Consciously or unconsciously, people love to come up with excuses to not work out. “It’s too cold outside” or “the gym is too intimidating” or “I don’t have time”…what’s your excuse? Nothing, because with these three fast body weight exercises, you can get a complete workout in under 15 minutes. Best of all, you’ll only need one piece of equipment and you’ll never have to worry about trudging out to the gym.
You’ve almost certainly heard of these exercises before, but we’ll tell you why they each matter, how to do it right, and how to put them all together into a fast routine that’ll build muscle and burn calories.
Pushups obviously work out your chest, triceps, and shoulders, but they also use your core for stabilization. Focus on going “low and slow” for these; you want to make sure your chest is almost touching the ground before you push your way back up. Make sure your back is straight and your butt isn’t sticking up toward the sky. Folding at the waist just cheats you out of a good workout. It’s hard to maintain good form when you’re rushing, which is why doing each rep slowly is so important.
If you’re more experienced and feeling up for it, try doing knuckle pushups as a variation on this exercise. I like ’em because not only does it help emphasize wrist stability and forearm strength, but it also raises you off the ground a bit to further increase your range of motion. Those extra couple of inches at the bottom of a rep really increase the stretch you feel in your chest and work them that much harder.
Another exercise that you’ve known of since grade school, the good ol’ pullup is a great exercise for your back, biceps, and even your rear shoulders. Since you’re probably not going to the gym just to do pullups, you’ll likely need to invest in one of these so you can do pullups in a door frame at home.
If you can, try using an overhand grip when you do your pullups. Part of your biceps’ function is to supinate (turn palm facing down) the forearm, so by starting with your palms facing away from you, you’re forcing your back to get involved. Another key point is to avoid rocking back and forth as you do your pullup. It’s common to want to let momentum do the work for you, but a slow, controlled movement is going to pay dividends in the long term.
#3: Jump Squats
Jump squats are all about explosive strength in your quads, glutes, and even calves. While you still want to go low and maximize your range of motion, jump squats should be fast—exploding upwards as soon as you reach the bottom of your squat. Push off from your heels (and then roll off the balls of your feet) rather than your toes. This ensures you’re sitting low and back in your squat, which not only activates your quads and glutes a lot better, but also takes some strain off of your knees.
You’ll notice I said you could get a complete workout with three exercises, and yet none of them directly work your abs. How can that be?
The beauty of bodyweight and free weight exercises (as opposed to using machines) is that it forces you to stabilize yourself throughout the entire motion. When you’re moving your entire body (as you are in each of these exercises), your core plays a major role in stabilization. You don’t really need much more than that (especially if you’re a beginner) because abs are really made in the kitchen.
Burn More with Circuit Training
Now that you know the three exercises we’re going to use, it’s time to put them together into a routine. We’re going to use a circuit routine, because cardiovascular training is important while working out and we’re also looking for something efficient (the goal was a complete workout in 15 minutes). Circuit training allows you to keep your heart rate up by switching exercises without rest—the time that you spend doing other exercises is your rest from the first.
15 Minute Bodyweight Circuit
Start with 2 minutes of stretching (make sure your muscles feel loose before you begin; tight muscles are easier to injure), then do the following for 3 cycles:
- 1 minute Pushups (do as many as you can in 1 minute)
- 1 minute Pullups (do as many as you can in 1 minute)
- 1 minute Jump Squats (do as many as you can in 1 minute)
- 1 minute Rest (consider walking on a treadmill to make your rest an active rest)
Finish with 1 minute of stretching, and you’re done!
If you can’t do a pushup: Try doing a wall pushup or do it on the ground, but bend your knees so they touch the ground. That’ll reduce the weight you have to move up and down, making it a bit easier.
If you can’t do a pullup: Get a chair and set it under your pullup bar. Stand on the chair and grab hold of the bar, making sure your chin starts above the bar. Then raise your feet off the chair and slowly lower yourself down. This is called a “negative” and is a great way to start if you’re struggling with pullups.
If you can’t do a jump squat: Try doing some lunges, or if you’re worried about falling over when you squat, place a small box or step stool under you and visualize sitting down on it before rising back up.