to be the regular calisthenic exercises you may remember from junior high PE classes. Push-ups and sit-ups can be great, but there are more creative and fun movements out there that you can use to not only get in better shape, but also to have fun while you’re at it!
Here are three different full-body “locomotive” movement patterns that are unique, interesting and engage your body in ways you may not have done before. This change provides a different stimulus to your body and can spur on more progress. That’s because your body naturally becomes more efficient with your usual routine and you start using less energy. If you’d like to burn more calories, then changing it up will help you.
These movements don’t take too long to learn, but practice them first before doing the full circuit routine. Once you feel familiar with them, don’t be afraid to get moving!
This fundamental movement gets your heart pumping as you use the biggest muscles of your body through a big range of motion. There are two versions: regular and the jump tuck.
- In the regular version, bring your knees between hip- and shoulder-width apart (find what’s comfortable for you), and simply drop your hips down as you sit in between your feet. You may find it more comfortable letting your toes point outward a bit—just try it and see. Your knees will naturally go in front of your toes a bit (and that’s fine) as you keep your weight centered in the middle of your feet. Keep your chest up and just go down as far as you are comfortable.
- For the jump-tuck squat, start with your comfortable foot position. Sit your hips back a bit and lean forward as you swing your hands back behind you (imagine a ski jumper’s angle) and bend your knees a little. Throw your hands up to the ceiling as you jump upward, then pull your knees up into your chest.
This locomotive movement pattern is a type of crawl that works on strength in your shoulders and core, as well as flexibility in your back and hamstrings. There are two versions in this circuit: straight arm and bent arm.
- In the straight-arm variation, it’s just like it sounds. You’ll lock out your elbows and knees so that your extremities are straight. Start on your hands and knees—both about shoulder width apart—and straighten your knees, sticking your butt up as high in the air as you can. You may not be able to keep your heels down at first, but that will improve as you practice. This “A-frame” position is the starting point, and you’ll begin the movement by bringing one hand forward together with the opposite foot. This reciprocal pattern (just like walking) works your core well and is a distinctive feature of this exercise. Then simply move forward by alternating your hands and feet.
- The bent-arm version is the same execution as above, but this time you’ll keep your elbows bent the whole time. This requires more strength in your arms as they work to keep you stable in the movement. The more your arms are bent, the harder it is, so start off a bit easier with just a small elbow bend and increase it as you get used to the exercise.
This classic exercise is a workout staple because it is an excellent upper-body strength builder, especially when done correctly.
- Start prone, with your hands up by your shoulders, splay your thumbs out to the sides, with the tip of your thumbs just touching your shoulders. You may have to adjust for comfort, but this not-so-narrow and not-so-wide spacing is right where you want to be. Make sure that your elbow is in alignment with your middle finger. There should be a straight line from the point of the elbow right through that finger.
- Keep your stomach tight and your back flat as you bring your chest down to the floor and back up again. Now that’s a great push-up!
The second locomotion pattern, the monkey, starts in the bottom squat position.
- Play around with how wide your feet are and where your feet point. You may need to lean forward a bit for balance, so bring your knees apart as needed. It’s OK if you don’t have your feet flat yet—again, that will improve with time and practice.
- Now bring both hands to one side of your body and place them flat on the ground. Shift your weight onto your hands and lean farther forward so you can bring your lower body up and around your hands, landing one foot at a time to the side. Repeat this motion to travel to the side, and reverse directions if you run out of room.
The third locomotion exercise, the frogger also starts in the bottom squat position, but this time you are moving forward.
- Just like in the monkey, find the best starting position for you with your feet and knees in a comfortable place. This time, you’ll begin the move by reaching forward and placing your hands directly in front of you and shifting your weight onto your hands.
- Now you can lift your feet and knees up to get yourself back to your initial bottom squat position. Repeat and keep going forward.
Set a timer for 30 seconds. Do each movement as many times as you can in 30 seconds (with good form—no need to rush through the movements). Rest 15 seconds between each movement. When you finish the frogger, you have completed one round.
- Straight-Arm Bear
- Jump-Tuck Squat
- Bent-Arm Bear
Start with one round and see how you feel, then you can do up to four rounds if desired. Start by resting in between rounds for two minutes, then gradually cut down on the rest periods between rounds by 30 seconds, until you are no longer resting at all.
This workout can be done two or three times per week for one to four rounds (depending on your current training schedule), staying on the lower end of recommendations for the first month and progressing gradually.
Photo credit: Thinkstock, iStock, g-stockstudio.