Bodyweight training exercises date back to ancient times. They were usually the training method used by the warriors of those times, like the ancient Greeks, Indian Wrestlers, Egyptians, Romans, Shaolin Monks, and so on. In fact, they are used by all branches of the military even today.
Of course, over time, these exercises have taken many forms, such as yoga, isometric exercises, gymnastics, calisthenics, rope climbing, hand balancing, breathing exercises, and so on. However, modern fitness gurus decided that weight training using machines and irons were the superior form of gaining muscular strength a la Arnold Schwarzenegger, hence, in gyms all over the world, machine crunches, bench presses, and pull downs became the norm, instead of sit-ups and push-ups.
Nevertheless, these days, new interest has been growing in bodyweight training exercises, as more and more people are experiencing muscle fatigue, injury and pain from lifting chest-thumping heavy irons in the gym. So why are these exercises so powerful? Well, basically, strength training exercises are founded on three main principles, which are contraction, leverage, and resistance. While most exercise programs have leverage and resistance in them, bodyweight training contractions are far more effective. When you perform them, the harder the contractions of your muscles, the more will the effectiveness of your training be.
The only thing you will require here is staying power. That is because, this is not one of those exercise programs where you will begin seeing awe-inspiring bulking-of-muscles results in two weeks flat. In other words, within half a year, you will get stronger triceps, biceps, abs, chest, legs, and glutes. Plus, stamina, finesse, balance, and confidence will be yours. All of that using just your body.
The V-Squat: Begin by standing straight, with your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart. Then lift your arms overhead and hold them in a V position all through the exercise. Your shoulders and upper back should be taut all the time. Get your shoulder blades as close together as you can. Now, pushing your hips back, begin going down in a squat, as if you are about to sit in a chair. Squat down as deeply as possible, while keeping your lower back neutral and taut. Don't allow a rounding of your lower back. Then, after staying in the squat for a few seconds, use your quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes to push yourself back in an upright position. Begin small, and build yourself up. 10 - 20 reps are the standard recommendation. Remember, it is not the number of reps that matter, it is the correct form. This exercise puts a lot of stress on the lower back, if you are not in condition. So, proceed with caution. And, of course, if you have lower back problems, avoid it.
Bulgarian Split Squat: Stand as in the above exercise, with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart, but keeping your arms neutral. Placing one foot on a bench behind you, use the other foot to take a large step forward. Then, contracting your glutes, tautening your abs, and keeping your spine straight, lower your body down until the thigh of your front leg is parallel to the floor. Stay in this split-squat position for a few seconds, then push yourself up using the muscles of your legs. Perform all the reps with one leg, and then change to the other. The number of reps and the cautions are the same as above.
Decline Push-up: This is the toughie version of the good old push-up we are all familiar with. Get into a push-up position, except that your feet have to be placed in an elevated position behind, either on a step, chair or bench, which is about 6 inches higher than the ground where your hands are resting. See that your hands are placed wider than your shoulders. Now tauten your abs, and bending your elbows, lower your chest until it is about 1 inch from the ground, then push your body back into the starting position. 15 reps are recommended, to begin with. But, as usual, all the cautions apply.
Jack Knife Sit-Ups: This little beauty is for your abs and torso. Lie down flat on the floor, with your arms extended over your head and your legs straight. Now, keeping your arms and legs straight, sit up, like a jack knife, contracting your abdominal muscles, so that you touch your fingers and toes straight on top of your head. Then lower back into the starting position. Yeah, this is a tough one. Certainly not for beginners. And even advanced exercisers need to venture into this with caution.
Single Leg Squat: This is probably the toughest of them all. Begin by standing with your feet apart. Picking up one foot off the floor and extend it forward. Then spread your arms to the sides, or extend them forward, in order to balance yourself. The contracting your glutes, tautening your abs, and keeping your spine straight, squat down slowly all the way to the floor, keeping your focus on your balance. Then, pushing your quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings, get back to the standing position. Do all the reps―15 - 20―on one leg, and then change over to the other leg. As before, use caution before you venture.