Calisthenics may seem old-school, but these exercises are an effective weight loss tool.
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Calisthenics are bodyweight exercises, performed without equipment, that help build muscular strength. If you're stuck in a rut with your exercise routine, try mixing it up with calisthenics. By adding a strength-training workout to your routine, you'll help your body build more lean muscle. When you increase your muscle mass, your body burns more calories throughout the day, helping you lose weight and keep it off.
Go Classic or Go Home
The pushup is a classic upper body calisthenic exercise that targets your pectoral muscles, deltoids, triceps and biceps. Begin by lying on your stomach, with your feet extended behind you. Place your hands on the ground beneath your shoulders, a little wider than shoulder-width apart. Rise up onto your toes, and press into the ground with your hands to push your body off the ground, forming a straight line from head to feet. Complete 10 to 15 reps. If you're still building up arm strength for a full pushup, try performing the exercise on your knees instead of your toes, or even standing at a slight angle to a wall.
Squatting Builds Character
The squat is another classic calisthenic exercise that strengthens your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves. To execute a squat, stand with your feet slightly more than hip-width apart and your toes turned out slightly, tracking with your knees. Place your hands on your hips or in front of you at shoulder height. Shift your glutes back and down toward the ground, as though you're about to sit down in a chair, allowing your quadriceps to dip just past parallel with the ground, and then come back to standing. Complete 25 reps.
Strong to the Core
The full, classic situps administered in school and military fitness tests are hard on the back and are often ineffective as they only target the superficial muscles of the abdomen. Calisthenic exercises that focus on the whole core, such as the plank, are much more effective at strengthening those muscles. Get into the plank position by lying on the floor, facing down. Place your forearms on the ground, with your elbows directly under your shoulder joints, and rise up onto your forearms and toes. Work to create a straight line from your head to your heels, and draw your navel toward your spine to protect your back. Build up to holding a plank for two minutes.
A Tough Mountain to Climb
Many calisthenic exercises target a specific group of muscles, but some, such as mountain climbers, target your entire body. To start, place your hands on the ground a little more than shoulder-width apart. Extend your left leg behind you, and bend your right knee, bringing it a little closer to your chest, with your right foot on the ground. Quickly lift your hips and switch leg positions. Continue alternating as fast as you can, while keeping your naval in toward your spine. Build up to doing this exercise for two minutes. Remember to breathe.