4 Body-Weight Exercises that Stretch and Strengthen

With just a mat and your own body weight for resistance, you can put together a workout routine to build strength at home. Give yourself the gift of extra time by skipping the gym and using these simple exercises:

Downward-Facing Dog

down dog
What it does: Builds strength in shoulders, arms and legs while relaxing and relieving tension in the lower back, hamstrings and calves.

How to do it: Begin on your hands and knees, with your hands directly below the shoulders and your knees directly below the hips, toes tucked under. Spread the fingers as wide as possible with the index and middle fingers pointing forward. Press through the webbing between the index fingers and thumbs, and spin the triceps away from your ears. Draw the navel in and lift your knees away from the floor, pressing the hips up and back to where the wall and ceiling meet behind you. Straighten the arms and legs so that the body forms an upside down V position. Lift the sits bones toward the ceiling while pressing your heels toward the ground. Make sure that the inner edges of the feet are exactly parallel. Firm the outer arms by wrapping the triceps underneath you and sliding the shoulder blades toward your tailbone. Keep your gaze relaxed, head between your upper arms, navel engaged and thighs lifted off the kneecaps. Hold the pose for 3–5 breaths at first, then increase to 5–8 breaths and 2–3 repetitions as you begin to build strength.

Chair

chair
What it does: Strengthens glutes, quads and hamstrings. Tones and strengthens the lower body. Builds heat to increase metabolism and burn fat.

How to do it: Begin standing with the inside edges of the feet together. Bend your knees until they are as close to parallel with the floor as possible, and sit your hips back as if you are sitting in a low chair. Lift your arms alongside your ears with palms facing each other as the torso leans forward slightly over your thighs. Hold for 5 breaths at first, and increase to 8–10 breaths and 2–3 repetitions as you build strength.

Locust Pose

locust
What it does: Strengthens and tones the muscles of the back, buttocks, hamstrings and triceps.

How to do it: Start by lying on your belly with your arms next to your torso, palms face up and forehead resting on the floor. Lift your head, upper torso, arms and legs away from the floor. Engage your glutes and all the muscles along the back of your legs. Keep your legs hip-width distance apart. Lift your arms so that they are parallel to the floor, and gaze to the front edge of your mat so that your neck stays long. Hold for 3 breaths at first, and increase to 5 breaths and 2–3 repetitions as you build strength.

Boat

boat
What it does: Strengthens and tones core abdominal muscles and back.

How to do it: Sit with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Keeping your torso straight, with your head in line with the body, lean back about 45 degrees as you raise your feet so that the calves are parallel to the floor. Hands can stay on your thighs for support, or reach your fingertips forward with arms parallel to the floor alongside your calves. To progress from here, straighten legs so that you are in a V shape. Hold for 3–5 breaths at first, then increase to 5–8 breaths and 2–3 repetitions as you build strength.

For more inspiration, check out my “Element: Yoga for Strength & Flexibility” DVD.
Tags:  bodyweight exercises strength training yoga for beginners

Ashley Turner
Ashley Turner

Ashley Turner is a renowned yoga-meditation teacher, licensed psychotherapist, author and speaker. Known for her innovative fusion of neurobiology, psychology and yoga, she is the creator of several best-selling yoga DVDs including “Element: Yoga for Weight Loss.” She is also the creator of the Meditate Online Course. Ashley works with clients worldwide via Skype and leads transformative events worldwide. For more inspiration, visit AshleyTurner.org.

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