Strength-based exercises do not have to be complex or require a gym in order to be beneficial. Using nothing but your own body weight and, as in the case here, an inexpensive household tool like a towel, you can get a great workout.
In a previous Greatist article, Dave Smith, a personal trainer who specializes in bodyweight exercise training, pointed out several benefits of bodyweight exercises:
Efficiency — No equipment means there’s minimal time transitioning from one exercise in your self-defined set to the next, and shorter rest times keep your heartrate up. As a result, you can make fitness gains even when the duration of your workout is short
Cardiovascular and strength benefits — Mixing cardio exercises such as burpees and jumping jacks with strength exercises such as planking will give you the best of both worlds.
Improved core strength — Twenty-nine muscle pairs in your pelvis, abdomen and lower back form the core needed to support your body and maintain balance.
Increased flexibility — Increased strength without improved flexibility won’t do you much good. Good posture and athletic performance require good flexibility. Your ability to stretch and bend without causing pain or injury is related to your flexibility.
Improved balance — As you progress into more difficult variations of exercises, your ability to balance is trained. Better balance helps give better body control. Since age and infirmity do not usually hinder performance of bodyweight exercises, they can be a great way for the elderly to maintain and improve balance.
20-Minute Towel Glider Workout
In the video below, Popsugar Fitness demonstrates a 20-minute bodyweight workout requiring nothing more than two small towels. If you have carpet, you can use paper plates to achieve the same gliding effect. Here’s a summary of the exercises:
Runner’s lunge with a twist — Step back with your left foot into a runner’s lunge pose, making sure to keep your left leg fully extended and straight; extend your arms out front and interlace your fingers, then rotate your arms to the right. Return arms to front and center, then step your left foot forward. Repeat on the other side. Do several reps.
Side bend — Standing in a wide stance, place your right hand on your low hip, extend your left arm up above your head and lean over to the right. Repeat on the other side. Do several reps.
Knee hug — Maintaining your balance, hug your right knee toward your chest. Repeat on the other side. Do several reps.
Reverse lunge with pulse — Place a small folded towel (or paper plate if you’re on carpet) under your right foot; slide your right foot back into a reverse lunge, then slide it forward. Repeat several times. To pulse, instead of standing all the way up tall, keep your left leg slightly bent while continuing to slide your right foot backward and forward several times. Repeat sequence on the other side.
Plank and knee tuck — Using two folded towels, one under each foot, get into a plank position. Slide your right leg forward and sideways to the left, twisting your torso. Slide your right leg back and repeat on the left side. Do several repetitions.
Sliding swimmer — Lie on your stomach, with one towel under each hand. Lift your chest, pressing your stomach into the floor and squeezing your lower back muscles, as you slide your hands upward, making a large half-circle. As you slide your arms back out and down, lower your chest to the floor. Repeat several times.
Reverse lunge with pulse — As above.
Plank and knee tuck — As above.
Sliding swimmer — As above.
Child pose — To stretch out your back, assume the yoga pose known as the child’s pose: knees spread wide, lean forward, arms out above your head, resting your forehead on the floor.
Squat with three-point touch — Place your towel under your right foot. Lower down into a squat position, then slide your right foot out to the side and back. Repeat this motion backward and forward, maintaining your squat position throughout. Repeat the three movements (side, back and forward) several times. Repeat on the left side.
Burpee with mountain climber — With a towel under each foot, place your hands on the floor in front of you and slide both feet backward. Once you’re in plank position, do one pushup, then slide your right leg forward into mountain climber pose, then slide the foot back. Repeat with the left leg. Do four mountain climbers on each side in rapid succession. Slide both feet in and stand up tall, then lower back down and repeat the entire sequence.
Kneeling adduction — Start seated on your knees. Place a folded towel under each knee and place your hands in front of you for support. Open up your knees, allowing them to slide as far as is comfortable, then, squeezing your abs and inner thighs, bring your knees together. Repeat several times.
Squat with three-point touch — As above.
Burpee with mountain climber — As above.
Kneeling adduction — As above.
