Top toning exercises without equipment

Thursday, October 21, 2010
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Don't be fooled into thinking you need a fancy gym membership or expensive equipment to improve your physical wellbeing. In the comfort of your lounge room or local park, you can use your own body weight as resistance and get a great workout.

It might be free, but avoid paying the price with injury by concentrating on good technique, consistency and "switching on" the muscles involved in each exercise. Remember, shape management is about a long-term commitment to a healthy body!

Here are 10 exercises to try without equipment:


Start with fewer, quality repetitions and build up to three sets of 15 for most exercises.

1. Push-ups

Imagine you have a rod through your back and bottom and keep them in alignment. Beginners should start by executing the push-up on their knees and progress to the full push-up (on your toes). Ensure you breathe in on the way down, and breathe out as you push up. As you fatigue you will be tempted to push your bottom in the air. If this is the case, continue the exercise on your knees. The narrower your hands are placed, the more involved your triceps will be.

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2. Dips

Place the palm of your hands on a secure bench, with your fingers pointing towards your bottom. Your hands should be shoulder width apart. Keep your head and body vertical, and your feet firmly on the floor in front of you so your knees bend over your toes. Proceed to lower yourself slowly by bending your elbows until your upper arms are parallel to the bench and push up.

3. Abdominal exercises

  • a. Crunch (upper abdominals): lie flat on your back and bend your knees. Reach up to your knees with your fingertips. Use your stomach muscles, not your shoulders or your head, to lift yourself off the floor. Remember to breathe out on the way up and in on the way down.
  • b. Oblique twist (obliques): lie flat on your back and bend your knees. Start by placing your left ankle on your right knee. Aim to bring your right elbow to your left knee by using your stomach muscles to pull yourself up — not your shoulders or your head. Switch sides.
  • c. Pulses (lower abdominals): lie flat on your back and place your hands under your bottom and raise your feet towards the ceiling. Use your lower abdominals to lift your bottom off your hands and down again. Continue to breathe throughout the exercise and don’t hold your breath.

4. Walking lunges

Start the exercise by taking a step forward with one leg. Bend your knees and lower your back knee towards the floor, keeping the front heel down and the knee directly over the centre of the foot. Take a step by pushing upwards through the glute (bottom) muscle of your back leg. Your body should remain upright. Don't lean forward!

5. Hamstring curls

Lie flat on your stomach. Slowly bring your heel towards your bottom and return it to the floor again, concentrating on using the hamstring when completing the movement. Switch legs.

6. Standing squats

Stand upright with your legs shoulder-width apart. Lower yourself by pretending you are going to sit down in a chair with your weight through your heels. Push through your heels to return to an upright position.

7. Step-ups

Step onto a secure bench of an appropriate height. Lead with one leg or alternate.

8. Standing calf raises

Stand facing a wall and place your fingertips on the wall and balance on one leg. Raise the heel of the leg you are balancing on off the ground until your foot is fully extended. Slowly lower your heel to the ground. You can also perform calf raises on a step.

9. Plank hold

Lie on your stomach. Place your hands flat beside your chest and use your arms to lift yourself into a plank position. Like the push-up, imagine you have a rod down your back and bottom and keep them in alignment. No bottoms in the air! Start with a 15-second hold and build to 60 seconds. Concentrate on using your stomach muscles to hold yourself straight and remember to breathe.

10. Lunge hold

Finish the session with this exercise. Start the exercise by taking a step forward with one leg. Bend your knees and lower your back knee towards the floor, keeping the front heel down and the knee directly over the centre of the foot. Tilt your hips forward and hold. Start with a 15-second hold and build to 60 seconds.


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