The ultimate bodyweight exercise routine

Want to get fit and toned without logging hours at the gym? This 20-minute bodyweight exercise routine will whip you into shape’no equipment required

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Be your own gym

When you’re working against a busy schedule, it can be hard to squeeze in time for lunch some days, let alone get to the gym. But if you’re serious about making fitness a priority and you’ve got 20 minutes to spare, this bodyweight exercise routine-developed by certified military physical training specialist Mark Lauren-will help you get in shape, even if you’re crunched for time.


Here are five of Lauren’s favourite moves from his book, You Are Your Own Gym, along with variations to give yourself a bit of a challenge.

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sumo pushup

Sumo push-up

Start in a regular push-up position with a slightly wider-than-shoulder-width hand position. Lower yourself into the the bottom position of a push-up. Then press yourself back up, and in one fluid motion pull one of your elbows up until there is a straight line from your elevated elbow down to the hand on the ground (shown). You should be looking at the raised elbow. Repeat the movement, raising the opposite elbow, alternating sides each rep.

Elevate your hands on a surface, such as a desk or sturdy coffee table, to make this exercise easier. The higher the surface, the easier the exercise becomes. As you become stronger, simply find lower surfaces to place your hands on until they are the ground. In order to continue increasing the intensity, start elevating your feet.

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leg lift

Tricep leg lift

Start in the push-up position. Bend your elbows until your chest is just a few inches off the ground. While keeping your legs straight, raise one leg until you feel a good contraction in the glutes (shown). Lower the elevated leg and repeat with the other leg. Alternate legs with each rep.

This exercise can be made easier by elevating the hands and harder by elevating the legs.

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hip raiser

Hip raisers

Sit on the ground with your back straight up and your legs straight out. Put your arms to your sides, your palms flat on the ground on either side of your butt. Keeping your arms straight, raise your pelvis upward so that the soles of your feet now are flat on the floor, until your knees are bent at a 90 degree angle above your feet (shown). Squeeze your glutes at the top.

To make this exercise harder, keep one leg off the ground throughout the movement.

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mountain climber

Mountain climbers

Start in the push-up position. Bring your left knee to the outside of your left shoulder while turning your head to look at the knee (shown). Straighten your left leg and return it to the starting position. Now repeat on the right side.

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sumo squat

Sumo squat

Take a wide stance with your arms hanging straight down in front of you. While keeping your back as straight as possible, drop your hips into a squat position, until your finger tips touch the ground (shown). Push yourself back up to the starting position, really squeezing your glutes tightly at the top.

You can do this exercise on your toes.

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woman stretching

The 20-minute workout

Complete each of these exercises back-to-back, rest for 90 seconds, then repeat. Perform four of these “compound sets” and you’ll have completed a challenging full-body workout in only 20 minutes.

For each exercise in the set, you should be doing 10 reps. For exercises such as the Triceps Leg Lift, you will be doing five reps on each side, alternating sides after each rep.


Exercises excerpted from You Are Your Own Gym by Mark Lauren and Joshua Clark © 2010 Light of New Orleans Publishing, LLC. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.


How to be your own gym
The phys-ed workout
6 essential cool-down stretches

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