Pike and scissor combo — Start on your hands and knees, with a towel under each foot. Extend your legs into a plank position, then lift your buttocks and slide your legs forward into a pike position. Lower back down into a plank, then spread your feet apart. Slide your feet back together, and repeat sequence several more times.
Hamstring curl — Lie on your back, knees bent, with a towel under each foot. Lift your hips into bridge pose, then extend your right foot, pull it back in, and repeat on the left side. Keep your hips as high as possible throughout. Repeat several times on each side.
Glider triceps pushup — Start on your hands and knees, with a towel under each hand. Lean forward and pull your feet up into a modified plank position. Extend your right arm up and out as you perform a tricep pushup with your left arm. Push up and drag your right arm back in. Repeat on the other side. Perform several reps on each side.
Pike and scissor combo — As above.
Hamstring curl — As above.
Glider triceps pushup — As above.
Child pose — Assume the child’s pose: Knees spread wide, lean forward, arms out above your head, resting your forehead on the floor. Walk your hands over to the left to stretch out your right side. Hold for a few breaths, then walk your hands over to the right.
Down dog — Start on your hands and knees. Flex your toes and lift your buttocks toward the ceiling into a downward-facing dog pose. Press your heels toward the floor to stretch your hamstrings.
Figure-four — Sit on the floor, leaning back on your arms. Cross your right leg, placing your foot just above your left knee, then bring your left leg inward. Repeat on the other side.
Side twist — Lie on your back, knees pulled toward your chest, then roll your knees over to the right. Stretch your left arm out and look to your left. Repeat on the other side.
Other Ways to Strength Train at Home
Consider incorporating several different types of strength training to improve your fitness faster and have fun. Below is a list of workouts you can do at home using fairly inexpensive workout tools. Also, consider using Kaatsu training with those that use added weights.
Developed in Japan nearly 50 years ago, this is a type of training that utilizes lighter weights while restricting venous flow to the muscles. This combination results in greater strength with more reps using less weight.
There is compelling evidence this type of training increases growth hormone secretions and produces benefits without tissue damage that occur with traditional high-intensity weight work. Read more about this process in my previous article, “Build Muscle Faster, Safer and Easier with Blood Flow Restriction Training.”
Body weight exercises — These exercises have the benefit of being flexible, require no equipment or specific location and can be done on your schedule. They can be done at home, traveling or even at the office and include pushups, squats and planks. For a sample routine, see “Five Bodyweight Exercises You May Be Doing Wrong and How to Fix Them.”
Hand weights — These are inexpensive, portable and available at most department stores. They are small enough to fit next to your couch or chair so you can do a few shoulder presses, bicep curls and triceps extensions while you’re watching your favorite show.
Kettlebells — These are dense, cast-iron weights shaped like a cannon ball with a handle. You can achieve ballistic movement and swinging motions you can’t get with traditional weights that work your core and upper back. Simple, repetitive movements build power in your legs, glutes, back, upper arm and chest. Learn more from “Build Strength and Power With Kettlebells.”
Resistance bands — These look like thick rubber bands you can use to get full range of motion through your arms and legs. They are inexpensive, lightweight and portable, making them excellent travel companions. For a sample workout, see “Mastering Resistance Band Workouts.”
Medicine balls/exercise balls — These are dense heavy balls that look like kick balls and come in a variety of sizes. They can weigh from a couple of pounds to 150 pounds and are thrown, swung, caught or lifted.
BOSU ball — With a flat platform on one side and a rubber dome on the other (resembling half an exercise ball), a BOSU ball can help you improve your balance and flexibility, sharpen your reflexes and reshape your body. See “Total Body Benefits Using a BOSU Ball,” for a sample workout.
Water jugs — These are simple and cheap weights you can make with an empty quart or gallon jug. A gallon jug weighs about 8 pounds filled with water and 13 pounds filled with sand. The benefit of these weights is that the weight is unstable and you must use smaller muscles not often engaged to stabilize the weight in use.
*Article originally appeared at Mercola. Reposted with permission.