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Get lean, toned and sexy, without weightsIf you want firm biceps, a sleek and sexy midsection and a lean sculpted back, you're going to need to join the boys in the weights room, right? Not necessarily. As you'll see below, your own body can provide all the resistance needed to build and maintain the lean, muscular defined body you desire.

Here's a quick rundown of some of the benefits you can expect by going 'weightless' with your routines.

  • You'll be more 'functionally' fit for other types of 'everyday' movements, like bending down, twisting, stretching, and carrying things - like the kids and groceries!
  • Bodyweight and resistance exercises build longer, leaner muscles instead of bulk - think dancers, swimmers and gymnasts.
  • It's great for improving mobility, so it works well for people getting older or those recovering from injuries.
  • You can do the exercises anywhere, anytime and without any equipment, so they're perfect for those constantly on the go or stretched for time.

Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of bodyweight exercises, video workout routines you can start today, the best exercises and top tips below. Enjoy!

Tip 1: Use what you've got 

There are loads of reasons you might prefer to work out without barbells and machines. Perhaps you're worried about looking too bulky or perhaps you don't have the spare cash to splash out on a fancy new gym membership or to buy a set of free weights at the moment.

Healthy woman doing a push upWhatever the reason, you can build a lean, sexy physique without the need to 'pump iron'. One of the best tools we have as humans is the body itself. As much as some love hitting the gym to lift something heavy, we've got plenty of weight on our own bodies which we can use as resistance to get in shape.

The amount of bodyweight exercises available to you is seemingly endless - just think about the moves used in pilates, yoga, callisthenics or even the military.

Crunches, push ups, pull ups, the plank position, dips, lunges and squats are all great starters. The idea is to use your own bodyweight against the force of gravity. You can use a push up, using the body's weight against gravity to push up off the floor. Even getting up out of your chair is using your own bodyweight against gravity.

Tip 2: Get Functionally Fit

So what would happen if you ditched your weights routine at the gym in favour of a pure bodyweight regime? Answer: you would increase your functional fitness level. By using your bodyweight, you're using your body in a way it naturally moves. When you use weights at a gym, you're typically in quite a static position, whereas if you're doing a push up, you have to stabilise your upper body, you have to stop yourself falling down, you're balancing and actively strengthening your core - you're using all these little stabiliser muscles, which is particularly important as we get older.

This is great news for those of us who work desk jobs or live sedentary lifestyles, as our bodies will be better primed for everyday use. Keeping things functional is important. The human body is made to move. If you look at the way we've evolved, we've come from being a very active species in the past, to being sedentary in today's world. The more your body is used to using a range of muscles, the more your body is ready for everyday movement.

Here's a great workout video showing you a simple bodyweight routine which you can do anywhere, anytime to help get you started.


Tip 3: Bodyweight exercises with a twist

The exercises shown in the video above are great for building lean muscle and boosting your metabolism. However, for something a little different, try one of these exercises:

  • The L Seat: This exercise will take you a while to master, but you'll notice great results in your core and triceps. How to do it: Sit on the floor with your legs out straight in front of you, with your hands to the side. Tense your legs, then push up with your arms, lifting your legs off the floor to create a L-shape.
  • The Russian Twist: Use this exercise for killer abs. How to do it: Sit on the floor with your legs bent, then with a straight back, lean backwards until you are in a 45-degree angle to the floor with your arms stretched in front. Keeping your arms straight and locked, twist them from side to side, keeping your core stable.
  • The Hindu Squat: You'll find this tough move in yoga classes. - it build toned and powerful legs. How to do it: With your legs wide apart with toes facing forwards, squat down until your thighs are at a 90 degree angle with the floor. Stretch your arms straight out in front of you. Then, lift the heels so you are holding the move on the balls of your feet. Hold for 15 seconds.

Tip 4: Lean muscle on the go

If you're a jet setter who's constantly on the go and has difficulty getting to a gym, there's still plenty you can do to build and maintain your firm physique. Even if you're in a hotel room or office, you've got a floor and you've probably got a desk and a chair too. Keep your core strong and in shape using the plank pose, run up and down the stairs a few times, place your arms behind you on a chair and your feet on the floor to perform a few sets of dips, do a few sets of sit ups - there's plenty of things you can do in your everyday environment. Even carrying the shopping, coming back from the shops, can be a good workout.

Another way you can build and maintain muscle while on the go is with a resistance band. These light-weight stretchy rubber bands, which you buy cheaply at sports stores, are easily portable and make an excellent substitute for weights. Use them flexibility and exercises including bicep curls, bent over rows, over head presses and tricep extensions.   

Take a look at the video below to see a range of exercise demonstrations using the resistance band which you can take wherever you go!


Tip 5: Weight loss wonders

We've all heard that adding lean muscle in the gym boosts your metabolic rate, resulting in a slimmer, leaner you. So can you expect the same weight loss results with bodyweight resistance exercises? Absolutely! The whole idea is that anything you do to actively increase your muscle mass will increase your metabolic rate. 

Weight loss scalesYou can increase the difficulty of bodyweight exercises and therefore the muscle gain. If you think about your basic sit up, if you're doing a basic crunch on a flat surface, it's quite easy, but if you lie on an incline where your feet are above your head, doing the same  exercise becomes more challenging.

The key to increasing lean muscle mass is to place the muscle under tension to a point where the fibres are broken down where they rebuild stronger and larger than before. So get busy, and ensure you continually push yourself to move onto tougher variations of the same exercise as you become stronger and more advanced.

Tip 6: Bodyweight vs. weights

Whether or not you prefer to use free weights or bodyweight and resistance exercises depends on your lifestyle and what your goals are. Different types of muscle exercises can work well alone, and even better in combination. If your particular focus is on building big biceps, you'd go to the gym to lift weights and target that area. 

This is not to say the use of weights and machines don't have their place in your exercise routine. In fact, there are a few benefits this training style has over a total bodyweight approach, such as:

  • Healthy woman lifting weightsYou can hone in and target specific muscle groups which means you can work on any weak areas, such as the lower back, or add bulk to smaller muscles.
  • Using machine weights is particularly useful for beginners and can make it easy to learn correct lifting technique 
  • As you get stronger, you can gradually increase the weights, thereby progressively adding more lean muscle.
  • Going to the gym creates an 'occassion' to exercise and adds some variety to your bodyweight exercises.

If you want to be functionally fit and have a slim, toned body, then body resistance exercises are great for that. You also need to have a look at your daily lifestyle, and what works best for you. Anything that makes you exercise is a good thing.

If it's something different to your everyday routine that creates an occasion for you to exercise, if going to the gym becomes your 'thing', then that's great. But if you're a really busy person who tends to segment their exercise throughout the day, bodyweight exercises and resistance bands are the way to go.