It's a common misconception that you need a gym's worth of equipment or a ton of space to get a good workout. I hate to break it to you, but that excuse simply isn't going to work anymore. There are some really simple exercises you can do that use nothing more than your own body weight, enough space to let you stretch out your body to its full length (that's barely more than a five-foot by five-foot square for me!), and a few minutes each day. These five exercises will get you way more fit than you think!
1) Squats: Want to tone your butt and thighs (and who doesn't)? There's nothing like the squat to work those muscles. Real Simple offers step-by-step instructions, but basically it goes like this: Stand with your legs hip-distance apart, pull in your abs, tuck in your butt, and pull your shoulders back so you're standing with good posture, and then push your butt back like you're sitting in a chair while bending your knees. Make sure your knees don't go past your toes; it's your butt doing the work here.
2) Lunges: Jillian Michaels herself says lunges are among her favorite exercises because they work many muscle groups at once; beyond your legs, your core also gets some work because you have to keep yourself upright. Start in the same position you would for a squat with your shoulders over your hips and abs tucked in. Extend one leg in front of you and bend your knees until your front thigh is parallel to the floor and your back thigh is at a right angle to it; lift your back heel off the ground. Come back up and repeat with the other leg.
3) The Plank: This core-strength exercise looks deceptively simple but is really challenging ... you will not believe how much you can sweat while not really moving! Start by lying on your stomach on the ground and place your hands under your shoulders as if you were doing a push-up. Contract your abs and lower back to lift yourself off the ground, keeping your back straight and only your toes and hands on the ground. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Check out these photos at Discovery Health to see how your body should be positioned. Key here is to be in a straight line and not let your butt pop up. If you need more of a challenge, there are several variations on the plank.
4) Push-ups: This is a classic measure of fitness for a reason -- it works the arms, abs, back, and legs. Start like you would for a plank, go up, then lower yourself down to the ground, keeping your elbows close to your body and your body rigid and straight. If you're less fit, do "girl push-ups" starting from your knees rather than your toes.
5) Triceps Dips: If you want to avoid the dreaded "grandma arms," toning your triceps are crucial. To do triceps dips, place your hands behind you on a bench or sturdy chair and bend your arms while dropping your butt off the chair. Keeping your butt off the bench, lower yourself down, and raise yourself back up again until you return to starting position. Commenters on FitSugar call these "the devil" and for good reason ... it's another exercise that looks easy until you do it!
Do you have any other body weight exercises you love to do? What are your at-home workout standbys?
Image via Urban Mixer/Flickr