How to Evolve Your Boring Bodyweight Workout

Men’s Health/Eric Rosati

Bodyweight workouts are a killer way to stay in shape, but working without any gear to provide resistance or challenge the way you’re moving can feel limiting. But you won’t always have easy access to gym implements—you might be on vacation, at home, or even outside, where you’d not want to lug any weights.

Trainer Charlee Atkins, C.S.C.S., suggests that you evolve those bodyweight workouts by adding a platform to use as a base for those movements, like a chair or a bench. The structure doesn’t provide resistance, necessarily, but you’ll be able to create different challenges you wouldn’t be able to take on with only yourself.

“Incorporating a chair (or bench) into workouts adds variety for all levels of athletes,” says Atkins. “If you are starting an exercise program, adding elevation to your workouts allows you to progress your strength-to-bodyweight ratio overtime. If you’re experienced, the change in elevation bumps the intensity of each exercise up a notch.”

But you can’t just pull up any stool for the circuit. Atkins notes that the chair or bench height should be between 12 to 24 inches from the ground. “If you are experienced and are progressing your current exercise routine, knock down the volume by doing fewer reps per set so you can progress your way back up the ladder,” she adds.

Just make sure that you’re working with a stable surface if you’re taking on the circuit with a kitchen table at home. Check out how Atkins stabilizes the chair in the footage below with a yoga mat. If you need one of your own, check out this option from our brand Backslash Fit.

Beginner: 2 to 3 rounds of 8 to 10 reps of each

Intermediate: 3 to 4 rounds of 12 to 15 reps

Advanced: 5-plus rounds of 12 to 15 reps

Don’t feel like you have to stay in your kitchen to do these workouts. This is the type of routine that was built for the outdoors, so get outside and get sweating. Want to learn more moves from Atkins? Check out our series full of her workout tips, Try Her Move.

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