Strength training at the gym or taking a class at a fitness studio is great, but sometimes, you just want to get in your workout at home—or on vacation, or on a work trip, or wherever you may be. While most of us don't have round-the-clock access to a full gym stocked with weights and machines, the truth is that you really can work your entire body without them. Of course, equipment can help and is great for progressing and diversifying a workout program. But if you want to just get moving and do some strength and cardio work wherever you are, that's completely doable with a bodyweight workout.
"Losing weight, stopping smoking and doing more exercise are associated with better sexual health," says Dr Andrew McCullough, director of Male Sexual Health, Fertility and Microsurgery at New York University Medical Center in New York City. "We talk so much about treating, treating, treating. Here we're beginning to see an increasing body of evidence that we can modify the appearance of this by changing lifestyle."
It strengthens the brain. Studies have found that working out can lessen the severity of memory problems in older adults, and even decrease the risk of diseases like Alzheimer's. It can also have a positive benefit on the brain function of younger people. Research out of New Zealand shows that exercise improves executive function -- the general brain processes that include planning, memory, reasoning, problem-solving and more.
Your body is the best tool you have for getting a great workout in with no equipment needed. Body weight training exercises (moves that force you to push or pull your own weight) can tone and slim your body while adding definition to your muscles. They also prepare you to take on physical activities you need to perform every day from lifting your kids to practicing good posture and carrying heavy bags.
Challenge yourself with 2-2-2 push ups. If you feel comfortable with tricep push ups, you may want to try a variation on tricep pushups. The “2-2-2” push ups refer to 3 sets of 2 push ups using different hand placements: narrow, regular, and wide. The narrow push ups will work your tricep muscles and the wide push ups will work your chest muscles.
To perform reverse curls you will need a barbell with weight, enough to provide a challenging workout but not so much that you can’t complete a third set. Hold the bar at your waist in an overhand grip with your feet about shoulder-width apart; this is your starting position. Then you simply perform your basic curl exercise, flexing your muscles to lift the bar to shoulder level and return to starting position.
But again, it's not so clear how much we need. The usual recommendations are 150 minutes/week of moderate activity, but as mentioned, that part is still up for debate. Some research suggests we need more than this to reap the benefits, while other suggests that every little bit helps. “Most research shows there is no lower threshold for health benefits,” says Paluch, “meaning that some activity is better than none and even small increases in activity will bring substantial benefits. Physical activity has the fantastic ability to act through multiple physiologic pathways in the body, making it a great bang for your buck.”
If you're ready to move on from classic Bulgarian split squats, Swan's amped-up variation gets your upper body in on the action for a true total-body exercise. "This combination move works your legs, butt, chest, back, arms, and core," she says. "And it not only hits all the major muscle groups—it also lets you work on balance." Give it a shot and you'll see why.