Think you need a room full of fancy equipment to help you get stronger? Think again. You can sculpt your muscles using little more than a couple of pillows, some soup cans and your own body weight. Here’s how:
Twice a week, do one set of 8 to 15 repetitions of each of the following no-frills exercises. Once you can breeze through the routine without breaking a sweat or feeling achy for a day or two afterwards, increase to two sets per exercise, three times a week. You should see a difference in the form of firmer, tighter muscles within six to eight weeks.
Stand with your feet as wide as your hips, your weight slightly back on your heels, and place your hands on your hips. Pull your abdominals in, stand up tall with square shoulders and a lifted chest.
Sit back and down, as if you’re sitting into a chair directly behind you. Lower as far as you can without leaning your upper body more than a few inches forward (this depends on your flexibility and your build.) If you can bend your knees far enough so that your thighs are parallel to the floor don’t go any further than that and don’t allow your knees to travel out in front of your toes. Once you feel your upper body fold forward over your thighs, straighten your legs and stand back up. Take care not to lock your knees at the top of the movement.
Pull-overs (Upper back)
Place 2 to 3 large pillows on the floor. Lie down on the pillows so that your entire head, back and shoulders are resting on them. Pull your abs in gently so your lower back doesn’t arch up. Grasp a 12- to 16-ounce soup can (or light dumbells) in both hands and straighten your arms upward so that the can is suspended directly over your upper chest.
Lower the can behind you until the bottom of it is level with the back of your head.
Push-ups (Chest, shoulders, arms)
Lie on your stomach, bend your knees and cross your ankles. Bend your elbows and place your palms on the floor a bit to the side and in front of your shoulders. Straighten your arms and lift your body so you’re balanced on your palms and knees. Tuck your chin a few inches toward your chest so your forehead faces the floor. Tighten your abdominals.
Bend your elbows and lower your entire body at once. Rather than trying to touch your chest to the floor, lower only until your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Push back up.
Lateral Raise (Shoulders)
Hold a 12- to 16-ounce soup can in each hand and stand up tall with your feet as wide as your hips. Bend your elbows a little, turn your palms towards each other and bring the cans together in front of the tops of your thighs. Pull your abdominals in and bend your knees slightly.
Lift your arms in an arc, up and out to the sides, until the cans are just below shoulder height. Slowly lower the cans back down.
Bench Dips (Arms)
Sit on the edge of a chair with your legs together and straight in front of you, toes pointing up. Keeping your elbows relaxed, straighten your arms, place your hands about six inches apart and firmly grip the edges of the bench. Slide your butt just off the front of the bench so that your upper body is pointing straight down. Keep your abdominals pulled in and your head centered between your shoulders.
Bend your elbows and lower your body in a straight line. When your upper arms are parallel to the floor, push yourself back up.
Basic Crunch (Abs)
Lie on the floor with your feet hip width apart. Cradle your head in your hands without lacing your fingers together and with your elbows rounded slightly inward. Tilt your chin a small way towards your chest and pull your abdominal muscles in.
Exhale through your mouth as you curl your head, neck, and shoulders up off the floor. Hold at the top of the movement for a moment, and then inhale as you slowly lower down.
Back Extension (Lower back)
Lie on your stomach with your forehead on the floor, arms straight out in front of you, palms down, and legs straight out behind you. Pull your abs in, as if you’re trying to create a small space between your stomach and the floor.
Lift your right arm and left leg about one inch off the floor, and stretch out as much as you can. Hold this position for five slow counts, lower back down, and then repeat the same move with your left arm and right leg. Continue alternating sides until you’ve completed the set.